Principle Eight: Localism–Centralization
As noted with Principle Three: Reciprocity of our series on the Twelve Master Principles, many major principles are counterbalanced by an opposite principle. The intertwined examination of the equal-opposite relationship between localism and centralization is one such reality. Human relations tend towards intense, close relationships and, conversely, the constant pull of merging these relationships with others to unify their strengths or efficiencies. Localism is about keeping power guarded and operating with smaller groups of people directly involved in smaller-level decision-making, whereas centralization is about the gathering of larger and larger amounts of people and fewer and fewer others exercising control over them. Socially speaking, centralization means more control by fewer leaders; localism means involving more people in more decisions. In either case, the clash between the powers of localism and centralization is one of epic proportions in today’s “flat world.” Seriously and accurately understanding the destabilization of current social-economic times requires a clear understanding of these opposing powers.
At the core of this discussion, we must deal with the quest for more (or more effective) power. Power is like money; if you follow it very far, you will find the motivation behind the organization. Seemingly, there is never enough money or enough power, unless of course, Jesus gets involved. For Him, as we know from studying Principle Four: Service-Based Power, true power is ultimately the ability to empower others. Service makes power safe.
It is difficult to predict which of these two rival powers, localism or centralization, will win out in the chaos currently unfolding in the nations. There are forces at work on both sides of the political left and the political right. On the right, we have significant fears of the left’s propensity to direct more and more power into all forms of civil government’s cumulative bureaucratic power. Meanwhile, the left fears the rise of right-wing populist power, as demonstrated in the US presidential elections. Centralization is apparent on both sides in the mega-monopoly of social media organizations. These media company giants currently hold more power over more people than any social organization in human history. The accumulation of power in fewer and fewer hands, especially when it is bureaucratic and not subject to the people’s direct voting access, continues to alarm anyone aware of the tensions we are discussing here. All dictatorships have one thing in common: small numbers of leaders overseeing large numbers of those enforcing the leaders’ will while the masses of citizens have no direct access to power or meaningful suffrage. My deep concern in the growing attitude of the elite rulers of society is their contempt for the “ignorant fools” who oppose them and must be prevented from gaining power whatever the cost.
Proponents of centralization may recognize that consolidation of services is sometimes merited for the sake of efficiency. However, as one who carefully follows social trends, I am deeply concerned about the tendency for consolidated power to destroy the decision-making skills of the masses. It robs them of choice, the maturation which only comes from decision-making and results-based feedback, and ultimately their creative initiative confidence. From an economic perspective, centralization spells death to the widespread growth of small businesses and guarantees the constriction of an essential middle class. This economic reality is a deep well with many other dominance-effect collateral damages. The greatest power of any social group is the sum of their skills in making wise decisions, experience-based consequences, and a social climate encouraging second-attempt opportunities. Localism’s structure has the long-term benefit of pushing decision-making and creative adaptation as closely as possible to those who must live with the results of their implementations, not someone else’s.
While racism, sexual identity, and several other current, self-centered challenges claim to be the most important issues of our day, the localism-centralization issues, I believe, will shape us in ways that will have longer social consequences. For example, what issue is more important than who owns our children? Is it the centralized public-education leaders and the unionized teachers, or is it the parents to whom God entrusted the children?
How big an issue is that? At its core, it is in the same genre as the local-centralization dynamic. Is it worth digging deeper into these Twelve Master Principles? Many of us think so. We are more concerned for God bringing His Kingdom principally to the earth than us racing to heaven and getting free from the frequent mess challenging us here. But I digress. And that is…
THE BOTTOM LINE.
Questions for Reflection & Discussion:
- Will you explain the localism/centralization phenomenon to someone in a conversation?
- Through what political leaders do you hear the issues of localization/centralization being discussed?
- Can you clearly articulate the concept of the linkage between personal maturation and choice-based problem-solving? (centralization destroys choice which destroys maturation)