Thursday, November 13, 2014

The whole budget is a participatory budget

So called participatory budgeting has its pros and cons.  Mostly cons. There's a certain populist impulse behind it.  But really it's only the sort of populist impulse that ends up.. marginally... empowering the narrow sample of people who show up to put beans in jars for fun.
An advocacy group assembled to prod city officials to open up the yearly budgeting process brought about 60 residents together at the Tulane City Center last month to run an experiment. Given beans that each represented $1 million in the city budget, they were asked to set their spending priorities by dropping the seeds in jars marked by city department and state office.
What ends up happening is the little pool of money designated for "participatory budgeting" becomes a little fiefdom for the bean counters.  And, of course, the little bean counting room ends up working the same way the larger political body works in that inevitably Commander's Palace ends up getting more beans than Mais Arepas just by default.. so to speak. 

So instead of setting one little bit of the budget aside for people to make pretend is "participatory" maybe just focus on arguing over the whole thing.

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