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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!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Basically Labour (despite all the brave words) is no different – it simply does not trust people. And let there be no bones about it – this is an issue of trust.
The delivery of public services involves different groups of people – political, administrative, professional (at national and local levels) and the citizen. Time was when local professionals were trusted to do the job - that's changed in Britain over the past 30 years as a layer of public managers have been inserted between the professional and central government.
In Scandinavia, however, local professionals and local politicians have seen their responsibilities increased in structural changes in the past few decades. It's well known that the excellent Finnish educational system gives large autonomy to the local actors. Is this coincidence - or cause and effect?
In other countries again managers in the private sector have been trusted to do a better job – and functions such as water, transport, health and social policy have been transferred to the private sector. And, in some countries (Switzerland, Germany), citizens themselves are trusted to play an important role.

I’m now beginning to understand rather better one of the quotations on my masthead - "We've spent half a century arguing over management methods. If there are solutions to our confusions over government, they lie in democratic not management processes" I liked this quotation but I have to say I never quite understood it. Was he really arguing that politicians knew best?
Clearly not – his reference was to the process by which a society deals with its problems. By central diktat – or by dialogue? People like Will Hutton tried to sell a different, more European, approach to Blair before he came to power – the name they used (the Stakeholder approach) clearly didn’t resonate.
Twenty years ago, Robert Putnam started a debate about trust and "social capital" which too rapidly got colonised by academics and international organisations. But there is an issue there we have to return to - how come that, within Europe, such different models of social trust exist? Is this in fact (as people like Leopold Kohr argued so eloquently 60 years ago) a function of scale? If so, does the recent Scottish experience thrown any light on this issue?

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