Archive

Archive for the ‘Poll’ Category

Is Cooperstown Y2K12 Compatible?

January 6, 2011 6 comments

Yesterday, voters inducted two former players, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, into the Baseball Hall of Fame. While the primary subtext to the story about the 2011 class has been the low number of votes players tied to steroids– including Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro– received and the implication that players associated with performance-enhancing substances might never make it into the Hall of Fame, ESPN’s Rob Nayer is looking ahead to 2012:

Given the history, there’s a pretty good chance that the Veterans Committee process won’t elect anyone [in 2012]. Which leaves only the BBWAA [the Baseball Writers Association of America, the main voting body for Hall of Fame induction] ballot, and there is an excellent chance that the BBWAA will, in all its collective wisdom, fail to elect anyone.

Yes, “fail” is a loaded word and not necessarily the appropriate word.

In this case, though, it’s highly appropriate. Because even after electing Alomar and Blyleven, and even considering that Bernie Williams will be the best new candidate on the ballot next year, there will still be a long list of highly qualified players on the ballot. And it’s quite possible that none of them will be elected.

A memberless 2012 class would be a failure in Nayer’s eyes because it would be “a bad year for the Hall of Fame.” This may sound like a tautology, but he meant something more specific: “For one thing, the Hall of Fame (and the Village of Cooperstown) relies on visitors, and visitors are attracted by new Hall of Famers; the Hall’s biggest weekend (by far) every summer is Induction Weekend. For another thing, it hurts the credibility of the election process — and ultimately the Hall itself — when the process so obviously fails.” For Nayer, this failure has two aspects. First, a memberless class would be a failure on its face because it would mean that no eligible players that year were worthy of induction, an outcome Nayer rejects because, in his view, there are plenty of eligible players worthy of induction. Second, it would be a failure because it would adversely affect the economic interests of the  Hall of Fame and its host city, Cooperstown, NY.

Considering these in reverse order, the economic argument seems like a non-sequitur. Exciting new inductees may boost the Hall’s revenue in a given year, but over time, the Hall’s ability to draw visitors would seem to be based on its ability to maintain its integrity as a hall of fame. Even if pandering to popular whims is the best way to fund the Hall under its current business model, a commitment to mission and integrity (something apparently at the root of many BBWAA voters’ positions on players like McGwire and Palmeiro, for example) might suggest the need for more independent funding sources. The obligation to Cooperstown’s economy is even more remote to the Hall’s purported mission.

Second, it is not obvious that a result in which the voters elect no players to the Hall in a given year plainly is a failure. It may be the case that, despite Nayer’s opinion, no eligible player will be worthy of induction in 2012. Nayer views the election in 2012 of Barry Larkin, “the top non-electee” in 2011, as the best and most likely way to avoid the “Doomsday Scenario” or “Epic Failure” that would be a year in which the voters induct no one. If it is true, as Nayer writes, that there are deserving players on the 2012 ballot and the voters don’t induct them for nefarious or otherwise inappropriate reasons, then that result does look like a failure, something that impairs the Hall’s integrity and credibility.  Neyer is but one among hundreds of voters, however, and it may be the case that the result he describes as an “Epic Failure” is the very result that would best uphold the Hall’s integrity. If none of the eligible players deserve induction in 2012 in the eyes of the voters writ large, then to induct one would be a dereliction of the voters’ duty.

When entities are created for the performance of a particular task– Congress, to legislate; prosecutors, to prosecute accused criminals; the BBWAA, to elect Hall of Famers– the entity’s exercise of discretion not to perform that task in a particular instance often is viewed as a failure, probably because it appears to conflict with the natural proclivity of the entity’s job description, which is thought of in positive, volitional terms. Are there times, though, when such an entity’s decision not to act in a manner in which it is empowered to act is the proper decision, and is Neyer’s 2012 “Doomsday Scenario” one of these times?

Is this man the only hope to save Cooperstown, NY from certain destruction in the year 2012?

Categories: Current, Poll, Sports

A Typical Case of American Blind Justice?

March 29, 2010 5 comments

Justice is blind. All are equal before the law. Courts often are maligned as the branch of government least responsive to democratic control, and accurately so. At the federal level and in some states, judges are unelected officials. Their appointed nature is supposed to insulate them from fleeting whims of the electorate and better allow them to interpret the law in a fair and unbiased manner.

