18 April 2006

Local and/or general

It's stupid to talk about local community activism at a time when local power centres are atrophying. The local shop, the local bank, the local pub, many local facilities are dying of neglect, so when big corporate/government takes it away people are too busy to notice. Local government is a joke that will dither over your backyard shed but will happily allow a massive shopping centre to use your one-lane street as an access road.

It is not surprising that this spurious and unsupportable kind of localism was favoured as The Way Forward by beef-witted Mark Latham. Only someone desperately out of touch with both his local community and with the workings of big centralised government could claim this as an agenda. That's not to say that there are no means for government to support, say, a family looking after a disabled child as opposed to their being institutionalised; it's just a mistake to assume that a public-policy buzzword comes ready with its own policy agenda, tracking systems and efficiency measurements. It's hard for pollies to claim that they helped people help themselves; such people tend to get sucked in by a demagogues and it takes a generation to pull the decentralisers out of the rubble that the demagogue leaves behind.

We live in an era of government bloat, with unnecessary government jobs at every level and claiming credit for work not done. I thought a John Howard-led Liberal government wouldn't have a bar of that, but I was wrong. It'll take time, it'll take a number of people with a clue between them, it'll take hard work to turn this around.

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