On Writers of Legislation

by F.

It seems strange to have regulated companies writing legislation that will govern them. At least to me it seems strange, and I suspect others. It gives me the feeling that “insiders” are subverting the “political process” and writing laws that benefit them.

Yes. I know. I’m a naif.

I was talking to someone the other day and he told me he was meeting with a certain powerful lawmaker. The lawyer was, essentially, writing legislation for a senator. This would be unremarkeble except that the lawyer worked for a company the legislation would benefit. I don’t have good data on this, but I suspect it’s quite common.

Is this bad? I’m not sure. It certaintly doesn’t look very good. Yet I think this is inevitable.

If it is bad, Is there a fix? How about the following: require lawmakers to disclose everyone whom they consulted when writing or sponsoring legislation–and give their role.

So if Coca Cola, say, wrote the first draft of the legislation, the public could learn about that. Legislation would have a “contributors list” and maybe even a “change log” that showed who had added what.

Sounds a little crazy, but information technology may make it more doable. Why not have all the drafts, from first to final, posted on the Web? Why not have all comments publicly available?

My intuition is that Freedom + Transparancy will cure more ills that Secrecy + Additional Legislation. Perhaps this is already done, if not in the US, then in other countries—I don’t know. Radical transparency looks better to me every day.

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