Discussion Paper

Discussing the Rules: Electronic Rulemaking and Democratic Deliberation

Apr 1, 2003 | Thomas C. Beierle

Abstract

Of all recent efforts to transform the federal bureaucracy through the use of information technology, electronic rulemaking holds the most potential for enhancing the role of the public in policymaking. In its more expansive formulation, electronic rulemaking would allow citizens to learn about proposed regulations on the Web, comment on them electronically, read comments by others, and even discuss relevant issues with fellow citizens and agency staff. This paper outlines what we should expect from public involvement in electronic rulemaking, concluding that its promise lies in embedding democratic deliberation into administrative decisionmaking. The current move to put rulemaking dockets online, while important, is likely to fall short of electronic rulemaking’s potential. For important rules, electronic dockets should be supplemented with electronic dialogues, which support and encourage iterative discussions.