Since the tide began to turn against racist policies in the U.S., perhaps around the time of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), there has been increasing acceptance of the view that race is at least a questionable (and usually unacceptable) basis for distinctions in public policy. The best way to end race-based discrimination, the saying goes, is to stop discriminating based upon race.

Affirmative action policies are a major affront to this view. These policies overtly base decisions at least in part on race. There are two primary justifications for affirmative action policies. The first is remedial: the policies favor groups that have been the victims of discriminatory policies in the past, attempting a grand rectification of historical wrongs. The second is rooted in a notion of diversity and can operate independently of the first: the policies favor minority groups, the increased presence of which would increase diversity, a good end that benefits all involved. The Supreme Court upheld a state affirmative action policy justified solely on the diversity notion in 2003. See Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003).

As an affront to the nondiscrimination view of race-based policies, more nuanced issues in the affirmative action area could fill many posts here. This one focuses the inquiry on the appropriateness of race as a consideration in the selection of federal judges. Even more specifically, it looks at the presence of Native Americans among that group.

According to a late 2009 article in the Judge’s Journal, “an entire culture– America’s first culture, as multifaceted as it was and is– is not represented on the federal bench.” Robert O. Saunooke, Native Americans and the Federal Bench: The Time has Come, Judge’s Journal, Fall 2009, at 25. The author, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and an attorney, states his charge in the form of a question: “How can we as members of [the legal] profession continue to dismiss the importance of a Native American presence within the federal judiciary and still profess to support diversity?” Id. The need for Native American federal judges is especially important, Saunooke argues, because “no other group appears more frequently in the federal system than Native Americans,” and “no other cultural group continues to endure the public ridicule and notoriety that Native Americans face.” Id. at 26. Saunooke’s goal is broad:

The challenge is, as it has been for members of most minority groups, to instill in the public mind a broad understanding of the potential that lies within each individual and a sense of the dignity that is each individual’s right. When those two things are understood, there will be more Native American judges– and more judges from every minority group. That will contribute immensely to the quality of justice for Native Americans and for all people.

Id. at 27. An implicit assumption of Saunooke’s argument appears to be that a judge’s race affects his or her judging, and therefore, race should be a factor in judicial selection.

That conclusion, as stated, is contrary to the nondiscrimination view mentioned above. The implicit assumption, however, finds support in two recent studies that conclude that the difference a judge’s race or gender makes in the outcome of cases is “enormous” and “dramatic,” “at least for cases in which race and gender allegedly play a role in the conduct of the parties.” Edward A. Adams, Race & Gender of Judges Make Enormous Differences in Rulings, Studies Find (linking to the studies).

Most of the rhetoric in this corner of affirmative action discourse is limited to the second justification– diversity and its beneficial effects– and without reference to the first (remedial) justification. This may make the arguments in favor of the use of race in selecting judges more palatable to those inclined to oppose affirmative action policies, especially where the social science actually supports the diversity notion. On the other hand, it may be the case that the racial classification itself undermines the diversity notion insofar as classifying an individual on the basis of his or her race is inherently demeaning. If so, balancing these two conceptions seems difficult.

Within the context of judicial appointments, does the use of race as a factor in the selection process constitute improper discrimination, or is it necessary in the interest of justice? If a judge’s race and gender are outcome determinative, at least in part, what does that mean for the rule of law and our understanding of impartiality and justice?

Categories: Legal, Politics, Poll

The Burden of National Identity

March 10, 2010 2 comments

Early Americans identified themselves as citizens of their own states more so than as citizens of the United States. George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Patrick Henry, and George Mason were Virginians before they were Americans. John C. Calhoun surely was a South Carolinian before he was an American. The tide began to shift following the Civil War and the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, which declared that, in addition to being citizens of their own states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States.” State identity is weaker today, and most people consider themselves Americans first, and residents of a particular state or locality second.

The immigration policy debate of the last few years has placed a new spin on the matter of identity. With more than ten million illegal immigrants living in the United States today, some people are trying to figure out who is an American and who is not. To that end, Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham have proposed “a national biometric identification card all American workers would eventually be required to obtain.” The initial idea is that employers will be able to avoid hiring illegal immigrants if they do not have the proper identification card, which would be equipped with more security features than current social security cards. Identification based on this card is supposed to be easier for employers than the current, optional, online verification system called E-Verify.

