Friday, August 22, 2014

Centralization versus Decentralization

The opposite of a centralized government, a decentralized government is a government whose power is spread out and is not restricted to a central place. Decentralization is synonymous with devolution, transference, delegation, and transfer. Decentralization is prominent in curtailing the powers of government and enhancing the powers of individual representatives. A decentralized government is closer to the people than a centralized government that is far from people’s reach. A decentralized government can be held accountable for its misdeeds; its successes and failures can be documented and if possible challenged by the citizens it serves. One very important aspect of a decentralized government is that it gives the ordinary citizen the right to vote on the right kind of public service that is open for consumption by the public. In a centralized government such freedom is not available to the citizen.

Decentralization of power allows the locals to question when something is wrong with the government. Lower levels of government become easily manageable with decentralization. Decentralization gives the local government the power and will to provide public goods and services that serve the common good. With a federal system, there are checks and balances, and chain of command. Because citizens have no access to the upper levels of government, through decentralized power, arrangements can be made for the lower government to have consultations with the upper echelons of the state. In a decentralized government, the lower level of government is allowed to make arrangements for training new officials. Voting is a vital and significant tool in a federal system.

Problems emanating from maladministration by a decentralized government can be averted when states object to the use of wrong policy implementations. When one state fails to implement a policy, other states may opt not to use that same policy for fear of also failing. Decentralization and federalism go hand in hand in rigid democracies. A strong and vibrant local government is possible when there is a real democracy. In federalism and decentralism, power sharing is vertical with multi-layered governments enjoying autonomous rule that is free from the central government in some aspects.

According to Hyman (2011), politicians seeking office are usually driven by the urge for power, personal financial returns after vacating office, the desire to serve the public, and prestige coming as a result of holding a high office. The redistribution of income becomes the prerogative of the various sectors that make up the decentralized government. The federal, state, and local governments each have their roles to play in a decentralized system. When the federal government oversees the national security, the role of the state is to provide good roads and reliable bridges, while the local government provides fire and police protection. Leaving the provision of goods and services to the federal government would make life unbearable for the ordinary citizen as many goods and services would be distributed inequitably and inefficiently.


Hyman, DN. (2011). Public finance: A contemporary application of theory to policy (10th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western, Cengage Learning.

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