Each year, regulatory agencies promulgate thousands of important rules through a process largely insulated from ordinary citizens. Many observers believe the Internet could help revolutionize the rulemaking process, allowing citizens to play a central role in the development of new government regulations. This paper expresses a contrary view. In it, I argue that existing efforts to apply information technology to rulemaking will not noticeably affect citizen participation, as these current efforts do little more than digitize the existing process without addressing the underlying obstacles to greater citizen participation. Although more innovative technologies may eventually enable the ordinary citizen to play a greater role in rulemaking, such future applications will only raise the question of whether greater citizen involvement is necessarily a good thing. A substantial and systematic increase in citizen comments will not be a welcome development if it leads regulators to strive to satisfy those who file comments instead of selecting the policy option that best fulfills the statutory mandate or overarching public interest. Overall, the novelty of applying information technology to the rulemaking process merits no special optimism, but rather such technology deserves careful assessment of both its positive and negative effects.
Coglianese, Cary. "The Internet and Citizen Participation in Rulemaking." KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP04-044, November 2004.