CHAPTER NINE

smaller subtopics-under environment, for example, there might be discussions of global warming, genetically engineered food, water pollution, and hazardous waste sites. Each topic and subtopic could provide brief descriptions of agreedupon facts and competing points of view as an introduction and frame for the discussion. Private creativity on the part of users would undoubtedly take things in boundless unanticipated directions. Private managers of such sites would have their own norms about how people should interact with one another; deliberativedemocracy .com, for example, might encourage norms of civility.

Many such experiments are now emerging, sometimes selfconsciously, sometimes through the kinds of spontaneous developments that occur on email and listserves. The Deliberative Democracy Consortium is especially noteworthy here: it offers a range of references, links, and materials (see http://www.deliberative-democracy.netj). For obvious reasons, there would be many advantages to a situation in which a few deliberative sites were especially prominent. If this were the case, deliberativedemocracy.com, for example, would have a special salience for many citizens, providing a forum in which hundreds of thousands, or even millions, could participate, if only through occasional reading. But we should hardly be alarmed if a large number of deliberative websites were to emerge and to compete with one anothera plausible description of what is starting to happen.

Perhaps some governments could provide a funding mechanism to subsidize the development of some such sites, with- . out having a managerial role (see below). But what is most important is general awareness of the importance of deliberation to a well-functioning democracy, and of deliberation among people who do not agree. If that awareness is wide-

194

POLICIES AND PROPOSALS

spread, sites of the sort that I am describing here will grow up and flourish entirely on their own.

Disclosure and Large Providers of Information:

Sunlight as Disinfectant

The last decades have seen an extraordinary growth in the use of a simple regulatory tool: the requirement that people disclose what they are doing. In the environmental area, this has been an exceptionally effective strategy. Probably the most striking example is the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Under this statute, firms and individuals must report to state and local government the quantities of potentially hazardous chemicals that have been stored or released into the environment. This has been an amazing and unanticipated success story: mere disclosure, or threat of disclosure, has resulted in voluntary, lowcost reductions in toxic releases.'

It should be no wonder that disclosure has become a popular approach to dealing with pollution. When polluters are required to disclose their actions, political pressures, or market pressures, will lead to reductions, without any need for actual government mandates. Ideally, of course, no requirements need to be imposed. People will disclose on their own, in part because of the public demand for relevant information. In the area of communications, voluntary disclosure should be preferred. But if it is not forthcoming, disclosure requirements might be imposed, certainly on large polluters, and perhaps on television and radio broadcasters too.

Suppose, for example, that certain programming might be harmful to children, and that certain other programming might be beneficial to .society. Is there a way to discourage

195