This is one of those things I’m not sure we should be pointing out. For we’ve got a large number of Britain’s radical leftists all marching off in the right direction. But if I point this out – no, not because it’s me but because of what I’m pointing out – they’ll all stop and do something vastly more stupid. But, you know, journalism speaking truth to power and all that. Beacons of shining light illuminating society even if we’re to believe the more drugged of the American press.
What’s happening is that these radicals, oh so new and delivering that Brave New World, have retreated to the wisdom of Edmund Burke:
“People do things to Plymouth,” he says. “Plymouth hasn’t often been allowed to do things for itself.” He is referring to the blitz, followed by the imposition of an Abercrombie city plan and the throwing up of shoddy housing. He also means the way in which well-meaning policy experts will today pitch up with some cash and pilot their brainwaves in Devonport and the impoverished west of the city. They come with a grand scheme to deal with household budgeting or child malnutrition and stay for a few months until the money runs out. Then they hurry off.
Quite so, very bad. That Abercrombie plan is here. The grand planning of a city according to the current favoured nostrums just as Jane Jacobs would insist should not be done.
So, what’s better than this?
But Hall and Whitelaw don’t run a standard business. Theirs is a social enterprise, a company that uses its profits and assets for public good. Rio derives an income from the Guildhall, but it doesn’t sweat the building for every last penny.
To wander around the Guildhall is to see that ethos in action: the main hall with its stained-glass windows has just been vacated by a team of cheerleaders, and is let out for free to community groups. Other social enterprises rent office space and use the basement jail cells as meeting rooms. In the corner is a cafe and bakery.
“Social enterprise” is just Burke’s “little platoons” rebadged for a new era. Not that we can let them know this of course because Burke is the foundation of a certain English form of conservatism and the radicals would be shocked, shocked, to find that they were following such ancient wisdom. And would immediately reject what they’re doing that works on the simple grounds that they’re not and never will be conservative in any manner. They’re radicals, Man, ushering in that Brave New World already mentioned.
Which is just what is so amusing about Aditya Chakrabortty’s series on this bright new manner of doing things. He’s repeatedly pointing out that national plans, even regional, don’t work. Devolving matters down to the local level, those little platoons doing their own thing, is indeed what works. Well, OK, sometimes it works in a manner in which the national plans never do. The market in ideas, outputs and consumption being exactly how we sort through which do work and which don’t.
The answer being, according to Chakrabortty and our modern radicals, that people try stuff out at a human and local level, see what works then do more of it. Without the beneficience of the national government trying to tell them nor plan what they do. Or even grand plans of any sort. And how radical is that? Hmm, well, I guess it was when Adam Smith and Burke pointed out aspects of it but today? It’s all rather conservative, isn’t it? Not on moral of philosophic grounds, but just because it works…..