They are a national treasure. This year's Lectures are being given by Niall Ferguson and the fifth and final one in the series " the rule of law and its enemies" today dealt with " civil and uncivil societies".
It is worth listening to- so get your iplayer out and tune in.
It is controversial, for while lauding the role of free association and of voluntary associations he argues the state has gone to far in provision and , in particular there is a role for more independent schools and for selection.
He does this becuase he argues,
" ...we need to recognise the limits of public monopolies in education, especially for societies that have long ago achieved mass literacy. The problem is that public monopoly providers of education suffer from the same problems that afflict monopoly providers of anything: quality declines because of lack of competition and the creeping power of vested producer interests."
An entirely valid point and one that reinforces ACEVO arguements on third sector service delivery.
He concludes with;
" I have proposed that our once vibrant civil society is in a state of decay, not so much because of technology, but because of the excessive pretensions of the state: a threat that Tocqueville presciently warned Europeans and Americans against.
We humans live in a complex matrix of institutions. There is government. There is the market. There is the law. And then there is civil society. Once – I’m tempted to date it from the time of the Scottish Enlightenment, this matrix worked astonishingly well, with each set of institutions complementing and reinforcing the rest. That, I believe, was the key to Western success in the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries. But the institutions in our times are out of joint.
It is our challenge in the years that lie ahead to restore them, returning to the first principles of a truly free society that I have tried to affirm ".
As I suggest , worth a listen!