2 All Politics is local. Favourite saying of former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Thomas O’Neill Jr.
3 Key issues What are the respective benefits of centralization and decentralization? How do federal and unitary systems differ, and how successfully does each type of system reconcile territorial and other differences?
4 Centralisation or decentralisation? all modern states vary enormously. Constitutional framework within which centre- periphery relationships are conducted Distribution of functions and responsibilities between the levels of government The means by which their staff are appointed and recruited The political, economic, administrative and other powers that the centre can use to control the periphery, and the independence that peripheral bodies enjoy
5 The case for centralisation includes the following: -National unity -Uniformity -Equality -Prosperity
6 The case for decentralisation includes the following: - Participation -Responsiveness -Legitimacy -Liberty
7 Centre-periphery relationships The balance between centralisation and decentralisation within a state is shaped by a wide range of historical, cultural, geographical, economic and political factors. The most prominent of these is the constitutional structure of the state, particularly the location of sovereignty in the political system.
8 The most two common forms of territorial organisation found in the modern world are the federal and unitary systems. A third form, confederation, has generally proved to be unsustainable. confederations Federal systemsUnitary systems
9 Confederations establish only the loosest and most decentralised type of political union by vesting sovereign power in peripheral bodies. It is most commonly applied in the form of intergovernmentalism as embodied in international organisations such as NATO, UN, OAU and the Commonwealth of Nations.
10 Federal systems Over a third of the world’s population is governed by states that have some kind of federal structure. E.g., the USA, Australia, Mexico, Switzerland, Canada, etc. No two federal structures are identical, the central feature of each is a sharing of sovereignty between central and peripheral institutions. This ensures, at least in theory, that neither level of government can encroach on the powers of the other.
11 Federal States Central/federal government Provincial/state government Checks and Balances Sovereignty (separate spheres of constitutional autonomy
12 Features of Federalism Each federal system is unique in the sense that the relationship between federal (national) government and state (regional) government is determined not just by constitutional rules, but also by a complex of political, historical, geographical, cultural and social circumstances.
13 There is a further contrast between federal regimes that operate a ‘separation of powers’ between the executive and legislative branches of government (typified by the US presidential system), and parliamentary systems in which executive and legislative power is ‘fused’.
14 Certain features are common to most federal systems: Two relatively autonomous levels of government (policy-maker vs. policy implementation) Written constitution (codified; amendment requires high level of support from both houses and state legislatures) Constitutional arbiter (supreme court arbitrates in the case of disputes between federal and state levels of government) Linking institutions (to foster cooperation and understanding, the regions and provinces must be given a voice in the processes of central policy-making)
15 Unitary systems The vast majority of contemporary states have unitary systems of government. These vest sovereign power in a single, national institution. In the UK, this institution is Parliament, which possesses, unrivalled and unchallengeable legislative authority. Parliament can make or unmake any law it wishes, its powers are not checked by a codified or written constitution; there are no rival UK legislatures that can challenge its authority; and its laws outrank all other forms of English and Scottish law.
16 Central government Local government Devolved/ Regional bodies Sovereignty (constitutional supremacy) Unitary States
17 Since constitutional supremacy is vested with the centre in a unitary system, any system of peripheral or local government exists at the pleasure of the centre. Local institutions can be reshaped, reorganised and even abolished at will; their powers and responsibilities can be contracted as easily as they can be expanded. Devolution establishes the greatest possible measure of decentralisation in a unitary system of government, that is, of its transformation into a federal system.
18 Devolution It is the transfer of power from central government to subordinate regional institutions. Devolved bodies thus constitute an intermediate level of government between central and local government between central and local governments. It has no shared sovereignty. Devolution, establishes the greatest possible measure of decentralisation in a unitary system of government, i.e., of its transformation into a federal system. E.g., Scottish Parliament (tax-varying powers) and Welsh Assembly (administrative devolution).
19 A Politics of Community? Social fragmentation and breakdown has largely been a result of individuals’ obsession with rights and their refusal to acknowledge reciprocal duties and moral responsibilities. This is demonstrated by the so-called ‘parenting deficit’: that is, the abandonment of the burdens of parenthood by fathers and mothers who are more concerned about their own lifestyles and careers.
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