Makers of things and makers of Government

Make no mistake, there is good work to be done redesigning our online and in-person user experiences with government. The problem is, design cannot fundamentally change the experience we have with it. A better designed form is good, but it can’t change the questions on the form, or the number of times you have to line up in a government building. There are limits to how much improvement we can make if we don’t make structural changes to our lawmaking process and the government processes that result.

Typically, there is a significant divide between the process of creating laws and implementing them. Not only in the actual policy decisions at hand, but conceptually — how will the way this new rule is crafted affect the way we interact with it? Well-intentioned but badly designed legislation can and does have disastrous consequences.

Our highest volume interactions with government get the most scrutiny from this perspective, and rightly so. Voting and long lines at the DMV are among our favorite talking points. We complain, pressure collectively for improvement, and once successful, we walk away. In other less frequent or critical interactions with government, we usually expect a bad experience, then do little to change it. Often, we blame the government employee responsible for holding the hoops we have to jump through, rather than the people who created the hoops in the first place.

I don’t have a solution, I just want to pose a question: What would it be like if our legislative bodies were more balanced between lawyers and people who make things we interact with every day - designers, entrepreneurs and engineers? A fascinating chart published by Business Week breaks down the 113th congress by profession. Some highlights:

  • 173 lawyers
  • 130 businesspeople
  • 64 career politicians and government employees

All told, that’s 367 out of 535 voting members, or 69% of congress made of up of legislative pros, not by makers of things.

The question is a simple one: What if the lawmaking process was more reflective of us, and driven not just by societal and public policy outcomes, but by the user experience actual citizens have?

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