It shouldn’t be surprising that our elected representatives don’t always understand new technology. Rather than being early adopters, most of them are at least a decade behind the rest of us. For instance, there are a number of congressmen who don’t use email or smartphones. Some even prefer a typewriter.
Of course, they can’t be expected to know everything about every issue. They rely on research help from their personal staff and expert agencies like the Congressional Research Service (CRS). But the unfortunate fact is that congressional staff can’t do everything. They’re underpaid, suffer from high turnover and often lack the institutional knowledge and incentives to be effective. Additionally, while CRS produces a great deal of excellent research, they aren’t equipped to do everything.
When it comes to complex technology policy issues, this lack of institutional expertise can lead to ignorant or even technically-illiterate legislation. Rather than demanding that America’s innovators “nerd harder” to conform to ill-conceived legislative mandates, perhaps Congress itself should focus on buildings its own expertise.
These topics and more were discussed in a recent R Street panel, moderated by Zach Graves, R Street’s technology policy program director, and featuring Adam Keiper, editor of The New Atlantis; Robin Greene, policy counsel at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute; Mike Masnick, CEO and founder of TechDirt; and Daniel Schuman, policy director of Demand Progress. Full video of the event is embedded below.