Top-Down | Bottom-Up | Powers

EmergenceAn excellent week away, helped by the fantastic sunshine that rayed on us every day, while the South got soaked in rain.

Reading material for the train/ferry/bus etc. on the way up/down was this month’s Prospect, which contained an article from some old Blairites challenging Brown to move away from top-down centralised governance to a more liberal bottom-up approach:

Labour politicians too often see a social problem—obesity, children at risk on the internet or declining interest in high culture—and make two assumptions: first, that the problem is amenable to a policy solution; and second, that this solution ought to involve the establishment of a council, commission or task force. But many of the issues facing modern society are too complex and too cultural for such a wooden approach.

Coming back I’ve just received an email from an organization struggling from within over whether they should be taking one or the other approach, and many of the discussions we had on Iona related to the same issue.

In other words, the debate continues to rage, and usually follows the same line: those in power want to preserve power structures because, from their perspective, it’s the only way to get things done, while those outside those structures see the world very differently and realise things aren’t working as well as those in power think they are.

I’ve been into this in detail in the book, but, to summarise: power and leadership are about facilitating communication or, in the governance situation, creating environments within which the best possible outcomes for people are likely to emerge. You can’t legislate for decency, but you can create the kinds of frameworks within which people are more likely to be decent to one another.

I think this is the tricky situation which both our Labour government and certain wings of the church find themselves: they feel so threatened by some external power (terrorism / biblical liberalism) that they panic and want to legislate hard in an attempt to protect us. I currently feel that I’d rather enjoy freedom and decent human rights / civil liberties and be blown up a free man, than be safely cocooned in a tight-assed, Orwellian world.


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