Smart public law. Automation and decentralisation of public power: smart contracts and the blockchain as stepping stones for a digital and polycentric good administration?


This article sheds light on two blind spots of the debate on the automation of administrative decision-making: the impact of automation on the principles of good administration and the ongoing decentralization of administrative adjudication in public procurement and public services through smart contracts and blockchain. In both fields, public authorities have significant margins of power and discretion to deliver decisions and establish who is awarded a contract. We draw two main conclusions from the analysis. On the one hand, automation does not fit well with the existing principles of good administration, originally designed to ensure transparent, proportionate and fair decisions, limit human discretion, and guarantee that all relevant circumstances were taken into account. On the other, automation is inherent to the future of administrative law in any country. The use of blockchain in particular contains the promise of disrupting the monopoly of public power and addressing common concerns regarding its abuse. This article contributes to existing legal scholarship by offering solutions for a future-proof redesign of public law that is able to address the challenges of automation and decentralization.

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