In my personal opinion links should not be a factor to the search engines!
The web started off by linking to each other and along comes a Google or some other search engine, (I like Google, but this is a problem area!), who starts penalizing sites for what, or who, or non related, links which scares too many webmasters out of even going after links.
My area is astrology but why should a search engine want to penalyze me, (I am NOT under penalty), for say, linking to a site dealing in widget softwares?
After all, my surfers are over 80% women and who says women are not surfing the widgets site or a hairdressers storefront and sees a link to me and thinks, "I'll just check this out while I'm on line". Why should we be worried if the site we link to is a greyed out bar or a PR0? Or, heavens forbid, an automated, generated, links page?
It really smacks of control which breaks down a democratic system very quickly with much loss of freedoms. The old boot on the neck scenario.
I'm not saying the engines owe us anything as it is their own search engines, but the facts speak for themselves, either do it their way or get off the net. Don't even think about getting enough links around the web to survive without the search engines, can't be done....what a shame.