Proposals for national ID cards raise the ire of groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Cato Institute. Opponents often have a difficult time enunciating reasons for their position, but rationales usually revolve around slippery slope concerns that limited identification requirements will expand to some more broad and egregious policy. An ACLU attorney spent most of his quotation describing the program and calling it “fundamentally a massive invasion of people’s privacy,” while Cato’s policy director alluded to Kafka. It is hard to get at just why a new national ID card is so bad, especially when we already have social security cards, driver’s licenses, and passports. Critics persist, however, discussing “internal enforcement” and alluding to East German checkpoints.

Proponents appear to respond to the critics’ immediate concerns easily, but they too lack some necessary answers. First is the issue of counterfeiting. Quite simply, if something can be made, it can be counterfeited, especially if there is enough at stake. With prospective immigrants literally risking life, limb, and all of their resources to enter and work in the United States, the existence of a valuable market for these cards seems obvious. Second, it is not clear that card-based verification will be easier for employers than the E-Verify system. Will an orchard owner or industrial plant manager be able to interpret accurately the biometric information on a presented card in less time and at less cost than use of E-Verify requires? According to Schumer, card scanners cost $800. Without a scanner, the employer would have to bring the prospective hire to a government office for review of the information.

With both sides having difficulty answering these and other basic questions, resolution seems like a challenge. Allocating burdens, however, may clarify the situation. If it’s right that the government needs to be able to justify its actions before taking them, it’s appropriate for the legislative proponents to bear the burden of justification in this policy debate. In other words, Schumer and Graham should have to demonstrate the necessity and value of their proposal first. They must respond to their critics, but a mere dismissal of opponents’ fears is insufficient. Until they show, with adequate specificity, why a national ID card is necessary, and answer challenges, including those about counterfeiting and alternatives like E-Verify, opponents cannot be expected to present adequate critiques. Legislators who want the new identification program must be prepared to be the first movers. Only then can we expect specificity from their opponents.

An ongoing Wall Street Journal poll currently shows more than fifty-five percent of those voting oppose issuance of a national biometric identification card to all American workers, including eligible immigrants. Feel free to cast your vote in the poll below on the broader question of national IDs and include your thoughts in the comment section.

Elections United?

February 10, 2010 2 comments

Last month, the Supreme Court decided Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. ___ (2010), holding that the First Amendment prevents the government from limiting political speech in the form of corporate funding of a feature-length film. The government cannot restrict certain disfavored speakers like corporations. Political speech is important to democracy regardless of the speaker. Specifically, the Court struck down a provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-155 (2002) (commonly, the McCain-Feingold Act), prohibiting the broadcast by corporations and unions of election-focused information in the days before a presidential primary or election. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion retained the Act’s relevant disclosure requirement and proscription of direct donations by corporations and unions to candidates.

The decision sparked substantial reaction in the days following its release, as people waded through the fractured decision (basically, 5-4 against the speech restriction, 8-1 in favor of maintaining the disclosure requirement, with five different opinions authored– Kennedy for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts concurring, Justice Scalia concurring, Justice Stevens concurring in part and dissenting in part, and Justice Thomas concurring in part and dissenting in part). President Obama added a new twist to the conversation when he weighed in on the decision in his first State of the Union Address, less than a week after the Court decided the case. With a majority of the justices present, sitting in the front row, the President noted his “due deference to separation of powers” and opined:

Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.

(Emphasis added.) At this moment, television cameras panned the audience, catching Justice Alito mouthing “not true,” apparently in response to the President’s assertion that “foreign corporations” are among those “special interests” for which the decision opened “the floodgates.” SCOTUSblog‘s Lyle Denniston highlights a relevant portion of the majority opinion:

That section said: “We need not reach the question whether the Government has a compelling interest in preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our Nation’s political process.”  The opinion then cited a provision of federal law[.] In essence, that provision bars any “foreign national” from making any direct or indirect contribution of money or anything of value “in connection with any federal, state, or local election[.”]

The clear implication of the phrasing is that the Court, in the future, might well uphold such a ban by finding that the Government did, indeed, have a strong interest in keeping foreign money out of U.S.  campaigns, at any level of government.

