Can Open-Source Techniques ‘Fix’ Politics?

Clay Shirky (of Here Comes Everybody notoriety) says yes:

After giving a kind of whirlwind tour of the open-source movement in his talk, including the rise of Linux, Shirky devoted much of his discussion to Github — a kind of crowdsourced platform for maintaining code that Linux creator Linus Torvalds also created, which allows anyone to edit, to “fork” or create their own version, and to track the changes that others make. It’s not a big stretch to get from that idea to the idea of crowdsourcing legislation, which is what Shirky seems to have in mind, and there have already been some attempts at doing this via Github: for example, a German software developer has uploaded all of Germany’s laws to the platform so that citizens can recommend and track changes.

Although Shirky’s plan is appealing, I think Mathew Ingram‘s skepticism is well placed:

One of the problems with applying a technical solution like Github to a massive cultural and political process like government, however, is that creating laws — even small ones — is very different from changing a piece of code so that Linux can duplicate Windows-style typefaces, or changing the Wikipedia entry on George Bush. And if even those kinds of prosaic examples can lead to the equivalent of a Linux or Wikipedia holy war, which in many cases they have, what hope do we have that politicians can actually use a similar process to change the way that government works? As Shirky suggests in his talk, there’s also a pretty entrenched bureaucracy that has become part of most governments and likely has no interest in relinquishing that control to the crowd.

You can watch Shirky’s full talk and decide for yourself: