Drafting Nanotechnology Regulations

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I wrote an article at the Jakarta Post titled "how legislative process works in the period of e-democracy". I will give you an excerpt:

A prominent legal thinker once said that representation is not the offspring of democracy, but rather of the feudal system. Some go even further, suggesting that representative democracy is not democracy at all, but instead a form of oligarchy.

Representation stands on the assumption that each member sitting in the legislature is capable of representing the hopes and aspirations of the perhaps hundreds of thousands of people who voted for him. This assumption may well be incorrect as it is difficult for any legislator to accurately take in, verify and quantify the aspirations of his constituents, often due to lack of accurate information or conflicting political interests. Other problems include the lack of teleological research, legal-drafting skills and communication with the public.

For those problems I offered a web-based "legislative" solution, which I will now called "wikislation" :) The idea is doing some part of the legislation on the web. The advantages of wikislation are as follows:

As this process occurs online and is accessible to the public, every update can be syndicated. This enables Internet users to ascertain the latest status, updates and versions of the draft law.

This kind of legislative process is cost-effective as the software is available free. It also provides positive benefits in terms of speed, transparency, legitimacy and accuracy. With everyone watching the process, everybody will know a legislator's position from beginning to the end. Last minute "betrayal" would be difficult and detrimental to his or her political career.

The second advantage is legitimacy. Offline discussions in parliaments are limited by time and space. With online discussion, every citizen, wherever they may be, can participate. The third advantage is accuracy. With online legal drafting, there will be so many eyes watching and contributing their thoughts that legislative drafting errors will be minimized.

With everything recorded, everyone can easily access the history of how a law was made, which could be beneficial as a tool of legal interpretation. Another advantage is that this system will minimize information asymmetry and significantly reduce the work burden on the representative institution.

I believe that we can start drafting nanotech policies (either regulating nanomaterials, nanoscale technologies or molecular nanotechnology) online. A good example  of "wikislation" of nanotech regulation is the CRN's wise nano. CRN has good support from experts at various field, and thus, have the potentiality to draft a good molecular nanotechnology policy for the future.

In addition to that, I also wish that the present nanotech regulation is drafted this way, in the form of a "model law". I will explain later why nanotech needs to be regulated in model laws, in addition to treaties.

BTW, the birth of online legislation will have a strong impact on representation institution:

In the long run, this kind of legislative process could become the precursor of an entirely new political system -- e-democracy -- where representation is no longer needed as everyone has a real vote and access to law-making.


Mohamad Mova Al 'Afghani


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