This story can be read a couple of different ways:
They are the traditional pleasures of a British summer fair. But the spin of the tombola and the fun of the coconut shy are being eclipsed by the rustle of paperwork and the shuffle of the inspector\’s footsteps.
Village fete organisers say they are having to cancel events because volunteers are struggling to cope with the demands of officialdom.
It\’s the bureaucracy run mad, insisting upon pages and pages of forms for the simplest things:
This newspaper approached public bodies to ask what licences and other permissions would be needed for a hypothetical fete on a village green, which was expected to attract 750 people and which would feature standard attractions including a coconut shy, fancy dress parade, bouncy castle, home-made cakes and bands playing music.
One council press officer, asked to explain what was required, said: \”To give you all the information you need would take absolutely ages.
\”Unless you issue a formal Freedom of Information request, we won\’t be able to give all of it, because it really is that much information.\”
Or it\’s the insurance companies:
Many of the requirements arise because councils insist on public liability insurance and insurance companies, in turn, insist on health and safety guidelines being adhered to.
But we might think that the insurance companies are simply being used as enforcers for those reams of paperwork.
But there is something quintessentially English being lost here. And no, this isn\’t just rose tinted spectacles looking back at an England that never was. There really was a revolution here in the 1660-1690 period, something far more important than the events of the 1640s or 1688. Influenced by them, of course, but what it amounted to was that you no longer needed permission to do things.
You could set up a club, an organisation (unless, as is well known, you were a trade union) to do anything you wanted to and you didn\’t have to ask permission, inform anyone, get a licence, beg allowance. You just did it. It\’s this that led to the explosion in civil society. Sports clubs, coffee houses turning into insurance exchanges, book clubs, the Royal Society (they did get approval but they didn\’t have to have it) and so on.
It really was something very different from what happened in any other country at that time: heck, it was past WWII before you could set up an organisation of more than 25 Frenchmen without permission from Paris.
Burke\’s little platoons came directly from this freedom and it is precisely this freedom, this liberty, to get together with whoever you wish and do as you want, that we now call the freedom of association. And it\’s a freedom as vital to the maintenance of a free society as is the freedom of speech, about which we expend a great deal more ink and electrons.
In one sense it doesn\’t matter whether it\’s the bureaucracy or the insurance demands which is throttling it, something is and we need to stop that encroachement on our liberty to meet, gather and do as we damn well please without permission or approval.
In another, of course it matters which for without identifying the problem correctly we\’ll not find the solution.
Me, I say it\’s the bureaucracy, the insurance companies merely being the enforcers. So let\’s kill all the bureaucrats so that we can see another flowering of civil society, just as we led the world the first time around, when we were the first nation to actually have the freedom to have such a civil society.