A friend said to me last week: surely you're in favour of big society over big government?. Of course big society and the level of collective responsibility that should go with it are attractive but the rhetoric from the Cameron / Clegg camp is not about collective responsibility, it is about cuts and punishing the poor.
Collective responsibility would need a democratic process to underpin it to prevent protectionism by the existing hegemony or as
Big Society as a ruse for public sector cuts is what Cameron is suggesting. When the massive and unnecessary cuts are being made across all areas of society, charities and social enterprises will need to step in. As my friend and fellow green, Steve Campkin, pointed out a couple of days ago: "charities exist where government fails".
The two main dangers of replacing of government services with charities and social enterprise are loss of accountability and equity.
Accountability is a feature of true democracy. Accepting that we only have partial democracy in our electoral system, moving public services further from a democratic mandate and further from democratic accountability cannot be a good thing. Without the structures in place, big society will mean more power for the existing elite. By all means give more power to local government, but relying on organisations outside of government to prop up society is wrong.