Go to previous post:
Back up:

Go to Electrolite's front page.

Go to next post:
Neil Gaiman

Our Admirable Sponsors

March 16, 2003

Lassez faire. Of the millions of people who use Google, not very many seem to click over to the Google Web Directory, their collaboratively-edited web index. I’m unclear on the history of this effort, but I seem to recall it’s a superset of something called the Open Directory Project, which is older than Google.

Anyway, those who are sure that Electrolite’s proprietor is a “doctrinaire liberal” (or, my favorite, a “loyalist Democrat”) may perhaps be interested to know that the Google Web Directory lists this site as the #2 Google Page Ranked libertarian weblog, just behind Serendipity: Liberty and Democracy and just ahead of Unqualified Offerings. We’re #2! Smash the State! I knew all those evenings spent reading Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand would lead to great things.

Seriously, of course, it’s no dishonor to be listed in the same category as writers like Jim Henley, Gene Healy, or Julian Sanchez. And certainly as liberals go I have an individualist streak. On the other hand, I doubt someone interested in polemical calls to sell the streets and privatize the Coast Guard would quite find what they’re looking for here. Then again, on that always-popular third hand, the Google Directory appears to consider all “libertarianism” a subset of “liberalism,” a choice liable to spark, um, discussion. Oh, what a tangled Web we weave, with our phylogenetic sieve. [09:51 AM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Lassez faire.:

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 11:18 AM:

Hey! You objected, though mildly, for you, when I called you a libertarian. :-P


Damien Warman ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 11:35 AM:

Idle curiosity: is your last line a true rhyme or a near rhyme in your voice?

William Henderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 12:56 PM:

It's not a war on drugs, it's a war on personal freedom!

Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 01:29 PM:

The picture of you weaving a predictably tangled web with a sieve is arresting. As to the rhyme--close enough.

Faisal ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 01:31 PM:

Liberalism as in John Stuart Mill?

Annie ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 01:47 PM:

Welcome to the club, brother. We need more individualists on our team; then I might not spend so much time being annoyed at my fellow liberals...

Chris Adams ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 03:12 PM:

I think that it's a fairly accurate description if you look on a larger timescale: classical liberalism seems closer to what we now call libertarianism than mainstream liberalism. Here's one of the definitions of liberal from the 1913 Websters:

Not bound by orthodox tenets or established forms in political or religious philosophy; independent in opinion; not conservative; friendly to great freedom in the constitution or administration of government; having tendency toward democratic or republican, as distinguished from monarchical or aristocratic, forms;
One who favors greater freedom in political or religious matters; an opponent of the established systems; a reformer

If modern liberalism was still about that, I'd consider myself a liberal. Unfortunately, I'm in favor of equal opportunity, a supporter of property rights and capitalism, inclined to prefer private rather than public programs, and rabidly opposed to nanny-state policies, all of which leaves me esteemed somewhere only slightly above the Klan by most of the self-proclaimed liberals I've met.

I think you'll find that once you get past the lunatic sell-the-streets fringe you'll find quite a few libertarians who are self-styled "old-school liberals".

not enough coffee yet ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 03:23 PM:

Liberals, libertarians, neo-liberals - economy or FP, liberate yo'self...
I gotta be free, I gotta be me.

Michael Bernstein ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 04:38 PM:

I don't think that describing the Google Directory as a 'superset' of the Open Directory Project is correct. The former regularly updates it's data from the latter, and does not have any volunteer editors of it's own. I'm not aware of any Google employees doing this work either, but that could simply be ignorance on my part.

They obviously massage the data in various ways, the most obvious being that they order entries by pagerank, rather than alphabetically, but they also do some stuff to consolidate or relocate the categories in the tree.

In some cases, I have noticed that sites listed in the ODP are not listed in the Google directory, but it's hard to tell if this is due to editing or just that the Google directory hasn't been refreshed from the ODP recently enough to reflect changes.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 06:35 PM:

When I was working as an editor for LookSmart, the company line was that ODP was profoundly flawed. Our claim was that ODP's open nature left it wide open to abuses such as people associated with commercial Web sites editing their competitors out of the director, or people with political or ideological agendas marginalizing their opponents through creative listings and categorizations. I've also seen reports that internal power struggles among ODP's prime movers resulted in their ontological housekeeping suffering profoundly.

I no longer work for LookSmart, and nobody's paying me to toe their line on their competitors; but I wouldn't touch ODP with a ten-foot pole.

Jim Henley ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 08:19 PM:

This is simply maintaining the cosmic balance - you're making up for all the places that list me as a "liberal blog."

FWIW, I'm not sure which page you were looking at, since, depending on which path I take to "libertarian personal pages" or "libertarian blogs," I end up anywhere from third to umpty-ump, while your site appeareth not.

Damn you for appearing higher than I do anywhere though. Be aware that the ONLY reason such a thing happens is your greater popularity. So there!

Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 07:33 AM:

I'm beginning to think that the best way to be liberal is to go as far left as one can without becoming collectivist.

James Landrith ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 10:26 AM:

Hey, I edit the "Society > Politics > Liberalism > Libertarianism > People > Personal Pages" and the "Regional > North America > United States > Society and Culture > Politics > Parties > Libertarian > Candidates" sections for the Open Directory Project/DMOZ, which is utilized by Google (and some other portals rather than creating their own). (see: http://dmoz.org)

I'm glad to see that people are finding it useful, I've put a lot of time and effort into expanding and cleaning up that particular subcategory. Of course, suggestions are always, always appreciated.

Emma ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 02:32 PM:

Oh MAN--first the word "liberal" was muddled such that it became an epithet, and now it's further muddled so that it's conflated with "libertarian?" Does anyone speak English anymore?

"Progressives" anyone?

James Landrith ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2003, 07:47 PM:

I've never understood why DMOZ, which is used as the basis for Google's directory, has chosen to consider libertarianism a subset of liberalism, unless of course they're looking at it from the point of view of a "classical liberal."

Hey, I just edit the subcategory, I don't understand the larger workings of the main categories.

Linne9a Anglemark ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2003, 11:24 AM:

> Our claim was that ODP's open nature left it
> wide open to abuses such as people
> associated with commercial Web sites
> editing their competitors out of the director,
> or people with political or ideological
> agendas marginalizing their opponents
> through creative listings and categorizations.

Being a grassroot ODP editor myself I don't know much about any power struggles that may or may not exist, but the ontology is being constantly and (I think) freely discussed; being married to an ODP meta editor I have an inkling of the effort that goes into stopping the kind of abuse you mention above. Of course it still happens, but I don't think it's quite fair to say that the directory is wide open to it.

Besides, large parts of the directory have nothing to do with commercial or ideological sites anyway. Oh, and good, unbiased editors are always needed :-)