20 April 2010

State vs Society and Voice vs Choice

The Economist's Bagehot columnist views the upcoming British election through the lens of governmental vs  societal problems and solutions, a theme I mentioned yesterday. Here's an extract from that piece, which is well worth reading.
[...] Conservatives have extracted a core manifesto theme too: the “Big Society”. Their basic case is that the state should devolve (some) power to local authorities and communities, and outsource the provision of more services to competing social enterprises and charities. They advocate new state-funded but independent schools; the establishment of more co-operatives by NHS employees; the tendering of more welfare-to-work services to private providers. They would introduce elected police commissioners, more local referendums, and so on.

This pitch likewise has glitches and qualifications. Most importantly, it is a plan to shrink the set of tasks the state itself performs, not those for which it undertakes to pay. So it isn’t merely, as the Tories’ opponents maintain, a return to a cruel era of inadequate voluntarism—but nor is it a credible strategy for saving taxpayers’ money, at least to begin with.

Moreover, David Cameron’s vision of a humbler state is clouded by his wish to extend its reach into private relationships, via his silly and tokenistic tax break for some married couples. That is a flash of the kind of irrational authoritarianism that warps much American conservatism and still lurks in many Tory breasts. [...]

All the same, in essence, this is the debate: state versus society; voice versus choice. Thoughtful Labour politicians prefer to cast the stand-off as their “smart” state versus the Tories’ “minimal” one. But they don’t dispute the essential dichotomy.
Even conceding that the State is or can be particularly smart, I still say it's better to be ruled by your own folly than another's wisdom.

This is how the columnist describes the Tory Labor platform:
[Labor] promises more “voice and choice” for citizens. But while those nouns rhyme, they are distinct, and Labour is ultimately offering more of the former than the latter: new ways to register discontent and exert pressure, within a system in which the state is the final arbiter and enforcer of standards and remedies.
I feel like this is the same treatment we get from organizations in America like school boards and county councils and Universities. It's also the guiding pirciple of "town hall" meetings. Lots of chances to express your views, followed by empty promises to take them into consideration, followed by no discernible impact.  Voice without choice is what is happening whenever you hear about "involving community stakeholders" and such other drivel.

No comments:

Post a Comment