Toronto 2121 -- Democratically-Decided Eco-Tax Budgets
THE ECOTOPIA 2121 PROJECT PREDICTS AND PLANS FOR THE GLOBAL GREEN FUTURES OF 100 CITIES WORLDWIDE. THIS WEEK, WE HIGHLIGHT THE FUTURE OF TORONTO.
Most of us do not like paying taxes but in Toronto 2121 it’s quite fun.
Every year the city government invites all registered Toronto residents to come to the annual participatory budgeting meeting, where everybody gets to decide on tax rates and where to spend the revenue. After a week of wrangling, the whole city then votes on which budget plan to follow.
Using this model of democratic budgeting, the citizens generally tend to opt for allocating financial resources not for roads and tax breaks or industrial development but for clean air projects, since Toronto has often suffered from a nasty summer smog problem. Voting for clean air also means voting for safe, pedestrianized streets as well as the development of many public parks and state-funded health programs.
Why do we assume this is what Torontoans would vote for? In a number of recent research studies, when a random selection of citizens is asked to identify the sort of policies they view as most worthy, these are the ones they usually cite.
Of course, the untidy business of party politics, election campaigns, and an overrated thing called “leadership” usually messes up the way people vote in national elections, but at a city government level, in the forum of participatory budgeting, the policies rather than the personalities or the parties come to the fore.
In 2121, there are also two technological shifts that emerge from Toronto’s annual budgeting session:
(1) biogas energy plants (with a variety of carbon capture technologies, both organic and machine-based) are used, so that the city’s waste doesn’t end up in landfills but instead is recycled to make energy, and:
(2) products that are not eco-friendly are subjected to much higher tax rates.
One upshot of (2) is that trucks are swapped for 'eco-drones', which, unencumbered by the weight of humans, are supposed to fly around speedily without using much energy. The roads can then be re-purposed for pedestrianism, playgrounds and parties.