I have been engaging with Lenore Ealy since the Giving Conference in Chicago. She turned me on to Richard Cornuelle’s work which seems prescient in many ways. This paper, De-Nationalizing Community (.pdf) is a short but very interesting read. It weaves together anarchist and libertarian perspectives arguing that the idea of community has been appropriated by government. The paper generated a really interesting spark of mutual interest between Lenore and I. We come from very different political poles and through our conversations I have been losing my grip on political spectrums, compasses and other typologies, which can only be a good thing.
So in the context of this slippage I have been thinking a lot about the role that government plays in our lives. I wouldn’t say I’m a libertarian and I think there is a need for government to provide services to citizens. But the anarchist in me wants to attach a warning to those services, like the warnings on cigarette packages: use at your own risk.
I don’t trust corporations to provide services either, and I’m not advocating privatisation of community resources. That’s what appeals to me about Cornuelle’s paper. It’s not a perfect solution but it is thought provoking.
I already unschool my kids, and I’ve pretty well unjobbed myself. I was thinking of finding a new doctor (my former GPO has gone into a community based ob-gyn practice…yay to her!) but recent interactions with the medical system has convinced me to actually avoid getting an MD and, unless there are dire emergency circumstances, not going anywhere near a hospital. I have a good homeopath, and I’m active and eat reasonably well. If I can at all avoid it, I’d rather spare myself exposure to iatrogenesis.
In general I think that government services are the worst possible option for people who are really in need. I don’t know why this is, as most of the people who work in government are generally there because at some level they care in a way that drives them to join the public service. But as a whole, it’s as if some dark-side of emergence takes over when government goes to offer a service. Whether it is welfare, education, child protection, health care or infrastructure, we tend to receive services which are offered on a shoestring budget by overworked people with little time for personal contact. If you need those services, it’s great that they are there, but god forbid you should ever need them.
In general efforts at reforming public services are very long and drawn out affairs which have very little impact for the amount of energy they consume. In many cases it is easier to actually do it yourself, be that homeschooling children, constructing community housing or starting community-based child welfare agencies.
Still, I feel like government needs to provide services to those in the direst need. And I feel especially that corporations and profit making ventures have very little place in public services. The question is how can we best use collective resources (such as tax dollars) to support the best possible sets of services and community initiative to ensure that no one falls through the cracks without creating a situation where people come to depend on government to the point where individual and collective volition evaporates.
[tags]libertarianism, anarchism, richard cornuelle[/tags]