The public kicks back

Currently I’m reading The Assault on Truth by Peter Oborne about the destruction Boris Johnson is wreaking on British democracy and public life by his disregard for truth and integrity.

He quotes this from the political philosopher David Marquand

“The private domain has always been with us; and Adam Smith was probably right in thinking that the ‘truck, barter and exchange’ of the market domain are natural to human beings. But there is nothing natural about the public domain. It is a gift of history, and of fairly recent history at that. It is literally a priceless gift. The goods of the public domain cannot be valued by market criteria, but they are no less precious for that. They include fair trials, welcoming public spaces, free public libraries, subsidised opera, mutual building societies, safe food, the broadcasts of the BBC World Service, the lobbying of Amnesty International, clean water, impartial public administration, disinterested scholarship, blood donors, magistrates, the minimum wage, the Pennine Way and the rulings of the Health and Safety Executive. Less obviously, they also include liberty – not in the familiar sense of freedom to pursue private interests, but in the classical republican sense of freedom from domination. In the public domain, market power is over-ridden; citizens bow the knee to nobody.” (The Decline of the Public, 2004)

Yesterday the news was dominated by the story of the collapse of a proposed European football superleague in the face of general outcry against it by the public and politicians alike, including Boris Johnson. It strikes me here was an example of citizens refusing to bow the knee to billionaires. That doesn’t mean I think Johnson has changed his ways. He knows a moment of opportunity to garner voter support when he needs it, especially a couple of weeks ahead of local elections.

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