User:Tisane/Self-nominations for adminship as prima facie evidence of power hunger
In the requests for adminship, repeated objections to self-nominations have arisen as being "prima facie evidence of power hunger." Endless debate has ensued as to whether such objections should be allowed to be voiced, and what weight bureaucrats should give to such objections. Let us look at the merits of the objection. While semantics can sometimes be used to obscure and distract from the substance of issues, precise definitions can also be used to clarify certain debates, and so I will employ them in this essay.
Is power hunger bad?
Is power hunger a bad thing? Hunger can be defined as "a desire for something." Hunger is often a useful impulse, driving us to acquire that which we need to survive and thrive. Nor is hunger necessarily a selfish or evil desire. Even an altruist may hunger for societal changes that will improve the well-being of others.
Another word for "power" is "ability," which is defined as "possession of the qualities required to do something or get something done." "Power" thus can refer to many useful traits such as competence ("My skill at research and composition empowers me to write featured articles"), freedom ("Our Mediawiki settings give non-logged-in users the power to edit pages anonymously"), influence ("You make a powerful argument for revising our policies"), etc. If our users did not have certain powers, they would not be able to accomplish anything.
Is it so bad to take the measures necessary to obtain power? In order to obtain the power to upload images and edit semi-protected pages, I created an account and waited four days. Many useful contributions may come of my using this power. But what prompted me to seek this power was my desire – my hunger, as it were – for it. I did not hunger for the power for power's own sake, but because the power is a tool by which I can accomplish other things.
Are there users who may seek power for its own sake? Certainly. Is that a bad thing? A certain portion of the population, to be sure, are "born leaders" or choleric personalities who find satisfaction in wielding power. This drive does not necessarily mean they will misuse the power, any more than a hunger for food means that a person will eat excessively or unhealthily.
A lack of desire for power can impose other dangers. A person who, because of some disorder, lacks a desire for food, will not overeat. This lack of hunger will provide safety from the danger of overeating. But it also may kill him. Likewise, if people lack hunger for power to accomplish certain things on Wikipedia, those tasks may end up remaining undone.
If a person has no desire to be a sysop and is nominated by someone else, it may be that if given the admin tools, he will not use them. In such a case, there is no point in giving him the power. Are we hoping that people nominated by others will, once given the tools, discover a desire for them? In that case, we have participated in causing the development of power hunger. Why would we desire such an outcome, if power hunger is bad?
Is there any empirical evidence that self-nominated sysops are more likely to abuse their power than sysops who were nominated by others? Even if there is, are the benefits (if any) of excluding self-nominated sysops from consideration worth the unintended consequences? It may be that such an exclusion will discourage the would-be sysops who only have a mild desire for power from applying, while those with a strong desire for power will go to great lengths to get it, e.g., by searching hard for another user to make a nomination. It could damage the integrity of the nomination process by creating a situation in which users have to pretend to not be power hungry when really they are.
What should we do when such objections are raised?
It is clear that community consensus is on the side of promoting qualified self-nominated users. We could codify this sentiment by including a sentence in a guideline or policy page stating that admin candidates are not discriminated against on the basis of self-nomination. We could establish criteria by which admin candidates are to be properly judged, and disregard votes that are not based on those criteria.
But it may not be necessary. We could just count the objection as a "no" vote and let it go at that. We have never had a problem with eccentric viewpoints causing mass rejection of qualified candidates. It is only a few editors who express such viewpoints regularly. And so, if anyone gets rejected based on those viewpoints, it will be someone who was on the borderline anyway, and possibly not ready for adminship yet. Such a person can probably apply again a little later, after producing a track record better demonstrating suitability for adminship, and be successful. If there ever comes a point at which we do experience mass rejections of qualified candidates, we can take other measures to prevent it, such as lowering the vote threshold required for accepting a candidate. But let's cross that bridge when we get to it.