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Around the world representative democracy is no longer the agency of popular will. In the US, elections are controlled by big money. In developing countries, the undemocratic imposition of neo-liberal economic policies has forced governments to dismantle basic services like health and education. But Porto Alegre presents an apparent alternative to the world. With its experiment in participative budgetmaking over the past decade, this city has institutionalised the direct democratic involvement, locality by locality, of ordinary citizens in deciding spending priorities.