Congress Is Broken. CrowdLaw Could Help Fix It.

Beth Noveck in Forbes: “The way Congress makes law is simply no longer viable. In David Schoenbrod’s recent book DC Confidential, he outlines “five tricks” politicians use to take credit in front of television cameras in order to further political party agendas while passing the blame and the buck to future generations for bad legislation. Although Congress makes the laws that govern all Americans, people also feel disenfranchised. One study concludes that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” But technology offers the promise of improving both the quality and accountability of lawmaking by opening up the process to more and more diverse expertise and input from the public at every stage of the legislative process. We call such open and participatory lawmaking: “CrowdLaw.”

Moving Beyond the Ballot Box

Around the world, there are already over two dozen examples of local legislatures and national parliaments turning to the internet to improve the legitimacy and effectiveness of the laws they make; we need to do the same here if we are to begin to fix congressional dysfunction.

For example, Finland’s Citizen’s Initiative Act at the national level, like Madrid’s Decide initiative at the local level, allows any member of the public with the requisite signatures to propose new legislation, meaning that not only interest groups and politicians get to set the agenda for lawmaking.

In France, the Parlement & Citoyens platform allows the public to respond to a problem posed by a representative by contributing information about both causes and solutions. Relevant citizen input is then synthesized, debated, and incorporated into the resulting draft legislation. This brings greater empiricism into the legislative process through public contribution of expertise….(More)”.