Is Crowdfunding Inherently Unfair?

Ethan Zuckerman pens a thought provoking piece on the potential downsides of crowdfunding public improvement projects. Is there a way to avoid the unequal and government-shrinking effects of funding public projects through private contribution?

1 minute read

August 14, 2012, 11:00 AM PDT

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj

Zuckerman, an avowed supporter of using the Internet to organize support for charitable efforts, invest in art projects, and fund businesses, explores his reservations with the rise of crowdsourcing sites oriented towards what Alexandra Lange calls "Kickstarter Urbanism". Whereas Lange expresses her pessimism about the ability of such sites to fund urbanism rather than products, however, Zuckerman's concern is not that such efforts can't be successful, but rather that they'll succeed in ways that exacerbate inequality in the United States. 

"Unless done very carefully, crowdfunding a city's projects is likely
to favor wealthy neighborhoods over poor ones," writes Zuckerman. "People in poorer
neighborhoods have less to spend on crowdfunding projects, and are less
likely to have internet access."

For Zuckerman, the other danger inherent in crowdfunding connects to America's larger ideological battle over the role of government. "If crowdfunding parks
succeeds, it supports the case that governments don't need to build
parks because they'll get built anyway through the magic of civic
crowdfunding. That, in turn, supports the Norquistian argument for a
government small enough to drown in a bathtub, with services provided by
the free market and by crowdfunding a thousand points of light."

Because civic crowdfunding isn't likely to go away any time soon, Zuckerman concludes by offering some ideas for how to "embrace civic crowdfunding and avoid the downsides."

Friday, August 10, 2012 in my heart's in accra

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