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Informal Public Life And The Urban Agenda

A tremendous advantage enjoyed by societies with a well developed informal public life is that, within them, poverty carries fewer burdens over that of having to live a Spartan existence.

There is less stigma and less deprivation of experience suggests Oldenburg.  There is an engaging and sustaining public life to supplement and complement home and work routines.  For those on tight budgets who live in some degree of autsterity, it compensates for the lack of things owned privately.  For the affluent, it offers much that money cannot buy. Read more

The Importance of Spaces To Meet People

Community life amongst tract housing is a disappointing experience.  The space within these housing developments have been barely equipped with little else but a stage for isolated family living.

The processes by which potential friends might find one another and by which friendships beyond the family domain might be nurtured outside it are severely hampered by the limited features and facilities of the modern suburb. Read more

Rest In Pieces: The Competition Commission

John Robertson, member of the Cross Party Energy and Climate Change committee went on public record saying: “The biggest opacity is the profit making itself, if you look at the bill you get through the door, the understanding you have of it. There is a need for the companies to explain how they make their profit and where; also make it easy for the consumer to understand their bill. We can see what is happening on the retail side, but not on the generation side of the equation.

The companies are jealously guarding their information. It is strange that you have six large companies, who all charge roughly the same, have roughly the same increases in price, and yet they are all meant to be in competition with each other”

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Natural Monopoly, Essential Goods and Regulation

If the public have a problem with the energy companies, they are first directed to Ombudsman Services, which suggests itself to provide ‘independent dispute resolution for the communications, energy, property and copyright licensing sectors’.

Ombudsman Services is funded by the companies it handles complaints about, which raises questions about conflicts of interest and influence.  According to WhatDoTheyKnow.Com, a website which covers Freedom of Information requests to 15440 authorities,  Ombudsman Services is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Read more

The Energy Companies Wear No Clothes

I have written these citizenship journalism articles as I have become increasingly interested in the hard details of what is driving fuel poverty as I and others encounter it. My experience with energy suppliers have been negative as a consumer which brings me to expect that the ‘customer’ is always wrong at every turn.

Energy companies yearly report increasing profits as my bills go up and up, and the service gets poorer and poorer. Similarly, the companies seem to be avoiding sufficient investment in sustainable infrastructure or technologies that will enable a society which does not squander intergenerational equity – i.e. the natural resources which belong to future generations.

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The Great Good Place: A Digest

Those happy gathering places that a community may contain, those ‘homes away from home’ where unrelated people relate are those places which Prof Ray Oldenburg calls ‘Great Good Places’ and examines in his work.

What are the importance of these spaces in our landscape ?  How are they vital for our society and social functioning ?  Why are they so apparently pivotal in our lives and should we be worried about their increasing rarity ? Read more

Education, Training and Applied Economics: A Digest

The relationship between education and economics is an area of wide scope and considerable complexity which merits an in-depth analysis, however this is a brief look at key points of interest.

Here we only consider those aspects of education and training particularly relevant to the debate on market versus non-market means of resource allocation. Benefits of education and training Additional education or training can clearly be regarded, in part, as yielding consumption benefits e.g. positive utility or pleasure to those directly involved in the process of gaining knowledge or acquiring skills. Read more

A Vigorous Renaissance of Social Value by David Seagrave

Paul Kingsnorth, who emulated William Cobbett on journeys around Britain has described the erosion of social value. By that he means the quality of life derived from people developing all their abilities and bringing to bear an active orientation to life. In that idea of social value he loudly echoes the findings of Erich Fromm in his influential book TO HAVE OR TO BE.

Kingsnorth visited the towns of Middle England and found how they are now almost clones of one another but for a few historic buildings. A recent visit to Arbroath underscored this idea Beyond the harbour,the high street is just like any other in Britain with its  shops encouraging people to live beyond their means. Read more

Great Educator: Ivan Illich and Deinstitutionalising Society

After being introduced to Ivan Illich as an educational thinker by two retired friends who were teachers, it raised so many questions in life that I have decided to create a series of digests on his famous book Deschooling Society.  He is a thinker who demands being read, so if you have not encountered his thought I recommend you make a point to read his work firsthand and then prompt you to go and explore it yourself.  This is the very spirit of Ivan Illich.

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