The Court’s statement that it “need not reach the question” hardly “open[s] the floodgates.” At very most, it suggests that a majority of the Court is willing to overturn that provision, but a fair reading yields the simple position that the Court is not addressing questions it does not have to answer and is clarifying the scope of its holding. This is a common, widely accepted practice of the Court’s. Congressional Democrats nevertheless sprung to action. Senator Al Franken‘s office said that the President’s statement, quoted above, “urged…legislative action.” In explaining his decision to introduce restricting legislation, the release stated: “Nothing in our current laws, however, explicitly prohibits foreign companies from creating American subsidiaries or getting control of American companies and using them to flood the airwaves in support of their preferred candidates.” This assertion contradicts Denniston’s statement, quoted above.

Whether the first-term Senator or the journalist who has covered the Court for fifty years is stating the law accurately, a more interesting question persists: should we exclude foreign corporations from influencing American elections?

One starting place is to wonder whether exclusion is possible to a meaningful extent. Not only do many foreign corporations have a substantial presence in the U.S., many companies people think of as “American” actually are foreign-owned (e.g., Anheuser-Busch, Ben & Jerry’s, Trader Joe’s, 7-Eleven, Firestone Tires). If one is concerned about the influence of individual foreigners, the scope is even wider, expanding to include American corporations run by people born abroad (e.g.PepsiCo).

Others have speculated on the complexity of this subject, given globalization realities:

In a world characterized by high levels of political and economic interdependence, one wonders whether there can be any pure cases of domestic political change, untouched by significant external influences. The exceptions are likely to overwhelm any generalized prohibition of intervention based on the importance of allowing people to work out their own salvation.

Charles R. Beitz, Political Theory and International Relations 87 (Princeton University Press 1999) (1979).

Even if it were possible to craft legislation that could separate foreign corporations from domestic ones as a matter of identification, is this a desirable, justifiable distinction? The combination of the Constitution’s Article II § 1 and Twelfth Amendment limit eligibility of the offices of president and vice president to “natural born Citizen[s],” but no other office is so limited. Reasonable justifications exist for this restriction, but do they apply to a restriction on foreign influence in election campaigns? Is there a different basis for justifying the proposed exclusion? Or is it simply an easy way for those opposed to corporate spending in campaigns generally to cut back on a (possibly substantial) portion of it?

Justified or not, the issue of restricting foreign influence on domestic elections matters to people on both sides of the aisle. Before the recent legislative initatives by Democrats mentioned above, the Republican National Committee accused Obama of failing to disclose campaign donations from abroad, and foreign celebrities like Sir Elton John have involved themselves in U.S. presidential campaigns.

Finally, if we are concerned about foreign influence on domestic elections, should we be concerned about interstate influence on state and local elections?

There are reasonable intuitions as to why we would want to steel our elections from foreign influence, even if it it is a practice that Americans have engaged in abroad. Setting aside golden rule and reciprocity concerns about political intervention, the failure to enunciate a basis for exclusion impairs this debate.

David, Meet Brit

January 28, 2010 3 comments

Tiger Woods has all but disappeared from the news in recent weeks, displaced by stories about health care legislation, late night comedy, and the earthquake in Haiti. Before the golfer dropped out of the headlines, however, Fox News’ Brit Hume went on television to offer Tiger some advice:

Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person, I think is a very open question, and it’s a tragic situation with him. He’s lost his family, it’s not clear to me whether he’ll be able to have a relationship with his children, but the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal, the extent to which he can recover, it seems to me, depends on his faith. He’s said to be a Buddhist, I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith, so my message to Tiger would be “Tiger, turn to the Christian faith, and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.

Hume’s comment spread quickly, and responses were negative. Ezra Klein, a Washington Post blogger, found the statement “offensive”:

Imagine if a Jewish commentator had taken to national television to say that a popular Christian adulterer should really consider converting, because “the Christian faith’s emphasis on forgiveness provides an ethical get-out-of-jail-free card that contributes to these sorts of transgressions.” Or if a Muslim suggested that a Protestant cheater should consider a conversion to a “rules-based religion. Christianity, sadly, erred when it focused on man’s relationship with God rather than God’s laws for man.”

In either case, said commentator would resign within a day or two. But Hume will certainly survive this controversy. Remember that next time someone complains that we’ve lost our identity as a Christian nation. Frankly, we haven’t lost nearly enough of it.

