Why Don’t Governments Kickstart Program Funding?

Why Don't Governments Kickstart Program Funding?I’m usually lambasted any time I bring up a topic remotely political — despite being a full-fledged American citizen with equal rights (at least, as equal as the law allows me to be when compared to others). I have no party affiliation for good reason; aligning myself with any kind of unwieldy organization gives me the willies. I’m not a fan of labels, and am certainly not a slave to the delusions of who anybody thinks I really am. I appreciate all forms of my government(s), and believe that emerging funding models may pull us out of a very dark period of blind faith.

I pay taxes (as do most people). I do not, however, maintain a granular level of control over how my tax money is used. It’s just… used. I have no idea if the projects I’ve funded have been successful or unsuccessful — not because the information isn’t out there somewhere, just that I can’t interpret any of it or track it in any meaningful way. I’m not connected to anything I’m funding, apart from living in a city in a state in a country that believes it knows best how to utilize my money. I could possibly elect someone different to better handle my resources, or… I could offer a suggestion that may (or may not) have merit.

There was news the other day that some random political person, if elected, would do away with certain government programs. And I wondered: “Okay, but why is this news? Couldn’t those programs just launch a funding project online and let their supporters support them outright?” I mean, this is how people do it on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and what-have-you. As much as it may shock anybody to hear it, I honestly believe that the future of funding is going to be in everybody’s hands — not the hands of a select few who have been placed in positions of power.

“Hey, Chris,” the government says. “You owe this much in taxes. How do you want to spend this money?”

Let me go through a laundry list of people, projects, and possibilities. I’ll place my bets on those I believe have the most potential to succeed. Let me “kickstart” programs and remain connected to them all the while, instead of wondering just where he hell my hard-earned money goes. Why not? Is the idea that far fetched? Aren’t we doing this (anyway) to a much lesser degree?

Let’s say we don’t change the entire system at first (and maybe it wouldn’t work for every possible government program), but why not officially try it with a certain series of government programs — like education. Why can’t I fund a teacher or class that has a specific goal (or series of goals), then receive progress reports and a note of thanks for helping that educator achieve education vs. hearing about how the public school system is failing America? We know that throwing more money at a problem isn’t a solution, and throwing less money at a system that’s likely already underfunded is just as asinine an option. So we might “kickstart” certain parts of the education system and fund our future (the children) directly.

I may not know the ins-and-outs of governments and taxation strategies, but I do know this: I pay taxes to governments. That money is going somewhere, and I have no idea if it’s being wasted. That’s frustrating. Did I help hire a complete nincompoop? Did I help fund a poorly structured effort? Oh, I’m sure of it. Didn’t have to be that way, though. Doesn’t have to be that way again, either. Why can’t all government projects be kickstarted instead of blanketfunded?

I suspect that the only ones who might be nervous about this change are those who are ill-prepared to take the money they’re given today. Oops.

Maybe my idea (that I’ve seen play out to great degrees of success already in non-governmental constructs) is hogwash. Maybe I’m crazy to believe that we’ll eventually find our way here, since that’s the promise of what America stands for: being able to change the system at any point in time. I’m not saying we need to get rid of government programs; I’m saying we need to start funding them differently with the same array of resources.

Could a Kickstarter Government Really Work?

Change doesn’t come overnight, but it also doesn’t come unless someone pushes for change. That change in your pocket? It’s yours. Wouldn’t you want to spend it on something you care about most, building change with others to give rise to what most people in your area truly care about most vs. what you’re told you care about (or what an elected official decides for you)?

You’re a walking special interest group yourself — why not have the ability to decide where your money really goes? I think it’s worth considering. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, either.

But I don’t have powerful lobbyists, so… this idea may very well be doomed before it was even shared in a written capacity. One thing’s for sure, though: I want a more transparent government, and have now offered a cogent idea for it to implement instead of merely complaining about it and blindly blaming “the other party.”

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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.

  • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Ryan Matthew Pierson

    Is that Sean Connery? Anyway, I totally agree with this post. Well said.

  • http://alifeonyourterms.com/ Liz Seda

    Yes! This is fantastic. I’ve been thinking about an alternative to the way we pay taxes now, ever since I read Atlas Shrugged. Giving people a choice is so much more powerful than dictating where their hard earned money gets spent.

    It could even turn out that people end up giving more than they need to because of the transparency. These days we do our best to get as many tax deductions as possible, because, well, out of sight, out of mind right?

    But if we could see it….Amazing! I’m signing up for your newsletter.

    • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

      Yeah, that would be a dream come true.

    • http://twitter.com/kmthurman Kevin Thurman

      We don’t “dictate” in America. We have a Republic. If you want to have people choose where the taxes go personally then you’d have to rip up Articles 1 & 2 of the constitution as well. Not saying that’s a bad thing.

      The biggest question is information. If the media continually fails in a much simpler two-party system how bad would it be during “tax season” with attack ads on teachers from prison guards & other states spending billions to convince a state to hurt it’s own economy — just look at California and the referendum system.

