Few things are more aggravating than seeing your tax dollars being spent on what you perceive to be frivolous things. Few things are more satisfying than watching wheels turn that you helped set in motion.
And now, if you live in Chicago's 49th Ward, numerous localities in Europe and South America, or several other places around the world, you can relieve aggravation and experience satisfaction simultaneously. That's because Participatory Budgeting is catching on wherever governments truly want their citizens' voices to be heard.
Participatory Budgeting? That's where you decide how your money is spent. While it has been possible to influence budgeting at the odd town hall meeting for a while now, this is a significant step beyond just doing that. First instituted in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre in 1989, Participatory Budgeting allows citizens to directly decide how funds are allocated.
The fascinating thing is how slowly it is taking on in the home of modern democracy. There has recently been a spark of interest in San Francisco; Springfield, Massachusetts is thinking about considering it; and there are a few other inquisitive glances around New England. But one ward in one city, in a nation of over 300 million people? That's pretty lame.
While the idea remains in the realms of the radical here, all local governments in the UK have recently been mandated to implement Participatory Budgeting, and the United Nations have identified it as a best practice of democratic governance.
Come on people, let's get it together! Get involved in the Participatory Budgeting Project, and make it happen in your locale. You owe it to yourself, at least as much as you owe those tax dollars to your municipality.
You have a date with democracy: