November 13, 2004
He's got capital and he's not afraid to use it
Robert Putnam, that is, Harvard's social capital guru. Will Davies was in Boston for the great party/wake that was November 2nd and met Putnam the following day. His interview is in the New Statesman. Two points struck me most. The first is about the much discussed role of religion in the US
But, and here's the rub for the Democrats, he says "voluntary activity, philanthropy, membership of organisations - half of these activities occur in a religious context". And that "is something that Europeans often fail to understand".
And then on the way New Labour works:
"New Labour," says Putnam, "has adopted a very attractive basis for government, which is to be bold in trying policy experiments and then equally rigorous in evaluating those experiments." He compares new Labour to a venture capitalist who is prepared for several projects to fail in order to identify the one that succeeds. "I admire a government that takes that stance."
This point is not a million miles from one made by Demos' Paul Skidmore who defends the Tories' approach to policy making on tax (viz outlining a range of possible directions), one that has been criticised as vague and uncommitted:
Leaving the policy aside, the approach they took - identifying the problem, making clear their overall direction of travel, outlining a range of possible routes and hinting at the trade-offs attached to each, but leaving the final decision open to debate and discussion - seems like quite a sensible way to make policy.
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