The lack of shared expert knowledge capacity in the U.S. Congress has created a critical weakness in our democratic process. Along with bipartisan cooperation, many contemporary and urgent questions before our legislators require nuance, genuine deliberation and expert judgment. Congress, however, is missing adequate means for this purpose and depends on outdated and in some cases antiquated systems of information referral, sorting, communicating, and convening.
Congress is held in record low esteem by the public today. Its failings have been widely analyzed and a multitude of root causes have been identified. This paper does not put forward a simple recipe to fix these ailments, but argues that the absence of basic knowledge management in our legislature is a critical weakness. Congress struggles to make policy on complex issues while it equally lacks the wherewithal to effectively compete on substance in today’s 24 hour news cycle. This paper points out that Congress is not so much venal and corrupt as it is incapacitated and obsolete. And, in its present state, it cannot serve the needs of American democracy in the 21st Century.
The audience for this paper is those who are working in the open government, civic technology and transparency movements as well as other foundations, think tanks and academic entities. It is also for individuals inside and outside of government who desire background about Congress’ current institutional dilemmas, including lack of expertise.