Ok, Here's a Big Idea: Citizen Coupons and a Government By the People
by Matt Stoller, Wed May 10, 2006 at 02:31:11 PM EDT
So here's a big idea: Citizen Coupons. Every government agency should dedicate a certain percentage of its payroll to non-employees who contributes to its work through criticism and identification of errors.
There are two basic parts to this program. One, there needs to be ombudsmen for every public agency who blog and track complaints and compliance. These ombudsmen should serve single terms so as to be immune from political pressure. Two, these ombudsmen should be allowed a 'bounty budget' where effective critics are rewarded with small amounts of money for answering relevant questions, coding necessary pieces of infrastructure, identifying security vulnerabilities, or coming up with cost-effective public improvements.
By creating a revenue flow from government to active citizens, you can effectively and instantly fund billions of dollars of citizen journalism, real citizen journalism that has an impact because it is designed to. This also destroys the insiders who run government, because it empowers citizens to help bureaucrats and hold them accountable, and it will embolden trusted community leaders through their blogs to criticize insider lobbyists and bad legislation before it goes through the system.
You can also get around the lobbying problem, since these citizens will have strong incentives to weigh in against lobbyists who screw things up.
Anyway, the basic idea here is that the country doesn't need another think tank to help us run government. What we need is a new approach to government, where revenue flows, ideas and work are shared among employees, citizens, political leaders, and media outlets that do public spirited work. I bet I'm not the first person to come up with this. And I'm sure there are a million reasons this is a bad idea. But it is a big idea.