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Crowdsourcing New Laws – Here’s Your Chance

crowdsourcinglaw

Nancy Pelosi tell us that they need to “pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it”…

But another politician from California is interested in finding another way…

Last week, California Assemblyman Mike Gatto proposed a new way to draft legislation that takes cues from the crowdsourcing phenomenon we have covered many times before. Could this become an effective voice of the people, or is it simply another government deception?

Let’s take a closer look at this interesting idea to see if it’s something that actually could work.

Assemblyman Gatto wants to use a wiki platform that can be edited by constituents until a final draft is created that makes sense to everyone involved. This is very similar to the Wikipedia format where users can submit new articles or edit existing content for accuracy.

The idea accomplishes three things:

  1. Eliminates some of the back door politics (and maybe, even some of the pork).
  2. Could speed up the process. No more long “comment periods” that fall on deaf ears.
  3. Provides an open platform that keeps special interest groups from “running” the legislative process.

Crowdsourcing relies on shared public wisdom to create truly meaningful legislative actions that could have a significant impact on both daily life and the political machine.

By putting the brainstorming, drafting and editing in the hands of the public, we could see some meaningful legislation come from this forward thinking initiative and maybe some legislative process reform if we’re lucky.

crowdsourcinglaw

Crowdsourcing has worked very well as a fundraising platform thanks to services like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Crowdfunder. I think it can work well for politics as well, but there are a couple of concerns that will need to be addressed before this idea can really take off.

First, Wikipedia uses a system of moderators that approve (or disapprove) all changes before they go live on the Web. In the system proposed by Assemblyman Gatto it is unclear who would be responsible for moderating proposed changes. Will these people be selected by political interest groups or will regular citizens have a voice?

Government pork will ultimately get stuffed in the bill either way. How can we be sure that the voices of participants are actually being heard? Some sort of transparency would have to be present for this solution to meet the trust concerns normally harbored by the general public when it comes to practically any government involvement.

Also, who decides which bills go into open discussion and which bills are created in the traditional manner? Assemblyman Gatto’s proposal revolves around reforming probate law.

Although this is an issue all of us face at some point in our lives, why not start with solar energy initiatives? Is it because there is too much invested interest in Big Oil to give the people a true voice when it comes down to important issues? At this point, we have no way of knowing how these questions will be answered; however, if Gatto is successful, this could spark change throughout the entire political system.

Overall, I really like the idea because it could speed up the painfully slow legislative process while giving people a real voice in the community. It will be interesting to see how this probate bill turns out (the deadline for submitting new legislation is February 21st). If successful, this could represent the next step toward reclaiming the democracy our country was built upon – not the shadow of a once great system we are currently forced to endure.

The key to this plan’s success is making sure special interest groups do not get involved (isn’t it inevitable though?) and holding the politicians themselves accountable for transparency throughout the legislative process.

The chances of this plan succeeding the way Gatto has envisioned is slim. That said, any success this bill experiences could easily translate into real change in the near future. The fact that government is at least acknowledging some of the deficiencies of current legislative processes is a step in the right direction…and hopefully more is on the way in 2014.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mike Brahier

    Is this what democracy looks like?

  • Luane Todd

    This has a lot of merit except for one tiny little detail…
    How do the designers plan to deal with those people who still do not have a way to participate in this plan…those with no easy access to a computer?
    By default, the interest groups with computer access, including a lot of unaffiliated people within the community, will control the agenda.
    It seems unlikely that even other citizens in a community will take any interest in the input of the ‘others’–the really silent ones on the edges.

    Seems to me another example of not understanding the constraints of the truly disadvantaged…not everyone knows how to use or can access a computer.

  • Just a Thought

    Government Transparency vs Original Transparency = Two different platforms.
    The original document + the changed document side by side.

    Breaking each individual concern down to its own paragraph.

    If even one word is a problem, then that word, too, would have to be broken down to its own paragraph.

    jh

  • Dare Tuitt

    Impractical. The special interest money will simply hire people to post their “suggestions.” All this will really do is facilitate more of the same, but on steroids.

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