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Why the big society won't work

I've just been watching Nicola Murry juggling her incompetence, personal life, and ineptitude with the embattled '4th Sector Pathfinders' policy. Whatever that means, i'm guessing it is something similar to the equally embattled Big Society a la Cameron. It brought to mind how difficult it can be to achieve a level of community participation beyond the middle class retired types who populate the archetypal middle England Committee Rooms.

I think he would call it "all this big society bollocks"
Getting people to do something that they don't want to do is at the core of every political policy. Due to the deficit (or whatever...), David Cameron wants the public to take responsibility for public services. The public, generally, don't want to do that. For as long as anyone can remember, these services have been provided to us, through taxes, by the government. One could think to oneself; "how dare Cameron try and palm these services off on us when he is offering nothing in return". This is the mountain that they are trying to build, and all they are offering in return is "power". Normally you would have every potential dictator in the country clambering over their grandmothers for a bit of "power". The lack of such grandmother trampling, and general post launch support for the Big Society, tends to suggest to me that there is in fact no real power, or anything else, being offered in return.

So i think we established that you wont get someone to do something unless you offer something in return. We have two options. Firstly, we could bribe people into doing what they don't want to do. The more the government want us to do something, and the less we are willing to do it, the more the government will have to give us in return in order to make us comply. Its basic supply and demand. The scale of the Big Society, combined with this much public apathy, means the bill for our bribes is prohibitive. The other option is the long game. To build a real Big Society, one that is not tainted by the poisons of politics, the government needs to create the right environment, and here is how i think they should do it.

David Cameron wants the people of the UK to do his job for him. We have established that there are some people who will jump at the chance to do this, i call them the "Committeemen". The Committeemen are no where near enough in quantity, or quality, to achieve the lofty goals of the Big Society project. So how is he going to do it?

To answer this, i think we need to look at the question "Why does anyone do anything?". A difficult question, but one i like to answer with the help of Maslow and his hierarchy. Be prepared for a chicken and egg situation.

Maslow's hierarchy is a visualisation of the needs of a human being. As a hierarchy, the theory is that we must satisfy the lower, fundamental, needs before being able to advance to the higher, more productive, needs. I believe it the role of an effective welfare state to provide every citizen the opportunity (but not the right) to satisfy the highest need; Transcendence.

Transcendence, plus two other needs, were added by Maslow to his hierarchy which is why you may not recognise it as part of the traditional hierarchy that is most often published. It is defined as follows; "Maslow's self-transcendence level recognizes the human need for ethics, creativity, compassion and spirituality". On seeing this definition, it is clear why it is in the best interests of a welfare state to give opportunities for its citizens to achieve it.

Mr is your new coalition agreement
Cameron may be able to get some people to take part in the Big Society, but it wont be successful until it consists of people who have achieved Transcendence. These people are the most, but not the only, ethical, creative, compassionate, and spiritual people in our society.

What i am basically saying is, happy people will be more numerous, more willing, and more productive, community volunteers. We need to invest in a system that promotes the effective satisfying of all of Maslow's needs. This society wont need Cameron's big plan, it wil have a plan for itself. Anyone for chicken and egg?