2.8.4 Arguments for and against Centralisation

The arguments for and against centralisation can be both political and economic, often reflecting people’s personal viewpoints

Implementing governance at a higher level, across a broader area, may yield collective benefits: e.g.  better co-ordination, coherence, economies of scale or consistency of treatment.  The disadvantages of moving the power too far from the individual, though, are loss of responsiveness to people’s needs and a dilution of accountability.  As reviewed later (6.6.7), though, there are practical problems in implementing political subsidiarity.

Countries vary in how much power accrues to the different levels of governance.  People’s opinions vary, as discussed earlier (2.2), and each society must consider what balance is appropriate for its circumstances.  The American Constitution, for example, was set up so that the individual States retained more power, compared to the Federal government, than the regions of Britain (despite recent measures for devolution).

In this book it is suggested that the arguments for and against centralisation should be periodically re-addressed.  Many changes in subsidiarity are needed, to move power both upwards and downwards from the national level – to reflect a greater need for international cooperation on some issues and a need for more local power over other issues so that governance can be more responsive.  Some of these changes are already taking place as, for example, the EU becomes larger while Britain, Belgium and Spain have all been moving towards a more devolved model in recent years.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/284b.htm.