The Big Society revisited

Book review: More Human, by Steve Hilton Steve Hilton's "More Human", about how the world has become dehumanised, is on the right lines, says Dominic Frisby. But it doesn't go far enough.

751-book

Published by WH Allen (£18.99)

Buy on Amazon

Steve Hilton is best known as David Cameron's former head of strategy, the man behind the "Big Society" idea. Hilton left his job, frustrated by the bureaucratic machine, to be a visiting scholar at California's Stanford University. In More Human: Designing a World Where People Come First he puts his Big Society ideas on paper. His central thesis is that the world has become "dehumanised". Government, business, healthcare, education it's all too big, too distant, too centralised, too "inhuman".

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He's absolutely right, of course. He's not the only one who's frustrated. And he has the perfect platform for his ideas. Oxford-educated Hilton is intelligent, well thought of and extremely well connected, flitting as he does between UK politics and Silicon Valley, where his former Google executive wife is a big cheese at taxi firm Uber. So this book was always going to get a lot of publicity and it has.

That's a real opportunity. These are important subjects. Influential people will listen. He could effect real change a shift in the political discussion, perhaps even policy. And he seems to understand that he was one of those driving hard for a rise in the minimum wage last week, and he got it. Hilton's ideas are also close to my own "bleeding heart libertarianism" these are ideas I desperately want to see propagated. So I want to be able to say, "everyone must buy this book".

But unfortunately, the book doesn't grip you enough. Stories are what make you read on and his, for me, are too short and not sufficiently woven into his narrative. I fear it's one of those books that people will buy, but not always finish. More damningly, he doesn't tell us anything we don't already know. Government is too big, healthcare and education aren't working properly, there is something "not right" about factory farming, the gap between the haves and have-nots is terrible in its bloated proportion hardly new concerns.

If he told us how to fix them, that would be different. But his answer is always a vague "we should be more like this or that". This failure to be specific about cure, the endless "we shoulds" and his final call-to-arms that everyone who agrees must "run for office" make it all come across as slightly studenty idealism. Most important of all, there is a glaring omission our system of money.

Money and tax are the elephants in the room with all this 'change the world' stuff the patient zero. Fix them and everything else can follow. But Hilton doesn't even mention them. Much as it disappoints me to say it, he's missed a trick.

More Human, by Steve Hilton. Published by WH Allen, £18.99.

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Dominic Frisby

Dominic Frisby (“mercurially witty” – the Spectator) is, we think, the world’s only financial writer and comedian. He is the author of the popular newsletter the Flying Frisby and is MoneyWeek’s main commentator on gold, commodities, currencies and cryptocurrencies. 

His books are Daylight Robbery - How Tax Changed our Past and Will Shape our Future; Bitcoin: the Future of Money? and Life After the State - Why We Don't Need Government. 

Dominic was educated at St Paul's School, Manchester University and the Webber-Douglas Academy Of Dramatic Art. You can follow him on X @dominicfrisby