Ooooh, dearie me Paul

I don\’t really think you want to say that:

Secondly, the Tory vision of Big Society is based on bare ideological assertion. Voluntary groups are staffed by volunteers, who are by definition amateurs. Take away the centralised finances allowing these volunteers to organise and how will volunteer amateurs be able to provide anything, lacking as they will the finances required for service-provision? The fantasy that services provided by trained professionals can be replaced with spontaneous volunteer groups, and without significant falls in quality or reliability, reflects right-wing preferences for a smaller state not serious policy-making.

So mutuals won\’t work because what do the customers know about management? So, bang goes the idea of having the Building Societies back. Co-ops won\’t work because what on earth do the workers know about the upper reaches of managment? Look forward to John Lewis filing for bankruptcy next Tuesday arvo.

And of course the Friendly Societies, those mutuals, burial clubs, insurance companies, pension, unemployment benefit thingies, they never existed because of course free people in a free society never can managed to get together for their own mutual benefit.

No, you see, they always and everywhere require the professionals from the State to come and show them how it\’s done, don\’t they?

As indeed does every private sector company that has ever existed. Absolutely none of them have at all been founded by amateurs who just got together and started doing stuff. Bill Gates and Paul Allen, James Dyson, Edison and FA Woolworth, all government trained and subsidised experts before they even started.

Sweet Jeebus, damn near every organisation, club, company and and drinking hole in our entire society was started by some amateur volunteer just trying things out for size.

15 thoughts on “Ooooh, dearie me Paul”

  1. Tim,

    big difference between amateurs starting-out to provide a service with the aim of making profit (even if their organisational structure is that of a mutual or co-operative) and local amateurs with no expertice providing professional-style local services in their spare time with no cash, whilst also holding down jobs.

    And yes, of course plenty of volunteer groups have set up wonderful charities and third sector initiatives. The state doesn’t, shouldn’t and can’t do everything, nor do everything well.

    But my post is quite clearly about a very specific issue: Tory claims that if the state withdraws local services then volunteer groups will magically fill the gap, without expertise or money. Which is rather a different thing to the larger issue you identify, namely “can systems of organisation which are not top-down hierarchical, and which rely upon amateur and voluntary endeavour, be successful?” The answer to that question is quite obviously “yes”. But it’s also clearly not the question I was addressing.

    Still, I appreciate the link and the masses of traffic it will generate!

  2. If there was ever a need for those state based functions in the first place, then something will arise to deliver those functions.

    If there was no need for them, then nothing will arise. The fact that a volunteer group doesn’t self-coalesce to mindlessly fill in forms or tick boxes doesn’t mean that voluntary activity won’t occur. It’s just that no one in their right mind sees those activities as having any value at all.

  3. In your desire to score points off the imaginary statists in your head, you haven’t got the right analogy for Big Society.

    The model is not amateurs getting together to start a business, but an organisation deciding to replace its paid employees with volunteers, to save money.

    So next time Tescos runs into financial trouble, all it would need to do, under Big Society logic, would be to sack the shop managers and people who stack the shelves, and replace them with volunteers.

    Noel C mentioned the RNLI. The RNLI spends £53 million on staff salaries every year, and pays 40 people in excess of £60,000 per year. It is not exactly an example of an organisation run by amateur volunteers.

  4. “The model is not amateurs getting together to start a business, but an organisation deciding to replace its paid employees with volunteers, to save money.”

    So say you. Why should I take your view of what the Big Society is about? You’re not the one defining the big idea, you’re just throwing red-tinged rocks at it.

    “The RNLI spends £53 million on staff salaries every year, and pays 40 people in excess of £60,000 per year. It is not exactly an example of an organisation run by amateur volunteers.”

    It’s a perfect example of the Big Society.

    It always comes down to jealousy over money with socialists who hate the idea. “Oh noes! Profit! Fat cats! Self-interest!”

  5. Paul Sagar said: “But my post is quite clearly about a very specific issue: Tory claims that if the state withdraws local services then volunteer groups will magically fill the gap, without expertise or money. Which is rather a different thing to the larger issue you identify, namely “can systems of organisation which are not top-down hierarchical, and which rely upon amateur and voluntary endeavour, be successful?” The answer to that question is quite obviously “yes”. But it’s also clearly not the question I was addressing.”

    It does address your question – you have assumed that local services have to be both hierarchical and in some magical way ‘professional’. This is not the case. Besides which being unpaid doesn’t automatically make you an amateur.(except in sport) You can donate expertise instead of money.

    If a service is in demand it will continue, either on a truly charitable basis or by being paid for by the users.

    We had lots and lots of charitable concerns for decades before the Government largely muscled private charity and philanthropy out of the way. It will return.

    donpaskini,

    By Paul’s definition the RNLI are ‘amateurs’ but that clearly is not the case.

    The model you describe isn’t quite right – the Big Society is simply: cut off the money and see what people are prepared to pay for or run themselves. The Government doesn’t know what panoply of services to provide so intends letting people decide for themselves.

    This is in effect Tesco installing self-service tills. There will still be some tills that remain staffed but the choice is there to do it yourself.

  6. Gareth, I too agree with your assessment but for this to work properly we should have some of our money not taken in the first place. What we are seeing here is something akin to Gordon’s stealth taxes.

  7. The problem with the State is that it only understands a monopoly, and that means the consumer gets screwed.

    Problem is, the Big Society does not appear to show it wishes to enable plurality and competition. If it did, then mere patronage would be a good sign of delivery, but expect to see a whole brigade of assessors keeping those groups following the Tory line by skewing the measurement of “delivery” to only cover what they want delivered, not the groups themselves (and then judged by those consuming the services).

    What we are seeing is Dave Spart being ousted by Hyacinth Bucket.

  8. It might help the argument to actually talk about which services are going the big society route, and how they couldnt be run by joe public (and that they should actually be provided by gov anyway).

    Otherwise this is just a monkey poo flinging contest.

  9. I got fuck all traffic from you Tim when you mentioned me

    Tim adds: Probably because I linked to your piece at CiF? They do, after all, need the hits to be able to afford your £85 fee.

  10. oh I see, and is that your job to provide the hits?

    Tim adds: Sadly, no, the only time I get paid by The Guardian is when I myself write for CiF.

    But it is part of the bloggers’ code to link to the pieces you’re snarking at…..

  11. oh I know, I’m a fully paid up blogger myself if you haven’t noticed. In fact, you may not remember but we’ve had our tiffs before over at liberal conspiracy, where I occasionally blog.

    I should like to link to one of your blog entries, but having read somewhere that you can expect up to 1m hits a year (and that, as far as I understand, old data) it probably won’t do you any good. But, you know, for the code!!

    Tim adds: Hmm, obviously pissed you off over something, not sure what. Anyway, around 600,000 annually at the moment…

  12. woah no wayyy you have not pissed me off. I like constructive engagement, you did tell me I should hang myself, but we didn’t know each other quite so intimately back then – 3 days ago

  13. Do you want to buy some rope, and a lamppost then?

    It’s no good hanging yourself in an amateurish way, you need the right tools for the job. If you want a professional job done, we can send a bloke round to take care of everything. He’s really good at string-ups.

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