      • http://alifeonyourterms.com/ Liz Seda

        Oh god. I should have known better than to comment on something political. Challenge denied.

        • http://twitter.com/kmthurman Kevin Thurman

          Challenge denied? Oh god? I didn’t say you were wrong, just saying things are complex and lots would have to change to make it work. So is writing software, building a company, raising kids, and almost anything else worthwhile in life.

          I actually noted a system by which this is done in other countries above, but much more collectivist than libertarian in nature. I personally think there is merit in this idea as well as your theory it’s why i commented on it. But with any changes there are pitfalls — the media & campaign spending in the US being a huge issue and would continue to be here too.

          • http://alifeonyourterms.com/ Liz Seda

            Haha! I’ve just had so many bad experiences with political discussions I guess I’m jaded! Plus I’ve got to be honest with you and say I have no idea wtf a referendum system is. I just think it would be nice to REALLY see where my tax money goes. I’m not an expert in politics which is why I don’t have a strong opinion on the subject. I just think that the kickstarter idea was really interesting.

  • http://twitter.com/GFXGarage Tory Wright

    I think the perfect government is one that strives to make itself unnecessary. Forward thinking is refreshing change of pace. Nice article!

  • http://twitter.com/DaleSatre Dale Satre

    I am still in high school, but already have come up with a list of economics theses I want to use to get my Ph.D. Thanks for another idea that will help me get me to Harvard! =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/brad.tomlinson Brad Tomlinson

    I don’t think the government funds something and never checks on its progress. If I read your article correctly, you seem to imply that this is what happens to government funding. Of course, funding, whether privately or through the government, is no guarantee of success. Perhaps if the government lets the private sector fund more things that the government normally funds, at least you would know better where your money is going.

  • Bildo

    This is not a new idea but a good one. Take the reigns from govt and give power back to The people and lower levels. Better able to see affect of actions and correct if wrong

  • http://twitter.com/kmthurman Kevin Thurman

    There has been a lot of talk lately about crowdfunding models for government. y first reaction on a regular basis: That’s funny Government’s invented it loooong ago.

    That said you’re piece was absolutely more nuanced. Too often we get sucked up into zero-sum games. I have been fascinated by Brazil’s local government participatory democracy’s for a long time and they tend to do it right in my opinion. They focus on the capital budget and take a specific percentage and allow the people to pick where it goes.

    If you did the same on the local level in the United States you could a dramatic increase involvement of the level of governments that actually affect them the most. Take a specific percentage of taxes, by law make it a capital budget and let people decide where their share of that goes. Divide the share (or vote) equally allow people to “kickstart” or fully fund projects.

    The concern I have with your specific theory is two-fold: we’d have to agree to spend the money & progressive taxation. First if people did this the normal option would be to allow people to “have it back” — but if that is an option the vast majority of people they will pick apathy. The issue with small d democratic processes is they work best when more people participate.

    Second, if you let the people who get taxed at most levels to decide where the money they pay goes then you are letting the richest pick where the money goes and the poor get screwed. This would be even worse in places like Florida with no income tax. Only propert owners would get a say.

  • http://www.caseyfrennier.com/ Casey Frennier

    “Why Don’t Governments Kickstart Program Funding?”
    “why not have the ability to decide where your money really goes?”
    That’s why.

    I’ve long thought our system of government is outdated. We live in an information age. We should be able to build or use one of our many systems of communication to vote on the ISSUES instead of PEOPLE, which are eventually corrupted or rendered ineffectual by the corrupted. It’s not like need to send them on horses to the capital anymore. We should have been done with electing representatives that say what we want to hear to get elected then do whatever they want when the telegraph was invented.

  • http://www.anthonyguidetti.com/ Anthony Guidetti

    This would put the power into actual people’s hands on what they want, so I would love for this to happen.

  • http://twitter.com/rvwrjb Noah King

    I am unfamiliar with the america style of government but something like this would never work in the small country of new zealand.

  • Griff

    The major problem with the system like this, is you have to assume that each and every person in United States would be paying enough attention to vote on issues like this. I’m impressed if your average person is even remotely familiar with the current situation and occurring in politics. There could be thousands of these political kickstarter projects running a single moment in time, and you can’t reasonably expect people to review every single one and see which hey fine justifiable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.epperson Andrew Epperson

    i would love to see this but I can’t imagine the government wanting its citizens having this much control

  • Ryan White

    I would love to see a Reddit spinoff for government programs. Implement third party verification and allow registered voters only to eliminate duplicate votes. We could also use this program to help fund public libraries with the added functionality of registering more voters and expanding the amount of public computers…

  • http://twitter.com/thatandylee Andy Lee

    Its a brilliant idea! Sadly, campaign finance reform, limiting lobby influence, and a list of other changes in how government moves to enact change in this country will have to be done before the hands that facilitate the money change…. Maybe 20-30 years from now. 8.24.12

  • http://ironiclee.blogspot.com/ Jentylee

    I hope the future of gov’t funding is closer to us; especially with all of the pay outs through party interests and lobbyists that happen. (I also hope, on a side note, that we are able to vote using a number mailed to us via the internet.) I think the idea of funding through a kickstarter program is a great thing for education. Let’s start with a teacher as you mentioned. They would certainly be more motivated to teach our kids. And our woeful stats in the world as applies to education would only be improved. We need more transparency with our tax dollar and as a corporation built system, (free enterprise) we should take the idea of our money going into projects/programs/corporations and getting feedback, maybe quarterly as corporations do, so we know how to fund the programs the next year (and don’t have a year wasted). And I, as an independent agree with you, that just blaming ‘the other party’ is leading to a lackadical approach, or lack thereof, from everyone. This would be energizing for everyone. I think it’s a great idea.

