Sunday, 13 February 2011

Self-interest not altruism, Jackie


Now I wouldn't expect Jackie Ashley to understand but Big Society is about self-interest - shared self-interest - not patronising philanthropy. What doesn't happen under Big Society is Jackie's kind of Fabian social engineering.

The big society is too small to fill in the gaps. Since 1945 we have agreed to pay people out of general taxation to tend the sick, look after the old, teach and look out for children, and cope with the walking wounded any capitalist economy produces. The sums involved are huge, and the biggest political arguments are always going to revolve around those choices.

So, were Government to vanish overnight, would we stop wanting our illnesses tended for, would we suddenly care less about our elderly friends and relations, would we no longer want our children educated and would we not require transport? Of course we need all these things and - were there no government - we would seek to ensure we had them.

Saying Big Society is "too small" is to say that we cannot, as a wealthy nation, organise ourselves to deliver things we want without the beneficent hand of the state. Which is why we have state owned shops and factories, of course! But Jackie wants to take a step further - she wishes to suborn the Big Society, to suck it into socialist myth-making:

The big society is out there, a vague but powerful notion, related to our deep desire to help our neighbours and be part of something greater than our own payslips – but it is an idea that properly belongs to the centre-left, not to the right. 

No Jackie, Big Society isn't the new National Recovery Administration - it is not the vehicle for a British Blue Eagle. Big Society is about us - ordinary folk - reclaiming our right to our lives. Winning back our liberty from the failed experiment of the "centre-left".

But then, Jackie, that's why you don't understand Big Society.


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