Saturday, January 28, 2006

For better government ...

put (almost) everything on the Web, freely available to everyone, searchable by the Googles, Yahoos, and Microsofts of the world. Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and the light of day makes corruption, lies, and incompetence harder to maintain.

When you work, your boss has the right to monitor your email, your hard disk, your communications with others, your web browsing, etc. The government works for us, and we have the same rights any boss has. We need to waive those rights in some obvious cases, CIA agent names, military plans and personnel records come to mind, but everything else we need to see, and the only way to deliver the vast governent information troves to 300 million people is the Web.

At a minimum, the following should go on the Web immediately (with exceptions for national security):

- Every document subject the Freedom of Information Act.

- Every bill before Congress, every draft of every bill, every document produced by the Congressional staff.

- Video, transcripts, and audio of every committe meeting and session of Congress, and the same for all executive meetings

- Every lobbyist name, everything they give to lawmakers (or the administration), and the time and place of every meeting. Video and audio of meetings would be nice.

There is no need to organize the data. The search engines of the world will do that for us. Still, even just dumping the data on the Web will cost something. We'll make it all back the first time a lobbyist decides not to bribe a Senator with a a $100K campaign contribution in exchange for a billion dollar tax break.

There's no need to limit this to the U.S. federal government. Why not your city? The states? These are easier because there are no national security concerns, so just put everything (except personnel records) on the Web. But why stop at our borders? How about the U.N? The E.U.? Other countries? If Web publication of all government doings became the norm, we'd have a much, much better world.

If you have the time, run for mayor or head of the local school board. If you win, implement immediate Web publication of everything. Once it get's started, the idea will spread. The world will be a much better place for it.