Tuesday, May 18, 2010

David Cameron and the Big Society

British PM better defines "Big Society" concept

Speaking recently at an event at Number 10 Downing Street, British Prime Minister David Cameron further fleshed out the "Big Society" concept his party ran on during the 2010 General Election.

While sounding suspiciously like former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's broken "participatory democracy" promises, Cameron suggests that it will instead function more like Joe Clark's "community of communities" concept.

"During the election campaign I extended an invitation to everyone in this country to join the government of Britain," Cameron announced. "I said that the idea of the big society would be marching through the corridors of power – and it's happening right now. Today is the start of a deep and serious reform agenda to take power away from politicians and give it to people."

Cameron stated the importance of navigating public affairs away from the state and back into the hands of citizenry.

"That's because we know instinctively that the state is often too inhuman, monolithic and clumsy to tackle our deepest social problems. We know that the best ideas come from the ground up, not the top down," Cameron said, noting that citizens working together can better accomplish what the state cannot.

"We know that when you give people and communities more power over their lives, more power to come together and work together to make life better, great things happen."

As part of the Big Society initiative, the British government will launch a national service program for youth, help train community organizers, establish a Big Society bank (consisting of dormant bank accounts) to help fund neighbourhood groups, provide training and mentoring for local councils, and require police to compile and publish more detailed crime statistics.

Deputy Prime Minister Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, who during the election campaign described the Big Society as "hollow" "fake change", voiced his agreement.

"We need radical change that puts power back in the hands of people," Clegg announced. "Only by bringing down vested interests and giving people real control over their lives will we build a Britain that is fair."

Of coure, diverting power away from the state and into the hands of citizens is a radical change from what most social democrats -- like those in the Liberal Democratic Party -- have often espoused.

In a global political era in which statism has been fostered even by many would-be conservatives -- famed me-too, big government conservatives like George W Bush -- the Big Society can't help but appear to be a noble experiment in better government through less government.

While there seem to be some serious wrinkles to be ironed out of the Big Society -- such as the appropriation of dormant bank accounts for the Big Society Bank -- the Big Society can lead to good things for Britain if Prime Minister David Cameron stands by it.

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