This past weekend I came across this interesting block by Abe Voelker. GitLaw: GitHub for Laws and Legal Documents – a Tourniquet for American Liberty. The reaction he got was amazing and totally overwhelmed him.
It’s an interesting read – written by someone naive enough to actually have hope that we could fix our government by applying modern technology. Of course, those of us in the know realize how totally absurd his ideas are. The legislative process is meant to be out of reach the public citizen. It’s meant to keep the common people from meddling in how laws are made. Those people would use normal everyday language that everybody could understand. Too many eyes might spot all the wasteful earmarks tucked in the back corners of the legislation. How could the public be trusted to do a good job legislating the laws of the land? Isn’t that why we have Congress, after all? As Abe points out, Congress has a 14% approval rating. Could the people actually compete with that? Could the people do a better job than what 14% of the population currently think is a good job?
Our legislative processes are arcane and convoluted processes that make it far too difficult for anyone without the resources it takes to participate. These processes were designed at a time when communication with the people was achieved by sending messengers out on horseback. Today, within an instant of me posting this blog, it can be read by almost anyone anywhere on this planet. So why do we continue to govern ourselves by creating such a deliberate distance between the people and their government? Do we really still need to divide opinions into two failed ideologies? Can’t modern technologies allow us to manage more than two diametrically opposing positions on every issue? With our governments on the verge of bankruptcy and with their approval ratings well below a flunking grade, why is there not more urgency in reinventing how we are governed?
The technologies that have emerged in the past few years will be disruptive to how we are governed. While Abe’s ideas are a bit simplistic, they must make us take a step back and ask if there isn’t a better way to govern ourselves. The real question is whether our leaders will lead us into this new era or will they be the fly in the ointment. With a 14% approval rating one maybe shouldn’t expect too much.
If you want to make a difference and learn more about how laws could be made more open and transparent, consider attending our upcoming “unhackathon” events this coming weekend. Go to http://legalhacks.org for more information.