LONDON — The Obama administration might be reasserting the government’s place in American life. But on this side of the Atlantic, the so-called Big Society vision of Britain’s new Conservative prime minister is of a nation with minimal state interference.
David Cameron’s 100-day-old ruling coalition is launching an effort to reduce the role of government, seeking to vest communities and individuals with fresh powers and peddling a new era of volunteerism to replace the state in running museums, parks and other public facilities. Supporters and opponents describe the campaign as the biggest assault on government here since the wave of privatizations by Conservative firebrand Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.
The idea, one with distant echoes of the “tea party” movement in the United States, is to pluck decision making out of the hands of bureaucrats. Groups of like-minded parents and teachers, for instance, are being invited to open their own taxpayer-funded schools. The groups — not government school boards — will be able to determine the curriculum at these “free schools,” using their own discretion to make some subjects compulsory while omitting others they find objectionable or unnecessary, such as lessons on multiculturalism.
BRITAIN’S OLDEST HOUSE UNCOVERED