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Government vs Reality – the big society

Dear government,

Let’s stop talking about what you think happens in theory and start talking about what is happening in reality.

In reality, people are being told they can’t claim JSA after you have told them they can’t claim ESA.

In reality, other countries are looking at your handling of social security and using it as an example of what NOT to do.

In reality, women are asking for free sanitary towels from foodbanks. But perhaps this isn’t an expense it would be reasonable to expect middle to upper class men to have thought of.

In reality, foodbanks do not need publicity to increase their reach and operate on charity not business principles. They seek to meet need not create demand.

In reality, people are being abandoned by you, their government, to fester in destitution.

In reality, whether the people to blame for the crisis are rich Labour MPs or rich Tory MPs or rich bankers, the ones paying are the poor, and it is not their mistake to pay for.

You said you want a Big Society. So let’s look at what a Big Society that works looks like in reality.

Let’s have a kind, considerate and unselfish society where people who can afford to do so routinely give resources, time and expertise to those who need it.

Let’s make it easy to offer resources, time and expertise by using ‘tokens’ to represent items of value that are offered and received. Let’s call the tokens ‘money.’

Let’s have a regulated society where the sad reality that those with riches to give don’t give enough to help all those in poverty is corrected by a requirement to give a portion of one’s surplus, and where the portion given is in proportion to the size of the surplus – so you can still enjoy most of your surplus, just without also declining to help people in need.

Let’s call these offerings ‘tax.’

Let’s ‘spend’ this ‘tax’ efficiently where it is needed through channels called ‘state education’ and ‘national health service’ and ‘armed forces’ and ‘social security.’

Let’s have an efficient and effective society where there are people responsible for collecting what is offered and delivering it where and when it is needed. Let’s call these people ‘members of parliament’ and a group of them ‘government.’

This is Big Society. This is the entirety of those who have surplus helping the entirety of those who lack all that is needed; not some of those with surplus helping some of those in need. This is efficiency, where one body meets one need, not different bodies in different places at different rates creating a lottery of who gets help and who doesn’t. This is community, where everyone knows that if they give now out of their surplus, then others in turn will give to them if they become the one with lack.

This is why Social Security and free education and free healthcare were set up. Because the government IS Big Society. Because there is no more efficient way to run a Big Society than to have unitary bodies, no more democratic way than to have these bodies run by elected people. So let’s stop living in a theoretical world where Big Society is what happens when a subsection of those with surplus try to help those in need but don’t have enough to meet all the need, and let’s start living in the real world where the body best placed to be Big Society and to make Big Society work is you.

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