Bring on the Participatory Sensing

For decades, Congress has delegated the fate of our public lands, the air, water and wildlife to federal agencies, where a familiar dynamic of regulatory capture and corruption quickly takes root.  It’s depressingly routine:  industry foxes are appointed to guard the chicken house, they make politically motivated judgments about scientific data, they engage in legalistic subterfuges and throw blankets of secrecy over the data and decisionmaking.  A complicit Congress cuts budgets in order to cripple regulatory effectiveness. 

So here’s an interesting idea for changing the political ecosystem of regulation:  Use Web 2.0 platforms to let citizens participate directly, and let the data be seen by everyone, in near-real time, on the Web.  Reinvent regulation as an open source project, as it were, so that everyone can participate and industry money and interventions cannot so easily corrupt the process.  

Freedom From Harm: The Civilizing Influence of Health, Safety and Environmental Regulation

Public Citizen and Democracy Project, 1986.  Co-authored with Joan Claybrook.  This book surveys the neglected, life-saving, civilizing benefits of health, safety and environmental regulation, which are typically understated or ignored by cost-benefit analysis and corporate adversaries of regulation.  In particular, the book focuses on the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

Sophisticated Sabotage: The Intellectual Games Used to Subvert Responsible Regulation

by Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro and David Bollier  Environmental Law Institute, 2004. Drawing upon dozens of law review articles, this book explains in rigorous detail how regulated industries exploit cost-benefit analysis, risk assessment and other contrived quantitative models to avoid health, safety and environmental regulation. An excellent explanation of how economics has overwhelmed law and thwarted government action by using contrived analytic models. Valuable for legislators, public policy analysts, journalists, law scholars and students.

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