Saturday, May 26, 2012

Big Society is the way? Taleb, Rafael Behr, David Cameron, Civil Society Forum in agreement?

Nassim Taleb who wrote The Black Swan is interviewed in The Times (UK) today. A Black Swan event is one that is very rare, an outlier, and is a random shock that catches almost everyone by surprise - such as the banking crisis which came along just after his book was published.  Wikipedia says that the main idea in Taleb's book is not to attempt to predict Black Swan Events, but to build robustness to negative ones that occur and being able to exploit positive ones. 

He has a lot to say on banking: ' Banks have now just become a machine to pay big bonuses'...'Have you ever heard of a bailout of restaurants? We should transform the economy into something that looks more like the restaurant business'... 'You have to bring back economic adventures, not bankers and bonus earners'. He says it is essential to decentralise: 'Labour believed that if a pin dropped at some hospital in the Lake District someone should hear it in Whitehall '. 

Taleb has the ear of a Prime Minister Cameron. 'When I speak to David Cameron and his staff I feel as if I am talking to myself, we think alike.' 

Taleb's views have a resonance with talks by speakers at the session run by the recently formed Civil Society Forum one of the School Of Commoning  recent series of Quilligan Seminars.  The School of Commoning's approach is that the earth's resources  should be handled for the long term benefit of all with domination replaced by partnering and responsiveness to everyone. The recognition between public and private makes this a non-socialist way for the future.  The seminar on 15th May on Organisational Practice and the Commons  had Tim Harle of the Bristol Business School saying this was a time for looking forward for new patterns of self-organised behaviour. Leadership is needed, self-organisation is not totally spontaneous.  Trust emerges from personal interactions. 

Eileen Conn had a similar theme in her 'Social Eco-System Dance'. She sees many of our problems in society due to a painful interaction between the dynamics of the vertical hierarchical system of the organised work world and that of the horizontal peer system of ordinary, neighbourly, community actions. Blind unawareness of the horizontal  by the vertical brings pain and blunts the effectiveness of both.  Another illustration was the invisible nature of the horizontal system as being like the root system of a grass plant which is the only obvious part to the eye. But both systems are essential to each other and respect is needed to nurture the spirit of the invisible. Many organisations are not visible and not counted.     

These themes: from Taleb, to the School of Commoning, to the  Civil Society Forum are those of the book The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom. It themes are also aligned with those of the Tory Big Society idea which is clearly still (just) alive in 10 Downing Street - Taleb: 'Political leaders need to think of new ways of protecting their countries from future shocks'.  Exactly -just what The Free Lunch's aims would bring. But why after two years of Tory power is the empowerment of citizens to enable them to cope with future shocks, so moribund?  Even Rafael Behr in the New Statesman 26 May admits  'The Big Society was never a bad conceit' (but it was sold badly). Perhaps Labour will grasp the message.
posted by Charles Bazlinton

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