Taking Klein’s invitation to imagine, I don’t think any of these statements, including Hume’s, are offensive. There may be some sense in which these statements would be inappropriate because they came from a news journalist, but Klein more appropriately asks us to consider the statements as being those of “commentator[s].” Commentators engage in editorializing– there is little doubt that this is what happens on cable news networks— especially those individuals not in traditional newscaster roles.

As long as these statements (Hume’s and those Klein proposed) are genuine, meaning that the speaker is honest, meaningful, and desirous of the outcome behind the means prescribed, we should not find them objectionable. We should not be surprised that Hume, (presumably) a Christian, thinks that the tenets of his religion offer a positive, redemptive path for Tiger. If Hume is genuine in offering these observations, why should we reject him? His critique of Buddhism may ring uninformed, but in general, one ought to be able to speak frankly about other religions, and to the point here, Hume’s critics have seized on the core of his statement, not his remarks about Buddhism. This same line of thinking applies with equal force to Klein’s imagined commentators. In the public forum, honesty should guide our discourse, whether we’re talking about policy, religion, or sports.

Categories: Current, Discourse, Poll, Sports

Holiday Forum Shopping

December 16, 2009 8 comments

Attorney General Eric Holder recently decided that the United States would prosecute alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in federal district court in New York, rather than in a military tribunal. Critics of this decision have not suggested that there are legal barriers to this move, and Holder agreed that civilian and military courts are both available under the law. Rather, the debate has played out on policy grounds.

When called before Congress to explain his decision– one he made without personal consultation with President Obama– the Attorney General said he did it to restore the integrity of the American judicial system. Part of Holder’s explanation of this justification was that civilian deaths outnumbered military deaths in the 9/11 attacks. He also said that the federal government, rather than New York, would bear the cost of the trial, which he estimated at $75 million for the first year.

If the Attorney General is trying to restore the integrity of the American judicial system, does it make sense to try Mohammed in civilian court? While our civilian judicial system is under daily attack by scholars and academics for perceived inefficiencies and arguably inappropriate resource allocations, these are comparatively minor points. Holder presumably is responding to the more significant criticism from popular and political sectors at home and abroad that American military tribunals are inadequate and lacking in integrity. The basic argument is that military tribunals, with their procedural restrictions, present an environment where the cards are stacked against detainees, who are tried and convicted with secret evidence and testimony from witnesses the detainees cannot confront.

All branches of government are concerned about their legitimacy, and this especially is true of the judicial branch. Courts usually are the least democratic, most inaccessible institutions in a democracy, so legitimacy is critical for them. Public perception is the keystone of legitimacy. Generally speaking, courts have no means by which to enforce their judgments. If the public believes a court is illegitimate, that court cannot function.

John Winger has a mixed history with the military justice system.

If Holder’s aim is to respond to the perceived deficiencies of the military justice system, does deliberately trying Mohammed in civilian, rather than military, court accomplish that goal, or does it admit a view that, when you really need fairness and integrity, military tribunals are not the place to go? If the Attorney General is unable to assuage the critics of military tribunals without changing the nature of those tribunals, are they ever appropriate? In not supporting the system that actually is under meaningful attack, has Holder conceded the critics’ point?

Supporters of military tribunals usually argue that prosecution before those bodies is appropriate when it is important that information required to conduct the proceeding not become public. They also argue that civilian trials of particularly dangerous individuals present a danger to the public not present in military trials. Opponents argue that in camera review (confidential review of evidence by the judge alone, in chambers) can adequately avoid disclosure of secret or confidential information. Extensive use of in camera review, however, may itself undermine the legitimacy of the proceeding. Increased security can reduce the risk of dangerous occurrences at an increased cost.

Holder’s claim that trying Mohammed in civilian court will rehabilitate the judicial system may be dubious, but perhaps there are other reasons for making this selection. If a civilian prosecution in this particular case does restore (both domestic and foreign) public confidence in America’s treatment of detainees, this could lead to some abstract improvement in the country’s international relations. If it quiets calls for better detainee treatment, it could prevent a push to try Mohammed before an international tribunal (the thought being that an American civilian trial, while not as agreeable to proponents of a military trial, would be preferable to process before an international body).

