‘Ask Not…’: The New Yorker on UK’s ‘Big Society’ Venture

I can’t link to the full text of this week’s article by Lauren Collins (“All Together Now!”) in the New Yorker about efforts to reshape the civic culture in the United Kingdom because it is restricted to subscribers. Following is a link to the summary version that is available online. Those interested in more can read it at their public or school library or pick up a copy at the newsstand. What interests me is the hybrid conservatism in the new Tory party and the impressive government coaliton that the Conservatives formed with the Liberal Democrats. The heavy-duty austerity moves announced this week may or may not work, and the attempt to engage citizens more actively at the community level may fall short, but I’ll be watching to see whether this approach yields positive results up and down the financial scale. Some leading economists predict that the government budget cuts will do nothing or, worse, may cause a double dip of a recession. I do get the sense that they are trying to drag government functions into the 21st century and looking for new solutions to age-old problems. They seem to have less faith in the almighty market compared to US conservatives and more faith in the good sense of regular citizens. As much as anything else, their mindset reminded me of President Kennedy’s famous statement in his inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  They seem to be turning this concept into an extreme sport—overnight. The risk of  it not being effective is being carried most heavily by people dependent on the public safety net. Read the summary here.