Policymakers are increasingly focused on technology and information policy.
In many cases, technical and economic
unsophisticates are poised to make lasting policies that have unknown and
unpredictable effects. The potential downside is enormous. The innovations
we have seen in recent years only hint at what marvels we will give up
in the future if we frustrate the next round of innovation with unwise
legislation and regulation.
The Internet and digital communications are remaking the way things
are done in a variety of fields. Policymaking is essentially an industry,
though it is unlike any other.
The policymaking industry is just beginning to experiment with technology.
While these experiments surely open and improve the policymaking process, they cover
only narrow sectors of the industry, and they do not make the quantum leaps
in efficiency that many Internet-based business models offer.
A hugely important part of policymaking is the formulation and communication
of the needs and views of individuals, associations, and businesses. This is
generally referred to as lobbying. The lobbying sector has yet
to see much efficiency gain through the use of technology. The middleman
is still there. It costs thousands of dollars to hire a lobbyist, who must
study an issue, formulate a policy position, and communicate it to elected
representatives and regulators.
There will always be a place for some direct lobbying. Good lobbyists
are trusted sources of accurate information that help policymakers do a
better job. If this project succeeds, however, many lobbyists — democracy’s
middlemen — can be re-deployed to better uses.
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