Part of Holder’s defense was that the trial will be quick and, given the overwhelming evidence, the end (a guilty verdict) is strongly implied. This responds to some of his critics’ concerns while undermining his position. If the point of prosecuting in civilian court is to demonstrate that the United States gave Mohammed the most fair trial it could offer, the fact that the outcome is a foregone conclusion that will follow from a quick and easy process suggest otherwise, and these statements from the Attorney General sound like something more than a prosecutor’s confidence in his case.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who did not necessarily share Holder’s background concerns, had other questions for the Attorney General:

How can we be assured that these enemies will be found guilty? Given that criminal courts are now the presumed venue for those captured on the battlefield, will soldiers need to read them their rights at the time of capture? Since you wish to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis to the presumed civil venue, don’t all those captured need to be read their rights and have the opportunity to remain silent? Won’t this venue expose intelligence to our enemies? Can our classified information really be secured? Can we in fact predict how the judge will rule? If these people are brought into the country will they get additional rights under immigration law? What if they claim asylum?

One observer reported that Holder “seemed bewildered in the face of these inquiries.”

As usual, there are arguments in favor of and opposed to the Attorney General’s decision to try Mohammed in civilian court. Their views on this question aside, those interested in consistency nevertheless may find Holder’s rationale, if not his position, unsatisfying.

The comment section below is available to explain your vote in the poll, present other arguments for and against the Attorney General’s decision, and offer alternative courses of action.

Categories: Current, International, Legal, Poll

Using Discovery to Build a Record

November 27, 2009 Leave a comment

In a trial, “the record” is the formal recording of the legal events in the courtroom. It will include transcripts of witness testimony and examination, attachments covering other exhibits admitted into evidence, motions and objections made by the parties or the judge, the judge’s ruling on those motions and objections, the judge’s instructions to the jury if one is empanelled, the facts as found by the fact finder (either the judge or the jury), and the verdict as reported. A good record– one that accurately represents the proof presented and motions and objections made– is nearly as important to a litigant as the trial outcome. In a system that does not permit the introduction of new information after the close of trial (with rare exception), the record contains the only basis for reversal or modification of an unfavorable trial verdict on appeal.

While much is made of the importance of lodging objections and preserving arguments in the record for appeal, the development of the record begins with discovery, the time near the beginning of the trial when parties must produce documents and other information in response to an opposing party’s request for production. Especially in corporate litigation, discovery still can look like rooms full of boxes full of paper. In this context, the focus today increasingly is on e-discovery, and consulting firms that help companies manage their electronic data in the legal discovery context have begun to crop up. Many volumes of scholarship study the discovery process, critique it, and suggest reforms to a legal regime often thought of as unduly cumbersome, costly, and inefficient. The simple idea for the purposes of this post, however, is that our legal system has a discovery process through which parties build a common pool of available information that will allow them to resolve their dispute.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia

Information is important to the broader public discourse as well, as previously noted. See supra (discussing the availability of judicial decisions). Everything from scholarly books and articles to literature and artwork of all forms to newspapers, radio programs, websites, and encyclopedias can be a source of this information. In recent years, one such source of information has risen in global popularity. Wikipedia, a free, online “encyclopedia,” claims to be “one of the five most visited websites in the world.” The numerous entries present a wide range of coverage and quality, and anyone can edit the entries. See generally this series of posts on the nuances of Wikipedia’s editing culture. Of course, some think this free-ranging malleability renders worthless (or at least suspect) any serious use of the site’s content. (Even if one thought citation to Wikipedia in a formal work was appropriate based on the quality of Wikipedia content, it is still inappropriate under the notion that there is no need to cite to general knowledge, which is usually found in sources like traditional encyclopedias.) The site’s popularity, however, would seem to be a testament to its usefulness to the public, at least in some minimal capacity.

A recent visit to the main English language page revealed that the site is currently running a fundraising campaign. As of today, they represent that they’ve collected $1.4 million on their way to a $7.5 million goal.

When deciding whether to fund– individually or collectively– collective information, both quality and usefulness are relevant factors to consider. More directly, the question this post presents is, “Is Wikipedia worth preserving?” This is a question about informational needs, accessibility,  value analysis, free riders, and a host of other things. To spur discussion, respond to the poll in this post. Feel free to explain your vote or offer other thoughts in the comment section, below.

Categories: Information, Internet, Poll