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500 characters are not much to describe a philosophical view without “lack of demarcation” and still treat it fairly.

The current tag excerpt (written by me):

A political philosophy that advocates individual liberty, property rights and a limited government. Not to be used for the libertarian position on free will.

Uh, "individual liberty, property rights" are also advocated by mainstream liberalism. So that's a really bad wording. There is lack of demarcation. Perhaps it's better to write “strong property rights”. On the other hand many libertarians deny, for example, that intellectual property is legitimate property. So in this sense their conception of “property rights” is weaker than the one of mainstream liberals which may cause confusion without further explanation.

Just dropping it, doesn't work, too. Because many liberals claim to be primarily concerned about liberty, too. They only conceive it very differently in the sense that financial and social power infringe on people's liberty very significantly. The libertarian conception of freedom is tightly connected with property rights.

My new suggestion is:

A political philosophy whose core ideal is individual liberty. Libertarians share a commitment to strong property rights and skepticism of state power, though left-libertarians more narrowly interpret what can be legitimate property and are also concerned about corporate power arising from privileges like limited liability or fictive personhood. Not to be used for the libertarian position on free will.

But there are many “radical” libertarians out there who would claim that there is no “left-libertarianism” or “right-libertarianism” but only the “one true libertarianism”: A view stops being libertarianism either by slipping into crony-capitalist authoritarianism or by slipping into plain old collectivism.

Pro-corporate rights, pro-IP => crony-capitalist authoritarianism

Denying land and natural resources (off-shore oil) the status of legitimate property => collectivism

Yet neither the general public nor neutral academics really share this view – though I admit this argument, fully fleshed out, has quite some force. Still in writing tag excerpts I think one should mostly resist it... and so we're starting to be unfair and “unphilosophical”.

To sum it up, in writing a tag wiki about philosophical view X, we can consider

  1. What neutral academics in the relevant field think X is
  2. What the neutral public thinks X is
  3. How people use X as self-designation
  4. What X can be without becoming internally inconsistent

And I think this is also the order of importance we should apply (with 1. being the most important point).

But is it correct?

  • 1
    My understanding of the tag system is that they are not supposed to be for someone learning what a subject is, they're just supposed to clearly state what kinds of questions the tags are relevant to. For example, the calculus tag on math.se (their most popular tag) is only fourteen words long: "For basic questions about limits, derivatives, integrals, and applications, mainly of one-variable functions." This doesn't explain what calculus is or the views of professional mathematicians on the subject, it's just a description of what falls under the tag. I think you are trying to do too much. – Not_Here Jul 23 '17 at 8:36
  • Another example is stackoverflow's tag for javascript: "JavaScript (not to be confused with Java) is a high-level, dynamic, multi-paradigm, weakly-typed language used for both client-side and server-side scripting." It then goes on to address that specific questions about javascript fall under that tag and specific ones don't but it doesn't try to "demarcate" javascript from other programming languages that also are high level, are weakly typed, and so on. I don't think tags are a place to learn, they're just a tool to help organize questions. – Not_Here Jul 23 '17 at 8:43
  • @Not_Here yeah, tag excerpts aren't for learning, I agree. But your examples are from math and CS where it's super easy to write tag excerpts if you know the subject. Everything is so uncontroversial. There probably is even an ISO standard for JavaScript. But for tags in philosophy.SE this is not true. Also, there are heated debates if Ayn Rand was a libertarian (she didn't call herself libertarian), for example, so this has to be handled with more tact than the question if an exercise is calculus or real analysis where, really, nobody cares. – wolf-revo-cats Jul 23 '17 at 9:35
  • My point is that tags are not supposed to be indepth, they're just supposed to tell you what the question is about. Whether or not Ayn Rand was a libertarian has absolutely nothing to do with what the tag of libertarianism should say, that is incredibly too indepth to be relevant to the excerpt of a tag. Like you said "it's super easy to write tag excerpts if you know the subject," yes it is easy to do that with philosophy as well because tags aren't supposed to be treaties on a subject, they are supposed to describe what the contents of the question are/relate to. – Not_Here Jul 23 '17 at 12:23
  • Like with your proposed example for the libertarianism tag, people don't need to know the specific detail that left libertarianism believes that limited liability or fictive personhood is an example of the type of privilege that gives rise to corporate power. Yes, that is a fact about the ideology, but it does not have relevance to someone understand how to use the tag to organize their question. The purpose of a tab excerpt is to help people understand what the tag is used for, "This is about the political ideology, not about the position on free will" is in essence what the tag has to say. – Not_Here Jul 23 '17 at 12:27
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The tag wiki excerpt should explain how the tag is to be used on this website—what questions it should be applied to and what it means here (in cases where we have a different or slightly different meaning than the normally accepted meaning).

