Political decentralization, a process that involves moving power from national authority to local government, is a practice meant to increase government efficiency and responsiveness. It is based on the idea that local representatives are better able to understand and respond to local needs. Decentralizing is a difficult process that is not supported by all political groups, but there are many potential benefits to a decentralized political system.
One of the greatest benefits to a decentralized political system is its ability to address local issues. Because a national government is obligated to respond to a variety of groups, it is inevitable that the interests of some groups are compromised or are not addressed at all. A regional government composed of local residents is in a position to understand the unique problems of an area and to appropriately legislate and fund the resolutions to those issues. Unlike national governments, regional governments are also able to represent the cultural values of local residents.
Local governments represent smaller populations than centralized governments and need to respond to fewer issues. As a result, they are able to remain smaller and more affordable and to expedite their bureaucratic processes. Regional governments are able to implement new laws faster and to respond more quickly and precisely to an area's problems than national governments can. Their small size and efficiency also mean that local governments are in a better position to adapt quickly to new situations.
In a centralized system, it is difficult for small groups of citizens with local concerns to express themselves and to have their needs addressed. Part of the purpose of a decentralized government is to allow these groups the opportunity for political input. In addition, access to political power in a centralized system is difficult and tends to be reserved for those with wealth and experience. A decentralized system allows those who are not adequately represented in a national system the opportunity to gain experience and to become active in local government.
Checks and Balances
Large centralized governments are a concentrated source of political power, and as a result, can experience serious problems when individuals become corrupted or fail to do their jobs. A decentralized political system that is composed of many local governments provides a distribution of power that can prevent widespread corruption or unresponsiveness. In addition, local governments that become corrupted or that fail to respond to local residents are easier than national governments to hold accountable due to their small size.
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images