The Problem with Wikipedia
By David Henderson
When I first heard about Wikipedia, I thought, “this can’t work.” My reason: there was no assurance that letting huge numbers of people fill in entries and update things would lead to correct information. That said, it works much better than I had expected.
But in my only two cases where I have paid close attention to how information gets screened, Wikipedia has worked badly. The first has to do with the entry on me. See it here. I can’t remember the details because I gave up, but I do remember trying to get my birth date and year entered but not being able to do so. Wikipedia did not trust me to know my own date of birth. That’s a minor problem, but still an annoying one.
The second has to do with something that happened in the last 36 hours. I posted on this blog a major mistake on Wikipedia having to do with why anti-capitalist author Thomas Carlyle called economics “the dismal science.” It was because the free-market economists at the time, who dominated economics, strongly opposed slavery.
I posted it because I thought, it turns out correctly, that some reader of the post would go on to the Wikipedia site and make the change. That happened quickly. That’s the good news. The bad news? The mistake is back. I’m guessing that if someone went on again and corrected it, the mistake would be back within hours. That’s the problem. I don’t know, offhand, a good fix. I do know that San Jose State University economics professor Jeff Hummel tells his students that if they are not already seasoned researchers (and, really, how many of them are?), they should not rely on Wikipedia.