February 06, 2004

Curing the WMD

That's Washington Monument Defense, not Weapons of Mass Destruction, though both are used in much the same way. The latter keeps invasion at bay, the former, budget cuts. Both are deployed at politicians eager to maintain their independence.

The WMD which Master of None's Michael Williams terms Washington Monument Syndrome is deployed every time popular will exhibits a preference for budget cuts. The most painful and visible cuts possible are adopted first in order to cure the people of such extravagant ideas as having a smaller government. Budget cuts hurt is the message and the real message is that the politicians will make them hurt if the plebes show up at the gates. Of course, publicly the message is that closing down the Washington Monument was the only spare money available in the budget.

The cure is simple, if unimplemented. Budget information needs to be accessible by the people, both revenues and expenses in as detailed a form as the legislature gets it (aside from secret expenditures, of course). Collaborative software needs to be created that will allow people to present alternatives to the current budget to achieve particular savings levels or to sign on to other citizen sponsored plans. Once savings are found and people show popular support for particular cuts that would not be as painful, politicians will have lost their excuse to use the WMD to defend their pork expenditures.

The beauty is that lots of people know exactly where the pork is hidden in their little corner of the world, whether that's geographical area or functional expertise. Given an opportunity to expose it, there would be a great deal of energy expended on exposing these unnecessary expenditures to the light of day.

All that's needed is for citizen software writers to create such a system and for government IT people to adopt an open standard for sharing budget figures. This is not rocket science. It's much easier than that.

Posted by TMLutas at February 6, 2004 02:49 PM