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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Monday, October 19, 2009

is small beautiful?

Painting is Rusi Ganchev's(1895-1965) "A Park "
Interesting that I bought recently a reissued version of Leopold Kohr’s classic The Breakdown of Nations which argues that all major problems would be minimised if the world’s major countries were to dissolve back into the small states from which they came.
It was written by him in 1951 although he did not manage to find a printer for it until 1957 – and it made an impact only with the appearance in 1986 of a paperback version which is when I first read it.
He was an economist and had an influence on his great friend EF Schumacher who wrote the much better-known Small is Beautiful in 1973.
You can get a sense of Kohr’s argument from these excerpts
It is a convincing read – and should make a Scottish nationalist of me. But one of my hesitations has to do with the perverse social processes which seem to contaminate and undermine efforts to change our value systems and structures for the better. Feminism was and remains a worthwhile project – but so far the promise of it bringing a softer more humane set of values into government and the work-place has not been realised. Instead the women have had to show they are “plus royaliste que le roi” – ie tougher and more masculine.
I see the same happening to the nationalist project – as the Scottish nationalist government prepares for the promised referendum in 2010 on independence. Instead of offering a new vision of government and society, their First Minister seems to offer more of the same – not just in terms of policies but in terms of thinking about the form and role of the state - even down to the prospect of useless Embassies! Scottish opinion-makers likes to think of the country belonging to the Scandinavian fringe – and should therefore follow through the logic – ie decentralise powers to local municipalities. However, this is currently a vote loser – since Scottish municipalities are now so large (average 150,000 population) and (apart from the 4 cities) no longer relate to perceptions of community. Perhaps that is why Kohr-type arguments are not heard in the nationalist argument – since they would point to something smaller than a population of 5 million.
But there is one issue in Britain capable of making people think about this problematic of scale in a different way – and that is the “political expenses scandal” which I wrote about in July on my other blog (and again yesterday) and which shows no sign of going away. People are beginning to ask critical questions such as
- Does the UK need 625 MPs (when we have Scottish and Welsh devolution)?
- do MPs play any useful role any more? For decades the complain has been that they are simple ciphers of the Executive – and this situation has got worse. Their classic claim to hold the Executive to account is risible these days – and now they need to be held to account!
- Perhaps the whole notion of “representatives” is basically flawed – and the people need to take more direct Swiss-like control? Open Democracy has opened a campaign 2010 on this whole question and one interesting contribution is here 

See also this essay  

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