The other day a friend contacted me, looking for an article that explained why centralization is bad. At first I was sure there had to be many, but I came up dry. Hence today’s article.
The odd thing about centralization is that people expect its bad aspects to be external things, like economic issues. But those aren’t the most important things. If the internal effects of centralization were recognized, and if we did something about them, the outer problems would vanish with them.
But since everyone expects economic reasons, I’ll start there:
#1: Centralization disrupts price discovery.
Disrupting price discovery… that sounds very “economic.” What it means is this: Whenever headquarters decides to meddle in business transactions, large sections of the marketplace are thrown out of order. The biggest offenders in this area were the 20th century’s socialist states. I’m not sure precisely how many people died (mainly of starvation) from their economic “experiments,” but the number is in the range of 100 million.
Prices are not just numbers, you see; they are crucial information. How many separate prices, for example, go into the delivery of a pencil to your local store((And if you haven’t, you should read I, Pencil, by Leonard Reed. It’s short and illuminating.))? Wood, graphite, lacquer, the pigment for the lacquer, the machines that mix and apply the lacquer, the machines that cut the trees into small pieces of wood, the trucks that move the materials, the cost of hiring the drivers, the cost of the tires, and so on, at great length.
Once the political boss says, “Pencils should cost X,” all those costs are pushed and shoved accordingly. Changes have to be made, corners are cut, or scrambles for the extra few cents begin. The process is disrupted, and you can be sure that the quality of pencils will decline, fewer will appear, and/or the various suppliers will fight like crazy.
In the end, this delivers big problems, like the aforementioned starvation. A hundred million deaths, in just the 20th century, came from this. (And it wasn’t the bosses who starved; it was the poor and powerless. You know, the people whom the bosses “love and serve.”) So, disrupting price discovery is really, really bad.
#2: Centralization robs you.
Centralization creates a group of people who eat (and generally grow rich) at the expense of everyone else. Every dollar that goes to politicians – for their very fine offices and cars and travel budgets and everything else – is money that is stolen from you and your neighbors.
#3: Central bosses try to show they’re necessary.
Did you ever notice that politicians are forever creating new fears? And why? Well, because solving those fears (even if they’re mostly imaginary, as most are) makes them seem necessary.
From this we get any number of disasters, especially wars. Have you noticed that presidents become far more popular when they wage a war? Fear sells, and war is a tremendous spectacle. And it makes the centralizers look necessary. (Too bad about all those dead guys.)
#4: Centralization limits you.
Centralized power solving our fears requires an ever-increasing number of laws, and each law is a restriction of some kind. Pretty soon, you can’t do half the things you could a couple of decades before. There’s a law for every problem and a department to solve it. Address it yourself and you’re likely to get hurt.
So, to keep us safe from our professionally cultivated fears, your kid can’t run a lemonade stand without a license, your older aunt can’t watch the neighbor kids, and God help you if you try to give a lost child a ride home.
Centralization is a straightjacket… restraining not just our bodies, but also our souls.
#5: Centralization kills cooperation.
There are rules for everything. So, you can no longer cooperate with your neighbor because you enjoy it. No… you cooperate because it’s commanded by law and you’ll be punished if you don’t.
Have you noticed people yearning for the old days and talking about small, rustic communities where the people “still look out for each other”? Well, they’re right to yearn for that, because it’s a very healthy way to live. And it’s centralization that stole it from us.
#6: Centralization robs you of self-worth.
Following on from #5 above: What happens inside you when you help people because you, by yourself, give a damn? I think we all know the answer: You become a better, happier, and more beneficial person. You know you did a good thing. And then you feel good about yourself.
Every time you do “the right thing” because it’s mandated by law, you are being robbed of self-worth and self-improvement. And your friends and neighbors are robbed of your improved state.
Have We Had Enough?
Perhaps you’ve thought of items that could be added to this list, but these six are at least a good start.
The conclusion is this:
Centralization is anti-human. It’s the enemy of human goodness and progress.
What supports centralization is a steady stream of fears, most of which are imaginary.
