Re: Question about a technique for allocating funds
From: Muriel Kranowski (
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2010 08:11:27 -0700 (PDT)
There's an article in this week's New Yorker magazine describing some of the many schemes that have been proposed, and tried, to make voting "more fair" in a democracy - more fair than simple majority winner-takes-all which totally disenfranchises a perhaps very large minority. The short of it is, no system is sure to provide satisfactory results in all situations. There is always a possibility (such as in the budget fair example) that a result may be very unsatisfying even though, or rather because, it meets the criteria of this particular voting plan - especially when interest groups figure out how to game the system, and they always do.

I guess the conclusion is that you pick a method and try it, and if its results are usually satisfactory you stick with it, etc.


At 10:54 AM 7/28/2010, you wrote:

Hello Everyone,

        Here at Jamaica Plain Cohousing we're looking into a way to allocate
some unspent monies among several possible alternatives.  Someone
mentioned a method she heard about from Rob Sandelin; a "budget fair".
The way she describes it, if for example there is $1000 to spend and ten
alternatives each costing around $300, one creates ten areas around the
room, one for each alternative.  Each person receives $1000 in play money,
then goes around the room and "buys" whatever alternatives they can with
their money (presumably in this case they can buy around three
alternatives each).  When time is called, the alternative with the top
amount collected is funded first, then the second-most, then the
third-most, etc., until the $1000 is fully spent.

         She is quite excited about this concept, but I see some troubling
aspects, especially if the alternatives have vastly different prices.
Suppose, for example, that there are eleven alternatives, ten which cost
$100 and one which costs $1000, and there is $1000 available to allocate.
If the $1000 alternative comes in second, it falls completely out of the
running, even though it may have considerable support, and the community
would wind up funding the ten $100 projects even though five or six or
more of them had little enthusiasm behind them.

         So, how does one carry out this budget choice mechanism when the
alternatives are considerably different in price.  Or is this method not
feasible unless the alternatives are similarly priced?

         Thank you very much for any information you may have, and hope the
summer is going well!

David Heimann
Jamaica Plain Cohousing

"I Make Your Numbers Talk"

"I Make Your Numbers Talk"

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