There are no short cuts to democracy. Just ask anyone who has ever worked on the ASTM Regulations Governing Technical Committees. This document is arguably our most important standard, for without it, the rest of our standards would lack credibility. Our process would have no foundation. These regulations are the rules we live by, the criteria for ensuring a balance of interests within the membership, the stipulated voting procedures, and the detailed requirements for the consideration of all negative votes. Timely and adequate notice of proposals and actions, opportunity for all affected interests to participate in discussions and decisions, maintenance and timely distribution of records and minutes, and a multi-layered appeals process these are the details of democracy. This is what the grand words and the lofty principles are all about.
Someone once said that we got to the moon by making lists. The drafting of procedures, on the other hand, is what gets us to democracy. Our procedures are not restrictions. On the contrary, they are the gateways to openness, transparency, impartiality, and consensus. They are the rules of fair play and equal rights for all.
Procedures form the framework of our process, a process that eschews privilege and exclusion, a process as impartial to power as it is to the lack of it, a process that is unbiased and as blind as justice, a process that is strong enough to welcome dissent and wise enough to provide a mechanism for resolution. It is the process that produces standards that are judicious and representative enough to be cited in the laws and regulations of many lands. In the United States, the use of our standards by government is enshrined in law. 1
At various times in its history, ASTM and organizations like it have been tested by arms of the government. The U.S. Congress and Federal Trade Commission challenged us to show that our standardization process did not harbor anticompetitive or antitrust elements. We argued our case on the strength of our procedures and our adherence to them. And no rationale could be found for regulating the development of standards in the United States.
For years I have witnessed members of ASTM policy committees as they labored over these regulations, reviewing, revising, refining them, struggling with the details of democracy. Defining due process. The work is tedious and hard and its authors are, for the most part, anonymous. Many of them are gone from our ranks. But they deserve our recognition and deepest gratitude, for our procedures, so painstakingly crafted, have given this organization and its standards integrity. In this world, that means something.
James A. Thomas
President, ASTM International
1 The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995.
Copyright 2003, ASTM International