Let’s use AI to clean up government

AI is not going to kill us. Nor is AI going to save us. Instead, AI has the potential to help us change.

Very few are considering the opportunities this new technology offers to clean up government. It could be key in keeping people informed about the government, reforming red tape, and cleaning up waste, fraud and abuse.

ChatGPT needs to be turned on the government. A ChatGVT is needed.

A ChatGVT could take any number of forms.

It could provide straight answers about the newest tax plan, if a bill is stuck in committee, or the likelihood that a piece of legislation will pass. Or a ChatGVT could be turned on the regulatory code to understand its true cost to households and businesses.

Understanding how laws, litigation, hearings, regulatory codes and administrative actions intermingle can elude even the most experienced experts. The newest generation of Large Language Models (LLMs) appear to be quite effective at working through text with a little bit of tuning.

Using AI to turn law into code will mean that the true impact of government will be understandable and accessible. Most know that the burden imposed by regulation is colossal but the exact costs are hard to quantify. A ChatGVT could help sort out that problem.

Some of the building blocks are being developed right now by my colleague at the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University, Richard Evans. He has been building an open-source model of the U.S. federal and state household tax and benefit system called FiscalSim that will eventually cover the entire system.

In the not-so-distant future, policymakers and people alike will plug FiscalSim into a chatbot along with other regulatory modules like the ones developed by Dr. Patrick McLaughlin at the Mercatus Center to better understand government policy on the ground.

Everyone wants to understand how changes in Congress and in their statehouse will affect their bank accounts, their local communities, the national debt, and opportunities for their kids and even grandchildren.

Turning all of that text into computer code will also make reform easier because we will be able to subject it to software management practices, like refactoring. In refactoring, an existing body of computer code is simplified without changing its functional behavior.

A ChatGVT could be focused on refactoring the U.S. regulatory code.

Precedent already exists. During the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) undertook a program to root out outdated and ineffective laws using AI tools. As a result of this project, HHS cleared a bunch of regulations from the books.

Some might worry that these tools will be used to heap more compliance and enforcement on small businesses and families. But for the first time, if a cost increase clearly occurs, it will be readily apparent to everyone. Knowing the scope of government is the first step to improving it.

AI tools could also help government agencies upgrade their technology.

COVID made abundantly clear the cost of running on old systems. Old, outdated government systems meant that it became tougher to catch fraudsters as the claims rolled in. While numbers are hard to come by, estimates suggest that unemployment insurance paid $60 billion in fraudulent charges in 2021 alone.

Part of this cost is due to a problem known as technical debt. Businesses accumulate technical debt when they overlook infrastructure issues that could cause future complications. Governments also accrue technical debt when program infrastructure isn’t updated over time.

AI tools could make it much cheaper to upgrade to newer, more secure programming languages to fight waste, fraud and abuse. Telecommunications and financial services firms have long used computer-aided technologies to detect transactional fraud, money laundering, identity theft and account takeovers. Governments should be adopting these tools as well for their largest programs.

Most are failing to see the powerful role this new technology could play in improving government operations. Those in positions of leadership and advocates for effective governance should proactively engage with these new technologies.

There are many possible versions of ChatGVT. A ChatGVT could explain the intricacies of government or it could help clean up arcane regulatory codes. Or a ChatGVT could tackle the technical debt of the government, reducing waste, fraud and abuse. AI tools offer promise in making government more transparent and efficient.

CGO scholars and fellows frequently comment on a variety of topics for the popular press. The views expressed therein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Growth and Opportunity or the views of Utah State University.