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Wikipedia is a collaborative project involving a vast number of editors. It is remarkable that disputes and deadlocks are a relatively rare occurrence. In many cases, disputes are due to bad editor behavior and administrative intervention against such editors can then be an effective tool to solve the problem. In some cases, however, editor behavior is not the fundamental cause of the problems; the topic itself may be too controversial for a clear consensus among editors to arise. The only way such problems can be resolved is to have a "government" that can make binding decisions. Here on Wikipedia, the Arbitration Committee (ArbCom) plays the role of such a government.

Wikipedia with and without a government[edit]

Before the creation of ArbCom in 2004, Wikipedia had no formal government structure. Even with the creation of ArbCom, not all problems could be addressed by ArbCom due to its limited authority. Without a formal government structure, groups of editors tend to arise-- who with implicit approval of the community-- enforce a regime allowing the editing of articles and policy pages to proceed. In the long term, this can lead to problems. Not all editors will accept the authority of such a group of editors. It can lead to the formation of factions of editors with different agendas. The ArbCom system has been able to deal with such problems effectively as far as the editing of articles is concerned.

In contrast, the editing of policy pages, particularly those that deal with the authority of Administrators (Admins) to sanction editors for infractions, proceeds via implicit approval of the community to let a small groups of Admins write how they go about their business. What they write is usually accepted as reflecting current practice. Unsurprisingly, this can give rise to tensions see here for an example. The reason why this issue has not been dealt with is because it would have to involve restricting the power of Admins. Most Admins oppose a policy change to restrict their authority, therefore it is impossible to get the necessary consensus for such a policy change.

Bringing Admins under government control[edit]

ArbCom has only very limited authority over Admins. ArbCom can desysop Admins in emergency situations (e.g. if an Admin account has been compromised), if they overstep ArbCom's authority, or it can be mandated by ArbCom as a remedy in an ArbCom case. While there is community input in Admin decisions at WP:AN/I, in controversial cases the lack of consensus favors decisions in favor of action (usually blocking) unless there is consensus against such action. Over time, this has led to a more authoritarian system. This then leads to the policy pages describing the authority of Admins to be rewritten, reflecting the siituation as it exists. This is thus the complete opposite of how things should work. The community should decide by consensus what the policy pages say about how Admins should act, and Admins should follow these policies.

The reason why the community is not in charge here is because of a lack of consensus. Just like ArbCom is necessary to solve intractable disputes between editors for which there is no community consensus on how to act, there should be an elected committee that exerts authority over Admins. This committee (let's call it AdminCom) should have the authority to set the guidelines for blocks, the discretion to (temporarily) desysop Admins, to appoint new Admins and to interfere directly in individual Admin matters.

While the community cannot directly create new policy mandating the creation of AdminCom, a new ArbCom can do this, because ArbCom decisions do not require community consensus. Alternatively Jimbo Wales has the authority to create AdminCom. When this is done, ArbCom and AdminCom together will be two branches of Wikipedia's government that will together cover all of Wikipedia's editing.

See also[edit]