OPEN LEGISLATION: What if everybody got to write legislation?

“Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world.  Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”  Margaret Mead

A peek by TechNewsWorld into future mutations of the rule-making process.

Today’s daring ideas can be tomorrow’s routine way of handling the legislative/regulatory process.  More specifically, open legislation could could bolster participatory democracy.

The idea of open legislation is attractive at face value, but then one is left to wonder about the effects of open legislation on the role of interest groups and lobbyists, if any person is allowed to put directly their two-cent’s worth in regulatory proposals.  Sure, it’s empowering for individuals, and open legislation might very well revitalize participatory democracy with a beneficial side-effect on voter turn-out at elections, for one thing.  With open legislation, many people would not feel so disenfranchised and cynical about regulatory systems, especially the ones run by government.

It is said that legislation is the highest form of government policy.  As such, the preparation of legislation and regulations have come to be regarded as the complex task of meshing together political vision, social sensitivity and technical expertise with legal knowledge.  As a rule-making process potentially accessible to the unitiated and to a greater number of stakeholders, the open legislation concept has its merits, no doubt, provided that legitimate and truly representative interest groups, including members of Parliament, of provincial legislatives assemblies and of public regulating bodies would not see their role diminished as a result.  Various prescribed formal requirements would have to be met as well to ensure legality and enforceability.

Given these constraints, if the process of open legislation were indeed implemented by public rule-making entities, it remains to be seen how workable this would be in practice.  I can see such a free and open process of participating in the drafting of rules of conduct or product and services standards as requiring a lot of moderation and screening of individual submissions.  Governments and regulatory bodies are already handling individuals sumissions.  However they presently do it through more formal channels, such a selective or public consultation, and not as directly as the open legislation concept.

This is not to say that open legislation is mere utopia.  As a matter of fact, the success of many on-line forums where participants work out compromise positions and specific solutions to various issues concerning society tends to show that the idea of open legislation is indeed attainable. As a matter of fact, advances in the Plain Language Movement should soon or later make it possible to translate compromise solutions arising out of well moderated forums into actual sets of draft rules. These can then be perfected and passed into law by legislative or regulatory authorities.


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