The excerpt should not attempt to define the entire concept, and certainly not in a philosophically rigorous way.

The excerpts are shown as usage hints in the interface when askers are choosing tags for their question. If someone doesn't know what is, they probably aren't considering it as a tag for their question, and either way, they won't be able to figure it out by reading the excerpt. This is why excerpts have such a stringent character limit: we want to encourage people to read the excerpts before choosing a tag, and if they just just regurgitate information everyone already knows, or worse, if they are too long, then we've shot ourselves in the foot because no one will actually read them.

There is some official guidance from Jeff Atwood on creating a good tag wiki excerpt here on the Stack Exchange blog:

Here’s a few words of advice on writing tag wiki excerpts:

  1. The excerpt is the elevator pitch for the tag. You only have ~500 plain text characters for the excerpt, so don’t feel obligated to cover everything in it! Save that for the 30,000+ character Markdown tag wiki. The excerpt should define the shared quality of questions containing this tag — boiled down to a few short sentences.

  2. Avoid generically defining the concept behind a tag, unless it is highly specialized. The “email” tag, for example, does not need to explain what email is. I think we can safely assume most internet users know what email is; there’s no value in a boilerplate explanation of email to anyone.

  3. Concentrate on what a tag means to your community. For “email” on Server Fault, mention the server aspects of email including POP3, SMTP, IMAP, and server software. For “email” on Super User, mention desktop email clients and explicitly exclude webmail, as that would be more appropriate for webapps.stackexchange.com.

  4. Provide basic guidance on when to use the tag. In other words, what kinds of questions should have this tag? Tags only exist as ways of organizing questions, so if we don’t provide proper guidance on which questions need this tag, they won’t get tagged at all, rendering the tag excerpt moot. Think of it as a sales pitch: in a room full of tags screaming “pick me!”, what would convince a question asker to select your tag?

  5. Some tags are common knowledge. Most tags require a bit of explanation in the excerpt, even if it’s only 3 or 4 words. But if the tag is common knowledge — that is, if you walked up to any random person on the street and said the tag word to them, and they would know what you were talking about — then don’t bother explaining the tag at all. Stick to usage of the tag within your community in the excerpt.

(Regarding number 2, you might argue that philosophical traditions/theories are "highly specialized", but this term should be understood in context. Liberalism might be "highly specialized" to the non-philosopher, but to the target audience of this site, it would not be considered highly specialized, any more than would be considered highly specialized on a computer programming Q&A site.)


If you want to provide a philosophically rigorous (or layman-appropriate, whichever you prefer) definition of liberalism, please do so in the full tag wiki. That's what it is there for, and there are (virtually) no length limits to contend with. It's basically like what you'd see on Wikipedia or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Except maybe the existence of those other excellent sources is a good reason not to duplicate the content here…)

Other useful information to include in a full tag wiki are links to canonical and interesting questions with that tag. If a diligent user is doing her research, he might look at a tag wiki first and see that her question has already been answered.

It is also helpful to include a brief listing of related tags in a full tag wiki. For example, you might include the tag in the tag wiki (or maybe those two tags should just be merged).

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