A rallying cry in the fight for justice

“So, dream with me of a fairer world, but let us take the pragmatic steps necessary to achieve it.”

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The wisdom of crowds

As the hazy outlines of the Conservative’s Big Society idea begin to harden into shapes like the divisive Free Schools project, some of its problems are coming sharply in to focus. In this time of historic budget cuts, competition for government spending will be fiercer than ever. Against this background, giving groups of citizens the opportunity to bid for pots of government money for their own purposes could be a recipe for disaster. Without the right structures, the Big Society could degenerate into the divided society as groups mobilise to claim their share of what’s on offer. More

The European Union needs a sea change in fisheries policy

This is the story about a farmer who had a vast fertile piece of land where to grow multiple vegetables; the farmer sold the vegetables in the market and had a nice living. But one day the farmer burnt half of the land and started picking the vegetables from neighboring fields. Then he burnt a bit more and started picking and buying vegetables from fields which were further away. This was quite costly so he had to rely on taxpayers' money who happily helped him to continue in this absurd journey. 

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Painful cuts

David Cameron yesterday described the need to make drastic cuts as “critical” and “urgent”. He said that his predcessors in government had “thought the good times would go on forever”, and that not we must face up to the fact that “we have been living beyond our means”. Profligacy and waste “is the legacy our generation threatens to leave the next.” The current situation is “unsustainable”. More

What 40 per cent cuts mean for public services

It is hard to interpret the call for 40 per cent spending cuts in some departments, reported over the weekend.  On the face of it, cuts on that scale would transform the nation, and almost certainly for the worse.  It is hard to imagine the welfare state, as we currently understand it, surviving.

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Rethinking the throwaway economics of takeaway food

Food is never out of the news. At the moment Jamie Oliver is (rightly) indignant because Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has been slagging off Jamie’s  successful campaign to revitalise school food (presumably to justify the coalition government’s plan to restrict access to free school lunches). More

The Green Investment Bank is born

Big Sticks, Big Solutions and the Unmentionable Funding Proposal

Now don’t get me wrong – I am a big fan of the proposals launched this week by the Green Investment Bank commission. Let’s celebrate a report that explicitly recognises market failures, and applies some big brains to how to encourage investment in useful low-carbon infrastructure. Let’s hope that George Osborne, having set up the commission, acts quickly to create the GIB.

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77 months and counting…

"If you want to build a ship, don't call together some men just to gather wood, prepare tools and distribute tasks," proclaimed the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "Instead, teach them the longing for the endless sea."

The evidence of the recent budget, in which the environment was like a salad leaf abandoned to wilt in the June sun, suggests that the wrong approach has been taken to building a green economy.

It's a shame, because there is no shortage of tasks and tools to distribute, and a long list of patient, rational reasons why we should do so.

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A surplus of technology

This week, I was lucky enough to see American social media evangelist Clay Shirky talking about his latest book, The Cognitive Surplus. Shirky argued that the new creative and collaborative possibilities unlocked by the internet will allow us to unleash this surplus – the vast reserves of time, skills and enthusiasm that we currently fritter away in front of the television – to solve some of society’s biggest problems. But, while I liked much of what he had to say, it struck me that Shirky is being both too too ambitious and too cautious. More

Legal aid and the market for lemons

In the wake of George Osborne’s first budget speech, many are wondering how the coalition government’s plans to cut the deficit will affect the public sector.

The case of the legal aid and human rights charity Refugee and Migrant Justice provides some rather grim warnings. The organisation is currently under administration because of changes in the funding of legal aid, which attempt to ‘marketise’ legal aid provision.

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