In This Review

Accelerating Democracy: Transforming Governance Through Technology
Accelerating Democracy: Transforming Governance Through Technology
By John O. McGinnis
Princeton University Press, 2012, 224 pp

“How does Athens know what the Athenians know?” is the basic question of governance, McGinnis writes. How does a polity take advantage of the wealth of information and analysis in the minds of its citizens to develop and implement policy? In the age of the Internet and “big data,” McGinnis argues that the bureaucratic, centralized state of the Progressive Era is passé. Decentralization allows for more experiments in governance, whose results can be used to make better policy. Meanwhile, expert online commentary provides better and more interactive analysis than older mainstream media. Regulatory agencies will have to change the way they collect information and make decisions, he argues. On the one hand, they will have much better information to work with; on the other, they will be subject to much more intensive oversight and second-guessing by legislators and stakeholders. Not all readers will be convinced by every gee-whiz technological fix that McGinnis describes. Nevertheless, he shines an important light on a discussion that will only grow more lively as technology creates at once more opportunities and more challenges for government.