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February 13, 2011


Frank Little

One might add the well-to-do with time on their hands. Think of the great charities from the National Trust to the NSPCC. Even now, it is the so-called middle classes who form the bedrock of the voluntary sector.

James Reade

Or it could be that some of the "religious", notably Christians, are motivated by thankfulness for the "Amazing Grace" that is at the core of Christianity, as opposed to any fear of damnation.

Because they are thankful for what they have received, they do things for other people. Very different motivation.

But I wouldn't expect the stereotype peddled here about "religious" people to die away any time soon.


On the religious aspect, you could add:

1. The impact of changes in ideology. Many of the nineteenth century Christian philanthropists who worked and died in Seven Dials and the East End were followers of newish ideas that extended the reach of Christian charity beyond Christians, that sought to make the world fit for Christ's return, and, in particular, found inspiration in the more activist attitude of American revivalist preachers like Moody. I.e. something about their religion had changed, recently, and they were responding to that.
2. What helped them in this is that the various Christian churches represented pre-existing networks, with capital in the form of buildings, land and so forth. Someone like Canon Hannan in Edinburgh might have ended up building vast premises in St Mary's Street for the Catholic poor - out of which emerged Hibs - but he had premises to start with: when he came from Ireland, it only felt as if he was landing on a barren shore.


Religion ensured people were more communalistic, perhaps? In days of old you'd meet your neighbours at the local church. Only people I see before noon on Sundays are composed of dream.


I'd say there's another pre-condition. The assumption that we have responsibility to our fellow humans that goes beyond paying taxes. Less "the government should" to "we could". And that responsible citizenship extends beyond voting. The idea of service.

This isn't completely dead, but nor is it lauded as it should be.


Let me suggest an unintended outcome for Cameron.

The vol sector plugs gaps in statutory provision. This works well, someone will always want to save a creature/cure something/help someone that the state is to slow or doesn't choose to react to.


But is the vol resources are all taken up running statutory services that the state can provide then these gaps might not get plugged.

Smaller society?


I'm puzzled - the state is, in pure terms, the collective institutions and activities acting for and on behalf of the citizenry. We elect politicians to act on our behalf, and also appoint civil servants. We buy into / accept the institutions of the state - law, policy, property rights etc.

Obviously the state and the citizenry may be a tad disconnected.

Perhaps an alternative such as a written constitution enshrining citizens' rights and the relation to the state is a better idea and something that folks can relate to more than wittering on about the Big Society.

An added bonus is that we could get rid of the house of lords and constitutional monarchy at the same time of course...

Perhaps replace HoL with some kind of local representatives - thus giving localism some kind of political role and as a counter to the centralising tendencies of whitehall.

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