Tuesday, September 23, 2008

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

Apart from equality and social libery there is perhaps no overiding ideal to the left since the French revolution than democracy. Usually linked to this idea is one of democracy that be as widespread and participatory as possible, so as individuals can govern themselves, maintain their own liberty and secure relative equality.

In servicing this value decentralism is particularly suited. The decentralism of institutions and organisations means that individuals and small groups and associations are more powerful in proportion to the government, being one in 10,000-10 million rather than one in 20 million to 1 billion. This means their voice is stronger, it also means they can have better oversight of the government and be better placed to keep it accountable to the people being governed.

What it also means is it is easier for institutions to grow up which allow greater participation in public affairs by more of the people simply due to the decrease in size and complexity of the state. More directly democratic institutions can grow up and local power would be able to be greater over local issues really connecting to people at grass-roots level and empowering communities to govern themselves. Decentralism and democracy, particularly more direct and participatory kinds, but still able to have safeguards for minorities, go together extremely well.

Social justice is obviously one of the cornerstones of leftwing thinking and has been for a very long time. To many this means more equatible conditions for groups in society and more just rewards for labour in particular as against the giant power and wealth of capital in our current society. Obviously this has been touched on already in part two but I should say that; if decentralism was economic as well political, which is really has to be to some degree, then the power of large organisations and their owners would decline. They would become less hierarchical, with more worker participation and oversight and economic power would be somewhat dispersed. This would also decrease inequalities of wealth because, despite apologetics otherwise, it is clear alot of executive and capitalist pay has more to do with economic power and being in charge of giant, hierarchical and unaccountable organisations than with merit.

In recent years the left has become more and more interested, and concerned, with enviromental and ecological issues. Decentralism and regionalism is very well placed to create solutions to many of these concerns. More regional sufficiency would mean a greater reliance on labour intensive and alternative technologies, which tend to less wasteful and polluting. It also means greater pains would have to be taken not to waste resources and to take care of the regional enviroment which is the lifeblood of the society. The decentralisation and democratisation of political and economic organisations would allow greater popular control over population and waste and would also a greater popular pull towards to sustainable development and growth, particularly with regional self-sufficiency in mind.

In this what must be remembered is that sustainable growth is often alot better than progress for progress sake, because it is better attuned to both the needs of both the enviroment and the population that must live on it. This is related to the sillyness of a common myth that bigger is always better. This is generally not necessarily true, in fact bigger, beyond a certain quite small natural limit, often means less controlable, less democratic, less liberal, less sustainable and less accountable with often only illusionary benefits.

So it can be seen that decentralism offers quite alot to the left and in fact, if some of the less helpful periphery ideas like extreme universalism, progress for progress sakes and bigger is always better are jettisoned then it can be a great help to many of ideals and virtues so important to much of the left. Democracy, equality, social liberty, social justice, participation and enviromentalism can all be aided by it as in many ways they harmed by centralism.

Leftists who are interested should check out some of the blogs I have linked, particularly Kevin Carson's Mutualist blog. They should also check out the works of authors like Peter Kropotkin, Proudhon. E.F Schumacher, Leopold Kohr, Kirkpatrick Sale, Murray Bookchin, Robert Nisbet, Lewis Mumford, Patrick Geddes, Edmund Burke, John Papworth, Murray Rothbard, G. D. H Coles, Henry George, Tolstoy, Ralph Borsodi, R.H Tawney, Hayek, Albert.J.Nock, John Seymour and Kevin Carson amongst many others.

I hope this has interested and even, dare I say it, persuaded some left of centre individuals.


Neko said...

Am I first? Okay. Cool article, it's always good to have more people using the blog format to talk *about* stuff, rather than just "me n joey n taleesha went to da mall 2day it was lulz etc."

Decentralist said...

Wooh my first comment.

Yeah I thought I'd have a more serious blog although it is going to be all about decentralism and the human scale and include things like homebrewing, fishing, horticulture hopefully.

The problem is that with this kind of blog I can't just get people reading by telling my friends and family, and it is very hard to let people know about your blog otherwise.