Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Does being a Lib Dem mean my kids shouldn't be made to pick up litter in the street?
I did a degree in geography because (as I said once in a job interview, perhaps unwisely) it meant I could study pretty much whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, which rather suited my butterfly mind. Economics, politics, biology, urban movement, history, even historical literature - as long as you could find a spatial element to it, it was geography.
I was reminded of this yesterday when I read Ed Rooksby's piece in The Guardian, 'what does it mean to be a liberal?' It's a good summary of both the history of liberalism and the catholic groups and individuals who claim ownership of it as a philosophy.
And Ed makes the excellent point that all these diverse groups do have one core belief in common, which is:
'Liberalism is founded on a particular view of human nature and society – the assumption that human beings are, first and foremost, individuals. This foundation is simultaneously ontological and ethical. That is, it sees the individual as more fundamental, more real, than society, and at the same time regards the individual as much more morally valuable than any collective entity.'
Co-incidentally this has strong echoes of Nick's closing remarks in his Q&A with party members in London last week, in which he encouraged us to use more liberal vocabulary and to put the cherishing of the individual foremost in everything we do.
And I absolutely believe in this.
Which brings me on to picking up litter. No really, bear with me here.
I've blogged before about the fact that I've no real problem with the notion of 'The Big Society' if it means people volunteering to come together to do good things in their local community. In fact, I quite like it.
Now, a confession. While I'm not a fan (understatement) of the reintroduction of National Service, I can't get nearly so worked up about the notion of a period of compulsory community service for young people. I don't see there being much wrong with my kids spending a short period of time coming together with the rest of the local young people to do some good work in the community. Don't get me wrong, I'm not buying into any ludicrous suggestion that this would sort out all our problems and prevent a riot ever happening again. But I can still see the positives in it as a notion.
Then someone tweeted me yesterday (I'm sorry, I can't remember who but get in touch and I'll credit you). Their tweet said 'I'm very uncomfortable with the notion of compulsory community service. Implies state ownership of the individual'.
Which is of course logically quite right.
So there. Does the fact that I don't find the notion of my kids being made to do a period good in the community utterly unbearable, undermine all my Liberal principles?
I'd value your views.
As I was typing this on the train. Nick Clegg was announcing his rather brilliant Community Payback Scheme. To quote The Spectator..
'Cometh the hour, cometh Nick Clegg. The Independent reports that the Deputy Prime Minister is to announce that first-time offenders convicted of looting but not given custodial sentences will be forced to do community service in the very streets that they ransacked. The government hopes to ensure that community sentences are robust, inculcating a sense of responsibility in first-time offenders and insulating them from malign influences in prison. The Probation Service will oversee this programme, which Clegg has called ‘Community Payback’.'
Posted by Richard Morris at 08:55