- The wiki way
Wikibureaucracy advocates Wikipedia running as a bureaucracy with power and authority being vested in precedent and policy. Wikibureaucracy is directly opposed to the ignore all rules meta-policy which allows users to disregard rules that they believe are harmful to the interests of the encyclopedia.
The upside is that, if sysops and other users are only allowed to take actions allowed by rules, then there is consistency, people know what to expect, and the potential for abuse is limited to what the rules allow. If bad outcomes occur, it is because of abuse or incompetence on the part of the rulemakers or those who violate the rules, not on the part of those who follow the rules.
The downside is that the rules cannot anticipate every possible situation, including situations that arise because of changing circumstances such as new technology, unexpected user behavior, and so on. Most notably, a set of rules restrictive enough to stop abuse can also often be so restrictive as to hinder progress. Progress tends to be a beneficial change whose potential was not anticipated when the rules were drafted; therefore, no allowance was made to permit the necessary actions to implement the desired change. It takes time and effort to revise the rules; in the meantime, progress is held up.
The people who make the rules, whether they are WMF leadership or users contributing to a consensus decision, are not all-knowing. They can only take into account a limited amount of information. The individual user or sysop may possess information that was unavailable to those rulemakers, but if his hands are tied by the rules, he cannot usefully apply that knowledge, except to argue that the rule should be changed. This is typically a difficult process, and many people despair of attempting it.
Even clear rules typically lend themselves to abuse. As Ludwig von Mises writes, "every lawyer knows only too well that even the best law can be perverted, in concrete cases, in interpretation, application, and administration." When the rules are vague, the situation is even worse because "the door is left wide open for arbitrariness, bias, and the abuse of official power."
- Mises, Ludwig von (1929). "The Political Foundations of Peace". Liberalism.