Monday, 25 November 2013

Common interest? I have been thinking of writing something about the notion of ‘common wealth’ – partly as a reaction to the way the recent Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka exposed issues of shared principles, compromise, the value of inclusion and the meaning of exclusion. Time has not allowed, but at least I can point to one or two articles where the themes that need exploring, in my view, are taken up. Owen Jones, for example, last week was puzzling over some of the nonsense claimed for the private sector by people who deride the necessary platform of the public sector on which they depend. (I covered very similar ground here, baffled by some drivelling plonker claiming he or she made no use of the state except ‘when my driver drives on public roads’). Or Seumas Milne here covering the Haves' ongoing and highly successful project to transfer income and wealth from workforce, public and state to the corporate sector. This perverse determination to destroy the commonwealth that has been built up over centuries for good reasons, manifests itself sometimes in quite unexpected little corners, because the media surreptitiously encourages people to make more and more daft observations. Hence for example the predictably silly suggestion from author Terry Deary, that ‘giving poor people free e-readers would be a "hell of a lot cheaper" than keeping libraries "open at all costs." The only interpretation available here seems to be that what you can get from an e-reader and what you can get from a library are comparable. The possibility that they might not be, seems to be beyond this man’s capacity. Perhaps that doesn't matter to him so long as whatever is public gets demolished. In all this, one of the messages that seldom gets attention is the profligacy of the style of government represented. We know that the cost of privatisation, to the taxpayer, is exorbitant in most cases: it follows that any government that pursues this course while still spouting rhetoric about reducing the cost of the state is guilty of extravagant deceit at best. But the nonsense reigns under the aegis of acceptable ideology. Among those who are trying to do something about this are Shared Assets, New Start and Co-Operatives UK: they are jointly hosting an event on ‘Land and community: a 21st century commons’. London, 5 December. More here.

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