Not a lone star state - Texas Volunteers

9 Mar 2011 by Karl Hallam

Quite a startling article in the Society Guardian today about the volunteers of Plano, Texas, USA. Expect an invasion of Coalition advisors looking for Big Society ideas soon!

It starts with the story of a 75 year old who has 'clocked up 1,400 hours of service' and  in total she has 'devoted over 4,500 hours to the role'. She does things like puts tickets on cars who abuse disabled spaces, but there are a whole host of other tasks that volunteers do. This includes people who do their old job for free once they have retired! Now there is an idea for the government.

But, and oh yes there is alway a but isn't there. The article flags up a couple of fundamental difference between us and the USA. Firstly there is an up front pride in where people live:

'You sense that a very American culture of respect for authority and law enforcement plays a role here, as well as an arguably better developed civic spirit than on this side of the Atlantic. "We take pride in being Plano-ites," says Bill Neisel, as he takes a break from showing fourth-graders round a restored early 20th century railway carriage at the Interurban Railway Museum. "Our roots are sunk down deep. We just want to make it the best city that we can."'

Secondly there is an understanding that there are consequences of 'low' taxation and that museums etc should not be dependent on the public purse:

'And of course there's a lower expectation of what the state should provide in the first place. "I pay enough taxes," says Neisel's colleague Harold Larson. "I don't want to pay for someone to come here and do what I can do for free." The museum is a case in point: it was set up to be run by volunteers, and would be forced to close without their work.'

Have we in the UK reached some sort of unhappy medium where people think we should be able to afford everything out of taxation, because it is so 'high'? It would be interesting to see how the Daily Mail would cover the Plano, Texas volunteer story?




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