Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why the left should support decentralism and regionalism.(part one.)

It is my firm belief that the left or alot of what is called the left can further its ideals through decentralism and regionalism and how these are in tune with alot of it ideals. I intend to try abnd show that the best I can here.

The left is quite a diverse bunch(as is the right.) but I think a few central ideals and beliefs can be pinned down which have animated them for the last few centuries To me these include the ideal of equality, the importance of social liberty or progressivism, the importance of democracy and particularly participatory democracy and the importance of social justice. To these can be added the newer ideal and ecology or enviromentalism and always we can talk of a certain universalism or internationalism that animates alot of the left. I'm quite confident alot of these can be furthered or at least no hurt by decentralism. And those that few aspects of some that might be hurt(particularly extreme universalism and progress for progresses sake.) are not really necessary or good for the left or humanity at large.

Equality is one of the defining virtues of the left. This value refers not only to the economic sphere but to many others and signifies a lack of respect for hierarchy and discrimination. Decentralising power will be a great boost for this for various reasons. Not least this is due to its decrease of hierarchy which will have a positive effect on equality. This lessening of hierarchical power will make individuals more equal by definition and lessen the chains. When organisations are smaller the difference between the lowest and the highest ranks become less, the lower ranks are more able to observe the higher ranks and to call them to account and to even further lower unnecesary hierarchy. When men are brought closer together and the veil of vast centralised, bureaucratic and hierarchical organisations is removed then it is alot harder for great differences of status and rank, particularly those not based on personal ability or talent, to be maintained.

Equality is also helped by the empowerment of minorities which is caused. When they are not commanded and bullied by massive, bureaucratic organisations they can better take care of their own business, they can deal with other groups in a more personal and human way rather than mediated through the impersonalising embrace of the bureacrats. And also they can take action to better themselves far easier than through the said bureacrats. This could be imagined as immigrants being on more personal terms with the indigenous population around them, not being so abstract and overpowering and better able to organise themselves and take action to better themselves rather than being at the mercy of faceless others to attempt this.

And obviously this decrease in hierarchical organisations and dispersal of power with its empowerment of the indvidual and small group will have a great impact on economic inequality and will help to bring about a more equal distribution of economic power and wealth.

Another important value of the left is social liberty and progressivism. This will be aided by making campaiging for it easier, you will have to go up against less formidable power structures and less people to fight for those liberties you value. It also lessens the authority of those who enforce restrictions on these liberties by lessening their power and scope of influence and by making them more accountable to the people and increasing the voice of campaigners due to their proportion in the society. The restraints are likely to be lighter therefore as they are based on more human and personal relationships and the great authoritarian powers of our modern states are less affordable to smaller ones which will also not wish to sow too much acrimony among the people who are so close to their government. And finally it makes escaping the clutches of repressive government easier, simply the distance of travel from a repressive Cornwall or North Cornwall to a freer North Devon or Wessex is far less than fleeing from a pressive UK or god-forbid United States of Europe. Thinkers like Leopold Kohr have pointed this out and also noted that this may well have effect of lessening tyranny due to the mass exodus from repressive regimes that might occur, not counting the likely overthrow of the said regime of course.

So certainly the course of social liberty is helped by the decrease in the power and size of a potentially repressive regime compared with that of the average individual. But it must be admitted that some small scale societies have had repressive qualities to a degree, this cannot be avoided completely in human history it seems. It must be remembered that fundamental political liberties like freedom of association and political speech are far more important than the freedom to take drugs or wear offensive t-shirts and that tradition does play a moderate role in holding together some societies and these fundamental political liberties. And the more "libertine" ones may in fact undermine these fundamental freedoms.

I don't defend repressive tradition just note this and criticise the idea of progress for progress sake at all costs, the costs can be great. As an ideology the left would most likely benefit from less of that particular ideal and concentrating on the core values and the human scale. This is also true with extreme universalism or extreme internationalism. Smaller states are harder to become pathologically patriotic towards, the feelings for them tend to be more real based on a deep knowledge of your small area and its people and less jingoistic and xenophobic, therefore as Leopold Kohr pointed out they tend to be far more cosmopolitan than larger states, particularly when surrounded by other smaller states. He liked to point out Germany before the unification or the city states of Italy or Greece.

That said decentralism will obviously not appeal to those leftists with extreme universalist views who crave for a world state or something similar. I however don't think this is a core leftist value for most leftists and in fact by centralising power it is against many. Centralising power tends to create hierarchies which destroys equality and harms social justice, it means more unaccountable power and raw power amasses at the centre which will threaten social liberties against this massive machine. It will also threaten local power because as Lamennais pointed out centralisation creates apoplexy at the centre and anemia at the extremities, depriving local area of authority over their own affairs under the giant bureaucracy. And of course it will destroy participation because few will able to participate in a project so large as can be seen in our modern states today , this will threaten democracy further even without the loss of the individual's voice and oversight when he is crushed under billions of others and remote from any centre of power.

This is why I'm convinced that such world governments and extreme internationalism is not good for anyone, including the left. We might all be human but we don't all need the same government.


Well that is the first part of why the left should support decentralism and regionalism, I hope some leftists listen and I will finish it soon.

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