  • techguru

    I really hope that the government will decide to do this because there are many projects that the government should not do. The only problem that I see with the government doing kickstarter projects is that how are they going to get people to pay if they have no access to a computer where they live.
    Also can you put back the share buttons to make it easier to share. The article is great.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Dilemma509 Mike Dilemma Fix

    I think that this would be extremely helpful for deciding what the community acctually wants or needs

  • http://twitter.com/AlkhatriM moahammed alkhatri

    keep it up

  • Daniel Mraz

    I’m not sure. Albeit a good idea, the government needs control. If that, the kickstarter model, were to happen, all the government would have to be is a computer program that takes our money and distributes it to places we tell it to. The next problem with the kickstarter model is that people who DON’T know about politics and where their tax dollars go are going to choose things like scientific research, public libraries, and schools. Wait, what about the streets? You can’t get to the school or library without streets….. Now, streets are underfunded. Problem. Great idea though….

  • Mohamed Hisham Hadjazi

    I wish it is possible. its much better to let the people directly affect their own lives than waste time in electing people whom once they reach office seem to forget about who elected them =/

  • http://twitter.com/Mab879 Matthew Burket

    I don’t think it will work. Too many people have a “I give rip attitude with everything. A lot of people wound not do this. Leaving large amounts of money to be spent as the government wishes.

  • BrandonNolet

    My problem with this is that there will be a lack of participation. The people who use computers are majoratively (is that even a word?) teenagers and young adults: those who stereotypically aren’t interested or don’t make the effort to augment their knowledge about the issues the government commonly discusses.

  • http://twitter.com/AcFreeman Andrew Freeman

    I really wish we could have options like this. Just another example of how this government is not a true democracy, merely a republic, it’s riddled with unfairness in so many places.

  • http://twitter.com/coolfreak87 Coolfreak87

    I totally agree with this article this would revolutionize how people feel about taxes

  • http://twitter.com/uthmanbaksh Uthman Baksh

    Participatory budgeting is where the community/nation decides what should and should not be funded and how much to fund. It is our tax dollars so we should have a say in where the money goes. Now we are hearing about how our government wastes money and it is appalling. We fund wars but can’t even fix our roads. Also people that are innovating things via Kickstarter should be allowed to use tax dollars if it will benefit society as a whole. That is what we are supposed to be funding. Not stuff that is guaranteed to fail [America's banking system]!

    • http://www.caseyfrennier.com/ Casey Frennier

      I thought participatory budgeting was when you put all your money in overseas bank accounts to avoid paying any taxes :P

  • Hayden Reinhart

    Like most ideas, it could go both ways [obviously]; Personally, I think it’s a little risky leaving some things up to “the people” BUT.. I also think the government hasn’t been making great decisions within the last decade either soooo.. I guess I can’t really say it would definitely work, but I’m always up for trying something different and innovative. :)

    Good article!

  • Daniel Muriuki

    I just feel that it would kind of be hard for governemnts to do this because governments like to help everyone but with the same medicine :/ they hate being to specific so getting personal like how most kickstateres and such are would be a hard leap for the beurocratic robots of the world :p

  • Ozzzzysh

    I think this is a great concept. We feel like the govt is a machine instead of people. We give them money and they choose where it goes. We have the govt we have because if every single person in the country had to vote on everything, it would take far too long, so we elect a smaller number of people we feel will speak for us. With our advances in tech, it is possible to have a system like you explain. There could be dates throughout each year that everyone should have spent their taxes for that period. Any money left over could go to the blanket style funding. If people didn’t want to take the time to pick programs then all of their money could just be sent to the blanket. I really do think this is a good idea. By the people, for the people. Like America was supposed to be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.czarnecki1 Dan Czarnecki

    I think that this would be an excellent idea. Government really isn’t what it used to be anymore. If they (the government) gave us choices to where our tax dollars go, I think this country would be better off than it is right now.

  • http://twitter.com/allenb53 Allen Barnett

    The goverment needs the control, we just have to hope we always vote the right people in. Perhaps one of these days we will have this but only if we have a perfect goverment.

  • RWW

    If you broke it down to each individual how many people would want their first $400 to go for a new hammer for the government? What I would find interesting would be right wingers……how many of them would want their contribution to go for invading another country or maybe two bombs for their share? It might cause them to think much more.