Crowdsourcing policy

The FT has picked up on a couple of social media sites that are intended to bring ‘the wisdom of crowds’ to bear upon the new President’s policymaking. Both Fix This Barack and Whitehouse 2 aim to set priorities for the incoming President. Obama’s team appear to be taking steps to do this themselves by promoting some participative policymaking on the transition website.

A few quick observations:

  • Unless an understanding of how participative politics can work in the context of representative democracy, initiatives like these often seem to put the cart before the horse. I’d suggest that participative policymaking works best when those participating aren’t aware that they have a political audience – a point that I will flesh out in a post here shortly.
  • In promoting transparency in policy-making, Obama may – in some ways – deny himself important policymaking tools. For this reason, I’d be a bit worried that he will disappoint expectations when he decides not to deny himself those tools. And I think that there is a consensus that heightened expectations is one of the greatest handicaps that Obama is going to have to overcome in his early Presidency.

Changing the subject slightly, here is an interesting observation from the UK political blogger Freemania on Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s attempt to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.


Why the hyperactivity?

One of the great divides between the people who comment on politics, and the people who do it for a living goes something like this:

Commentariat: Why do politicians feel the need to be constantly making announcements and being seen to do stuff – even to the point of preferring to do something pointless – or even damaging – to doing nothing at all?

And, in contrast…

Politicians: People who don’t realise why we have to constantly be seen to be doing things wouldn’t survive five minutes as a politician.

Here’s a comment on The Rose Review (via Matthew Taylor’s blog)