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Ideas for Wiki Government Program and Co-Budgeting

The readers are invited to document their ideas on Co-budgeting and the Wiki Goverment Programme ( Suomen hallitusohjelma 2011, in Finnish) below. Registration is required (login button at top right).

The Wiki Government Programme contains the policy objectives of both individuals and over 40 organizations. It has been prepared to give guidance to the government's decision making just like its official counterpart. The Wiki Government Programme will be supplemented with a realistic budget proposal that will be determined through a co-budgetting exercise (the Budget Game). The rules, functionality and the relation of the Budget Game with the Wiki Goverment Programme will be discussed below.

In addition to being open to everybody and constantly modifiable, a further difference between the Wiki Government Programme and the official Government Programme is that the former comprises not only the justifications for the items of the wish list, but also the history of arguments on how a consensus has been reached. Moreover, the Wiki Government Programme also contains controversial and mutually competing policy goals. This is because in some cases it could have been difficult to try to reconcile worldviews representing the opposite ends of the spectrum. In these instances some type of resolution mechanism is needed to ensure that a decision can be made on the policy choice.

(A) Conflict resolution through representatives

So far, two types of conflict resolution mechanisms have been envisioned, and the readers are challenged to come up with new ones! The first mechanism is based on the opinions of the parliamentary candidates collected prior to the elections and aggregated in special web applications called 'vaalikone' in Finnish. With the help of the vaalikone-service the voters can rank the candidates based on how closely the opinions of the candidates match the voter's own worldviews on a range of policy issues.

Several media corporations have recently enabled the distribution of all the answers of the parliamentary candidates aggregated in the vaalikone-service as open data for anyone to perform analysis on. So, it is easy find out for many policy goals recorded in the Wiki Government Programme (or in the official Government Programme, for that matter), what the majority of the elected parliamentary representatives would have wanted to do about the (controversial) issues prior to the elections. Hence, adopting the majority opinion of the elected representatives from the vaalikone data is one way of resolving disputes.

(B) Conflict resolution through collective budgeting

A second way of resolving conflicts in the collective goal setting of the Wiki Government Programme is based on people's values as regards the funding decisions. A collective budgeting tool called the Budget Game will help in setting up the budget and demonstrating which policy goals are affordable subject to fiscal and personal value based constraints. In its simplest implementation, currently under construction, the players (= anybody interested in budgeting) are asked to fill out two separate value ranking lists. Basically, the players have to tell which policy areas they would fund and in which order, if there was money available. The players also have a possibility of telling, which policy areas' funding they would diminish and in which order if funding needed to be cut. No math or finance skills are needed for participation. It suffices for a player to know his or her own priorities: “If there is money available, elderly care should be funded before the military programs”, for example.

Analogously, the value ranking can also be performed by doling to each player the same amount of toy money, which depends on the number of players and on the magnitude of the budget. After all players have distributed their toy money among the policy areas of interest, the budget has been constructed. Of course, several constraints should be taken into account to make the budget realistic. For example, the players can only affect the non-fixed cost structure of the budget. After all, most costs, such as the pensions stay nearly fixed or change in a predetermined manner from year to year.

What about the role of the politicians then? In real life the politicians have a 100% weight as compared to the 0% of the people as for how to perform the resource allocation for the non-fixed costs of the budget. Why not change this ratio so that the weight factor of the politicians in the resource allocation would be, say, 90% and that of the people would be 10%? Allowing people to have their say on the resource allocation should make politics more interesting to everybody without causing havoc, because the elected representatives would still be responsible for the major decisions. In the Budget Game this leverage could be realized by choosing a random set of 200 'politicians' that would be given 90% of the toy money to play with.

It is also interesting to consider some Budget Game scenarios that have real political implications. What if it turned out that changing the 200 'politicians' in the game for another randomly chosen group would only result in minor modifications of the overall budget? How would the budget change if the players were allowed to communicate with each other before making their funding decisions? Various other delicious experiments could be tried, and perhaps the most feasible ones could be implemented in real life.

(C) Connecting the Budget with the Wiki Government Programme

In the final act of the Budget Game the players get to step into the boots of Santa Claus. Having produced a proposition on how the money should be divided between the different policy areas, the players choose from the wish list (= the Wiki Government Programme) the combinations of the affordable goals they want to go for. This stage requires further deliberation among the players. Majority votes could be utilized in eliminating conflicting wishes if they had not been filtered out already at the stage of value polling or affordability evaluation.

The real life implementation of co-creation of the national (or municipal) budget could involve the same government officials who participate in the real budget making. Their contribution would be very helpful in evaluating the costs of the Wiki Government Programme wish lists, a job that was now performed by the amateurs. The good news is that all the information and the tools needed are already available, and what is needed is just a change of the mindset.

More ideas related to Co-Budgeting and Wiki Government Programme

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