the late nineteenth century the mutual societies, co-operators and
trades unionists could have gone on to invent a welfare society in
which more and more people governed themselves, employed their own
doctors, ran their own schools and created a commonwealth of a country.
they didn’t. They decided to go down the road which led to the welfare
state. During the twentieth century this state came to do these things
‘for’ and ‘to’ people, just like an empire.
worked for a long while. It fed the hungry, most of them, and housed
the homeless, most of them. But we now know that it has turned out to
be a well-intentioned but wrong choice.
housing now haunts us in graffiti-strewn, high crime, no-go areas. By
the end of the twentieth century, the welfare state resulted in
expensive, top-down, one-size-fits-all services which now fail to
satisfy ordinary folk. We may be materially better off, but the quality
of life is poorer. We are up a cul-de-sac.
political answer to this risks turning down another cul-de-sac by
saying the state is too powerful. It needs to be slimmed down, services
need to be privatised and we should spend and tax less.
is superficially attractive. For while the range of needs which people
have are diverse, public services have remained uniform. People's
experience of the private sector is of choice. So they could be
persuaded that introducing choice and diversity into the public sector
by privatising it would work.
better answer entails creating in the first century of the new
millennium a modern version of yesterday’s mutualism, in a renewed
civil society. This means a strong, but enabling state. Not fewer
taxes, but spending them in new ways which empower and inspire people
to take control of their lives, agreeing their own agenda for the
action needed to drive up the quality of life where they live. The
result will be a new compact between people and a modern state.
From an article in New Start Magazine by Dick Atkinson, drawn to my attention in the Senscot Newsletter. (Subscribe here)
There is a whole pile of adjectives that can be applied to Ken Livingstone and his spat with the Evening Standard journalist, but I don't think anti-semitism is one of them. He didn't say that the journalist behaved in a particalar way because he was Jewish, he didn't say that the journalist held particular views because he was Jewish. Instead he compared the behaviour of that journalist to that of a concentration camp guard. How is it anti-semitism to accuse someone of behaving like a Nazi?
Stupid, rude, over the top, arrogant? - almost certainly yes. Offensive? - yes but offensive behaviour isn't of itself anti-semitism. The closest parallel is surely with the protests by Sikhs against the play at the Birmingham Rep. The protesters found the sentiments in that play offensive and wanted the play changed to protect their sensibilities. Livinstone's behaviour was undoubtedly stupid, rude and offensive and he is probably compounding the problem by refusing to apologise.
If Muslims and Sikhs (and even Christians from time to time) have to put up with other people making comments about their beliefs they find offensive, then Jews cannot be exempt. Nor in the end do I think that is what is being suggested. What I think has really happened is that a few of Ken's political enemies - not exactly an endangered species after all - have used his behaviour to attack him, jumping onto the bandwagon of anti-semitism.
My referral stats showed a link from this post at City Comforts Blog, even though there is no link to me in the post proper. (It presumably came from the blogroll) It is strange though, because I have been reading Ken McLeod's books, having picked up a reference I think on Crooked Timber.