The decentralization of government was a key tenant of the American Republic (1789-1860). The idea behind this was simple: If the locus of government was nearby, it would be much easier for citizens to remain engaged in the political system and thus ensure government continued to act on the behalf of the citizens that empowered it. Most importantly, although left unidentified, citizens retained a sense of control over their lives.
This was more than an ideal at the time: In the late 18th century, transportation technology mandated it. Yet, despite our transportation technology in the 21st century, the locus of government should be in our communities. Decentralization of government (not downsizing) remains relevant to our sense of significance, as we retain some local measure of our communities.
There are two implicit understandings behind decentralized government:
- America’s founders took citizen engagement for granted. Engagement is easier at the local level, as it’s in our own backyard, so to speak. In addition, the structure of government is smaller and thus easier to identify where to engage.
- Local government is no better than national government if citizens are not engaged. Without local and constant engagement, corruption has free license to run rampant. Nothing changes save for the view from the lobbyist’s window.
And yes, there are local lobbyists. Two of the most powerful local lobbying interests are the local commercial and/or residential developers.
And as with all corruption – local, state, national and international – to uncover it, simply follow the money. Continue reading