The Internet and Citizen Participation in Rulemaking
I/S: Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, Vol. 1, p. 33, 2005
26 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2003 Last revised: 13 Jan 2010
Each year, regulatory agencies promulgate thousands of important rules through a process largely insulated from ordinary citizens. Many observers believe the Internet could help revolutionize the rulemaking process, allowing citizens to play a central role in the development of new government regulations. This paper expresses a contrary view. In it, I argue that existing efforts to apply information technology to rulemaking will not noticeably affect citizen participation, as these current efforts do little more than digitize the existing process without addressing the underlying obstacles to greater citizen participation. Although more innovative technologies may eventually enable the ordinary citizen to play a greater role in rulemaking, such future applications will only raise the question of whether greater citizen involvement is necessarily a good thing. A substantial and systematic increase in citizen comments will not be a welcome development if it leads regulators to strive to satisfy those who file comments instead of selecting the policy option that best fulfills the statutory mandate or public interest. Overall, the novelty of applying information technology to the rulemaking process merits no special optimism, but rather such technology deserves careful assessment of both its positive and negative effects.
Posted paper, uploaded January 2010, is the published version of the working paper originally posted July 2003, and formerly titled "The Internet and Public Participation in Rulemaking."
Keywords: Information Technology, Regulation, Administrative Law, Business and Government Policy, Law and Legal Institutions, Public Management, Political Science
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