Misconceptions of Decentralization

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It seems that the last thing on the minds of most modern politicians and activists is a preference for decentralization. Since the American Civil War, any advocacy for decentralization in the U.S. has been limited to small conservative and right-libertarian groups, and is still unfortunately associated with slavery.

The largest and most popular act of decentralization at the moment, Brexit, is still ongoing after three and a half years since the referendum that barely passed.

Why is decentralization so unpopular? Among those in charge, there is an obvious conflict of interest. Decentralization means the weakening of central authority and the loss of power.

And yet, for the rest of us, decentralization solves so many of our problems. One does not need to be a libertarian to see the benefit of a series of smaller states over a single larger state. Smaller states are much easier to influence and limit, and each person can better focus on their community and locality instead of worrying about the actions of people hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

Outside of war, the average person does not typically need to be concerned with the actions and opinions of a citizen of another nation. But in larger, centralized states, there is a much larger number of people that can influence legislation that affects you personally.

If most federal legislation in the United States were to be decentralized to the state level, the people of Wyoming no longer have to be too concerned about the voting patterns of people in New York.

On certain issues that require mandatory participation (like socialized healthcare), decentralized governments are a negative only for those that crave power. If one is confident in socialized healthcare, it is much easier to implement in a left-learning region rather than a large state with a variety of political opponents.

And yet, political activists tend to be rather insistent that their plans be implemented on the largest possible scale. But this only causes problems, when a small-scale approach would be much easier to implement and would be more practicable.

On social issues, the case for decentralization becomes more blurry depending on one’s ideology. To those that are more universalist, whether they be statist or libertarian, the goal is to expand one’s own beliefs across the entire world, which can be done most effectively through a larger state.

There exists many different cultures and societies in the world, and to attempt to merge them together under one state can only cause conflict as each attempt to influence all the others through state power.

But instead of arguing over what legislation should be universal, would it not be better for everyone to accept that they can have their preferred rules and customs within a small region, rather than going all-in through the political arena?

It seems that in the modern day, people are growing to resent one another solely for their personal political opinions. There are plenty of people that will base their entire view of you on your opinion of President Trump. As crazy as this is, it’s not entirely irrational when underneath a large interventionist government.

What is needed now more than ever is a rejection of centralization. As more and more people are brought under a single political entity, greater conflict is inevitable. If a nation were to decentralize, this is a positive for all except those in power.

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Nathan A. Kreider is the host of The Conversation, a podcast about ideas and how to spread them. He also publishes a blog and video content, including short book reviews, which can be found on his website nkreider.com. He can be contacted by email via [email protected]