David Cameron looks set for an uphill challenge in making his vision of a "big society" a reality as new poll findings suggest people in Britain are more willing to give their money than their time to good causes.There is an odd reversal at work here. It used to be the left that had an optimistic, evenstarry eyed, view of the possibilities of social change.
A Harris poll for the Financial Times shows that the British public are more ready than most to make financial donations, but less happy about being asked to volunteer to deliver public services.
The findings raise doubts about the prime minister's aims of boosting "mutual responsibility" by supporting a new culture of volunteering and encouraging people to take an active role in their communities.
Equally, it used to be the right that, as its waistcoat stretched over its stomach after dinner, said: "You can't change human nature." (Often it prefaced this remark with: "I used to be an idealist myself when I was young, but....")
These days the left is more concerned with defending existing public-sector spending and career paths than it is with bringing about social change. (It is, of course, just these public-sector employees who buy the Guardian and have their jobs advertised in its pages.)
There are those on the right who want cuts in public spending purely so they can cut taxes for themselves and their neighbours. However, given that all parties fought the last election affirming they would have to make radical spending cuts, these types take some disentangling from the political mainstream at the moment.
More interesting are those on the right who have grasped that government spending can entrench problems as well as solve them. Their "big society" remains a poorly defined concept, but it takes in ideas of localism and community control that, as a Liberal, I find very appealing.
It is because of big society ideas that I find myself surprisingly relaxed at out going into coalition with the Conservatives. What we need to do now is to ensure that they are put into practice.