David Cameron’s Big Society
As the world struggles with recessed and depressed economies, each nation is addressing the difficulties differently. “Change we can believe in” is President Obama’s theme, but I can’t say that it is actually America’s theme because it never really transitioned from political campaigning into a national theme.
Interestingly, Prime Minister Cameron has launched the “big society” theme that one might think is reminiscent of Lyndon Johnson’s “great society” theme.
One might argue about the meaning of bigness in terms of population size or something. Greatness too demanded meaning, but great could mean impressive in more celebrated terms than size alone, I guess.
Anyway, here is a story in the Guardian in which the Prime Minister makes his case for his marketing theme, a political strategy to encourage the poor to do more for themselves with less?
“David Cameron: Have no doubt, the big society is on its way
Ignore the sceptics. I have a compelling plan to engage us all in transforming Britain
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 12 February 2011 21.30 GMT
Naturally, I would prefer to see more positive headlines about the "big society", but I am very upbeat about the torrent of newsprint expended on this subject.
For too long, our country has failed to have a proper debate on how we can make our society stronger and give people more power. Now it is happening. And not just in the thinktanks of Westminster and newspapers of Fleet Street. The big society has been a topic of discussion on a wider basis – from being on the agenda at the General Synod to being debated in front of a live television audience.
Unsurprisingly, some people want to attack it rather than join it, but unlike so many other political ideas which are dropped or forgotten within days of being suggested, I believe all the interest and debate means we're on to something. Nevertheless, I'm fully aware of the criticisms that have been levelled at it, so let me address them head-on.
The first objection is that it is too vague. I reject that. True, it doesn't follow some grand plan or central design. But that's because the whole approach of building a bigger, stronger, more active society involves something of a revolt against the top-down, statist approach of recent years. And neither is it about just one thing. Rather, it combines three clear methods to bring people together to improve their lives and the lives of others: devolving power to the lowest level so neighbourhoods take control of their destiny; opening up our public services, putting trust in professionals and power in the hands of the people they serve; and encouraging volunteering and social action so people contribute more to their community.”
Now, in this story, Cameron makes the following statement.
“So the big society doesn't apply to one area of policy, but many. For example, if neighbours want to take over the running of a post office, park or playground, we will help them. If a charity or a faith group want to set up a great new school in the state sector, we'll let them. And if someone wants to help out with children, we will sweep away the criminal record checks and health and safety laws that stop them.”
Does this literally mean, pedophiles wanted to run a great new school, American exiled priests wanted?