Grassroots Government: Internet Fixes for Government Accountability Problems

I posted Tuesday about Ed Feulner of the Heritage Foundation’s suggestion that Congress should post the complete text of legislation on the Internet before it votes.

Mark Tapscott of Tapcott’s Copy Desk has taken that idea for a “grassroots government’ reform and added two new ideas to it.

I don’t want to give the ideas away when folks can easily get the full scoop from Mark, but I will tell you that one idea has to with “grassroots government” reforms relating to judges ruling on Constitutional law questions and the other has to do with regulations on business.

Basically, Mark thinks the Internet can be put to use in creative ways to increase public scutiny of, and control over, the government that serves us.

I agree. In fact, I’d like to add two ideas to Mark’s “grassroots government” collection, in the area of criminal justice:

* The resolution of criminal cases should be posted on the Internet by District Attorneys’ offices (and their equivalents). Information should include the charges made against a defendant and the resolution, including any plea bargains agreed to, dropped charges, verdicts and sentencing. The public has a right to know how often cases are plea bargained and what really happens when someone is arrested for car theft in their neighborhood.

* Announcements of pending parole hearings should be posted on the Internet, along with information about the offense(s) for which the inmate was convicted and time served, and the address for writing the parole board. The public would then have the ability to attend parole hearings and testify when warranted. Furthermore, parole hearings should be simulcast on the Internet. The parole board’s decision should be posted as well.

Not every “grassroots government” idea can work, and most would require modifications and limitations to work in the real world (victims’ privacy concerns would have to be addressed for my ideas to work, for instance). But as the Internet makes it possible to transmit large amounts of information at very low cost, couldn’t we use it more than we presently do as a tool to make government more accountable?

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.