Friday, November 30, 2012

Civic Crowdfunding

Here I've been for years and years...and years...spending so much of my time...sacrificing so many other priorities...all in order to try and persuade people that allowing taxpayers to directly allocate their taxes would be infinitely better than sliced bread.  All that work has paid off though because we are now on the path to pragmatarianism.  Err...actually...I really can't claim even the tiniest bit of credit.

Who gets all the credit?  Kickstarter.  My only consolation is that they did not intentionally set us on this path.

But it's entirely possible that I'm reading into things.  So I'll share a bunch of can look it over and let me know whether I'm being tricked.

In a nutshell...Kickstarter's well publicized success gave birth to civic crowdfunding.

What's civic crowdfunding?  In the trending's where you go to a privately owned website...browse among various public projects...and donate any amount of money to the projects that you deem to be worthy.  In some cases only cities themselves can submit projects...but anybody can start and sign petitions for new projects.

In order to try to and grasp at least some micro-credit for this trend...or at least some vague association...I created "stubs" on Wikipedia for civic crowdfunding and the most prominent companies...

If you look over the references for each'll notice that all of them are from this year.  So 2012 is momentous in that it marks the birth of civic crowdfunding.

Only a small handful of projects have been successfully funded...and I'm guessing that Spacehive might get credit for helping to fund the very first project...a community center in South Wales.

Will this platform take off?  I sure hope so.  The civic crowdfunding concepts that are being brought up are equally applicable to pragmatarianism.

More than a few times I've asked people whether it would make any sense to force donors to PETA and donors to the NRA to pool their resources and elect representatives to divvy up the pool between the two organizations.  From articles on civic crowdfunding....
Your community is holding a referendum on a proposed bond offering, the proceeds of which would be used to widen a clogged road and expand a local school. You're all for relieving the traffic congestion, but aren't particularly interested in the school project. A neighbor, on the other hand, leads a local parent group and is passionate about relieving school overcrowding, but she works from home and the street project isn't important to her.  No matter how the vote turns out, neither of you will be entirely satisfied. - Charles Chieppo, Crowdfunding: a New Way to Get Things Done in Government
The next morning I had breakfast with Patrick to talk about something else entirely. We were at YJ's, our neighborhood's favorite snack bar and source of countless innovations. He was in the middle of explaining a recent bond deal. A neighbor overheard and began to talk to him about the problem with that particular bond deal. She didn't vote for it because it lumped much needed downtown sewer repairs together with civic amenities she didn't want to pay for, like new animals for the zoo. On the other hand he wasn't very concerned with the sewers but loves taking his daughter to the zoo. It became sort of heated so I went about eating my egg sammy and it finally clicked - a way for people to vote with their dollars for the civic projects they care about. - Jase Wilson,  Vote With Your Money With Kansas City Startup Neighborly Interview
People voting with their dollars is central to the idea of allowing taxpayers to choose where their taxes go.
Many of our greatest public spaces – including several large parks in Manchester – were funded through public subscription, as were plenty of statues and monuments in our towns and villages. We hope to revive that tradition, empowering communities to transform where they live by voting for projects they like with their wallets. - Chris Gourlay, How to crowd-fund community projects
This has the potential to transform the way government projects and priorities are determined, go a really long way to making government more accessible, making the budget process more participatory, and using technological tools to allow citizens to put their money where their mouth is and vote with their dollars. - Jordan Rayner, In Philadelphia, an Experiment in Funding Civic Projects
Dollar voting is the same concept as earmarking your dollars...
Cynics may wonder why a person would want to just "give'' the government more of their hard-earned money, however, Raynor reminds that this is the first time in history that a person can earmark his/her own dollars. Think of the opportunities to support things you'd like to see in the Tampa Bay region or in your own hometown. - Nathan Schwagler, Citizinvestor: Crowdfunding Local Projects, Tampa
Why is this important? Raynor, a sixth-generation Tampanian, believes this is important because: "If we are successful this will completely disrupt the way that the government budgeting process works, and it will -- for the first time -- give citizens the ability to earmark dollars around where their money is spent.'' - Nathan Schwagler, Citizinvestor: Crowdfunding Local Projects, Tampa
Jordan Rayner with even more awesomeness...
We fundamentally believe that citizens don’t have an issue with how much they pay for government services. They just want more control over where their dollars are going. That’s a really important distinction. - Jordan Rayner, Citizinvestor: Crowdfunding For Community Projects
Here's where it gets really good....
The question is whether something like Citizinvestor could actually offer a full alternative to taxation, providing more choice and accountability in the process. Rayner doesn’t think the model could be used for basics like police, fire, or water. But he does think "there is a place for a service to make government work more like a vending machine, where I get to choose which parks and pools I want to build." - Ben Schiller, Citizinvestor: Crowdfunding For Community Projects
Except, Rayner only sees the first step.  Which is perfectly fine.  A step in the right direction is progress...
Here’s something I’ve been thinking about a little bit, but not had the time to game out: what if we took participatory budgeting one step further and allowed people to choose how they allocated some percentage of their tax dollars? - Catherine Bracy, Comment on How do we make civic crowdfunding awesome?
So what do you think?  Are we on the path to pragmatarianism?

See also: An Economic Critique of Peer Progressivism

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