126.96.36.199 The Internal Dominance of National Politicians
The internal dominance of national politicians is to some extent inevitable; this is regrettable and it would be better if it were reduced.
National politicians have internal roles in all five dimensions of power (6.1.3). They are more powerful than those in local government for several reasons:
● They have more scope to influence public opinion than lower levels of subsidiarity because national media, particularly newspapers and television, focus more on national than local issues.
● Within the hierarchical organisation of political parties, national politicians outrank those at lower levels of subsidiarity. They have been able to seize powers that could have remained local.
● Benefits are the largest portion of most national budgets (188.8.131.52), and most countries prefer to pay benefits at similar levels throughout the country as a matter of principle.
● Foreign policy and defence must be controlled on a national basis.
● It is more efficient to collect most types of tax revenue centrally.
● Political control over law and order must be hierarchically controlled (5.3.2), to ensure that all parts of the country are effectively covered and that a coherent service can be delivered.
● There are reasons for centralising some quality monitoring, for example on education.
This internal dominance of national politicians reduces the benefits that were described earlier from the devolution of power (6.6.2). They gather more power to themselves because they are able to do so, rather than because it benefits the population. They are taking a risk though: by seeming remote, they increase the arguments for separatism. In what is perhaps an extreme example, the remoteness of Westminster has fuelled demands for Scottish nationalism: “the Westminster Parliament has repeatedly legislated on devolved matters – and to limit the powers of the Scotland’s Parliament – without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, which voted against consent on seven occasions between 2016 and February 2022” (p.15).
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/edition04/6641.htm.