Balancing Equality Against Local Autonomy

The difficulty of balancing equality against local autonomy complicates the allocation of power between different layers of governance.

Despite the attractiveness of local or regional control, it isn’t possible for each part of a country to have political autonomy and also to have economic equality of services and entitlements between regions (3.4.5).  Regional politicians could only be held accountable if they were responsible for the level of taxation and the corresponding level of public services in their area, but poorer parts of the country would then have inferior public services.

Redistribution of tax revenues from wealthy areas to poorer ones can reduce inequality, despite the imperfections in the allocation formulae and the cost of administration.  “A quarter of state and local government revenues come from federal funding”, for example, as reported by USAfacts.org.  “These grants made up a quarter of states’ total revenues, funding various essential programs like healthcare, education, social services, infrastructure, and public safety”.  These are public benefits which people feel should be available to all American citizens.

Balancing equality against local autonomy in a multinational scenario is even more complicated.  As described earlier (, many people are unaware of the benefits of pooled sovereignty in  the EU.  Britain was never ‘run by Brussels’, as some politicians alleged (  It had agreed to take some decisions in concert with other countries, on issues such as trade and security where they have mutual interests.  It is, though, possible to present subsidiarity issues clearly – though politicians rarely try to do so.

The allocation of power in Israel-Palestine is a very complex question, which is greatly affected by the history of how Israel came into being, so it is described separately (  It offers a method of analysis of such problems.



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/edition04/6671.htm.