Just as the President emphasized last night, the key to the future is innovation. But innovation shouldn’t be limited to the private sector — we should seek ways to introduce innovation into the making of public policy. LexPop seeks to do just that.
Relative to two hundred years ago, we do everything differently today. We seek entertainment differently; consider Netflix and Hulu. We communicate differently; consider Twitter, Facebook, and text messaging. We are informed differently; consider blogs and multimedia news sites. This is all due to impressive and constant innovation.
Yet, we make public policy in essentially the same way we always have. Step one: those in power yell at each other. Step two: those in power (and those with money) go into back rooms and make deals, the details of which are opaque. Step three: more public yelling followed by years or decades of a mediocre policy. Step four: new officials are elected promising to change the system. Step five: see step one, above.
Just as pamphlets were once the most efficient and effective means for distributing ideas, so too was this type of democracy the best solution at one point. But that moment is long since passed. A legitimate twenty-first century democracy will invite the public into meaningful collaboration.
And that’s the theory behind LexPop. The idea is that we (the People) can do a better job. The idea is that by introducing more voices, the policies that win out won’t be limited to the best-funded.
The project is ambitious, but something similar is already working in Brazil. The Federal Government is experimenting with collaboration through ExpertNet andPeer-to-Patent. Yet neither of these projects opens the gates to policy making by the people. LexPop is a start that, and while imperfect, it will get the ball rolling on bringing public participation into public policy.