I am very supportive of Mike Gravel‘s National Initiative, but I cannot be very certain that it will really happen given the huge obstacle it is facing (just look at Mike Gravel’s presidential campaign, we know what kind of difficulty lays ahead of us). But if we extend National Initiative to a bigger picture, which maybe we can call Law 2.0, I am very sure it will happen.
With my very limited knowledge in this area, currently most efforts to apply web2.0 to law focus on making lawyers or legal services more accessible, or making laws easier to understand. But as Mike Gravel said that the political power is the power to make laws, we can think about how web2.0 can be applied to empowering people to make laws. What we need is just to extend the concept and structure of National Initiative, and think in a larger scale about how web can empower the people to make laws. So for our discussion, we can pretty much follow the outline of National Initiative, and just make it a little more general.
So the power of making laws is two parts. One part is the right to propose bills. The other part is the right to approve bills. In addition to the two houses of congress and the president, we should add another channel for people to propose laws. And any laws proposed by one party (House, Senate, the president, or the People) will have to be approved by all parties. This way the people will have a way to propose change, and oversight the other law making branches.
What we need is to figure out how to make the two processes (people proposing bills and people approving/disapproving bills) open, fair and transparent. This sounds very interesting.
I think most of the structure and work are already in National Initiative. But making it more general as law 2.0 might be a way to bring a much larger group of people together, and bring in a lot of innovation and efforts to make this really into a movement. As a movement, there will be many people trying different ways. National Initiative as the early starter will certainly draw the most people to develop it in the open source way.
I guess there might be already some efforts like this out there. http://www.opencongress.org/ is intended to make bills in the congress easy to understand. But there can also be efforts to allow average citizens to write laws together. We know law-writing is a very formal process, and can be difficult for average citizens. But at least the average citizens can participate in writing the law. They can express their concerns and what kind of law they expect to write. Professional lawyers can make a framework. Average citizens can add to part of the framework and build up a draft. Then the draft can be touched upon by the professional lawyers. And the edited version can still be monitored by the average citizens. In a summary, there should be many ways for the average citizens to be part of the law-writing process. In a recent event of Grassroots Web, during a conversation with some friends, we touched on the possibility of using MixedInk as a potential tool for people to cooperate on writing laws. Some other wiki tools can also be used as cooperation tools for writing laws.
Thus I am more hopeful that the vision of Mike Gravel will become a reality soon.