Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Visions of the Future,
My blog has been playing catch-up recently with some of the debate currently going on in European left circles. I have to confess I have mixed feelings about a lot of the stuff which comes from think-tanks written by the curious new breed of scribblers who seem to inhabit the airwaves and ante-chambers of power. God knows, I respect ideas but these rootless characters have developed a language which doesn’t seem to relate to the real world – and certainly doesn’t deal with the HOW of reform. One example is this short publication by a Norwegian (who should know better!!).
A year ago I bought and started to read an intriguing book Red Tory written by an ex-priest which seemed to be yet another attempt to give us a third way between greed capitalism and centralised socialism. And the coalition government has roped in quite a few big names from the social enterprsie sector to explore how mutualism might be applied to public services.
Not to be outdone, a figure duly appeared on the left and gave us the idea of Blue Labour – and Prospect magazine gave us a debate last year between the 2 proponents which has been updated in their present issue Their ideas also link to those of Paul Hirst which I blogged about last week, when I expressed surprise that people did not seem to be talking about the German social market model or, indeed, of Will Hutton’s notion of stakeholder capitalism - which had been the "in-idea” in the mid 1990s and to which Tony Bliar and Gordon Brown had turned deaf ears - Brown in particular being sold on the American rather than the social market model. And lo! People are indeed now referring to the German model - with some good points as always being made in the subsequent Guardian discussion thread (not least that one the key elements are regional banks).
Trying to get the best of both worlds (a rather Manichean view of the world!) can be difficult. I speak from personal experience - generally finding myself operating as a bridge between groups distinguished by class, party, profession, nation etc). There is a (central european) saying about bridges - "in peacetime, horses shit on them and in wartime they are blown up"!!
Brits play a great game of analysis – its the doing where they seem to come unstuck. That’s why I liked this blog about a local food initiative – a great example of what can be done when people get off their backsides. The same blog had a post about New Public Management written by one of its architects in the UK but announcing its demise (which has been announced for the past decade) and wondering what the next big idea would be to take its place. Obvious he hadn’t seen Paul Kingsnorth’s article I blogged about yesterday. Any way Colin Talbot replied and argued that it was not helpful to use such phrases – which concealed a variety of practices some of which were not disasters.
One of them which was certainly a disaster and which Gordon Brown forced through despite many warnings was the Private Financial Initiative (PFI) which Craig Murray writes about from his Ambassadorial experience.