So, have we had enough? Can we ditch this garbage now? Can we please start growing up?
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16 thoughts on “Six Reasons Why Centralization Is Bad”
Thanks for this article. This is a subject I can honestly say, is my first time I’ve ever reading about. I enjoyed reading this article. It brings some thing into better focus. Keep up the great writing.
Another wonderfully thought provoking article Paul. I will humbly ask a few relevant questions:
1. Is it possible that the 100 million victims of Soviet centralization were not an tragic consequence of centralization, but one of its objectives?
2. Is it possible that centralization has been created by many more people than just a few ruthless, sociopathic political predators who constantly hunger for power at any cost?
3. There can be no doubt that centralization has been a tragedy for average, everyday Americans, but hasn’t it been a gigantic boon to multinational corporations who can make exclusive deals with countries, which are full of desperate people who will work long hours for low wages, and who impose none of the stifling regulations that they would be forced to obey in America?
Just some thoughts,
Hi Steve. I’ll have to answer briefly. (Sorry.)
1. They definitely wanted to get rid of non-compliant people… and did. I’ve not seen evidence of a desire for population reduction alone, though I may have missed something.
2. Yes, most commonly people who’ve been trained to believe that centralization is the only workable “way of the world,” mainly in government schools.
3. Yes, definitely.
Is it possible that centralization has been created by many more people than just a few ruthless, sociopathic political predators who constantly hunger for power at any cost?
I think that centralization is created as much by the multitudes who suffer under it, as by the sociopaths who benefit from it. For some strange reason, we humans evolved to be largely compliant to central authority. Perhaps the characteristic had value when we lived in small tribal groups, always on the edge of being wiped out by neighboring tribes or starvation.
It’s a truism that evil centralized governments could not exist without the support, or at least acquiescence, of a large majority of their population. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to be “educated”, they just want to believe that they’ll get along if they go along.
The good news is that the bloated, parasitic monster called “government” is in the process of revealing its true nature in a way that will whap complicit people upside the face, and maybe they’ll actually address the question of what is the best way to live. The bad news is that all the rest of us will suffer too as the beast flails itself to death.
Truer words have never been written! Thanks for your perspective and good luck to us all!
When are Americans going to stop ignoring the 20,000 pound elephant in the room? When are we going to stop pretending that everything is fine? When are we going to finally face the truth? When are we going to admit that the Unites States government is turning America into a tyrannical police state that is diametrically opposed to the country that was originally envisioned and established by our brilliant Founding Fathers? When are we going to accept the fact that our beautiful country has been surreptitiously invaded from within, and that it has been conquered more effectively and more efficiently than any external invasion could have ever accomplished? When are we going to admit that the US government has surreptitiously and illegally usurped powers that were never granted to it by our magnificent Constitution, which is the supreme law of America and to which all other laws must conform? When are we going to admit that the US government is now corrupt, criminal, and illegitimate? That it is totally bankrupt both morally and economically? That it is out of control?
On June 21, 1788 the United States Constitution became the supreme law of the United States. Since that day every federal, state and county official has been required to take a solemn oath to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic”. Why can’t we accept the fact that even though every federal, state, and county government official, who has ever held office in America, is legally required to support and defend the United States Constitution; that the vast majority of these officials (99%) have never read the Constitution, even though it only takes about 15 minutes to do so! Consequently, there is no way that they could possibly know what it actually requires. So how can they possibly obey their solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution? And keep in mind that most of the remaining 1%, who have read the Constitution, don’t actually “support and defend” it, which they are legally, ethically, and morally required to do, because it is nearly impossible to resist the corrupt system that exists!
Naïve and gullible Americans have conveniently allowed themselves to be deceived into believing that they must follow the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution even though their solemn oath of office makes absolutely no such requirement. Excuse me but the Constitution was designed to limit the power of the government, yet Americans meekly allow the Supreme Court, which is part of the government, to decide what the government’s limitations should be! This is completely insane! Juries of regular Americans, who live in the real world, are supposed to interpret the Constitution – not the government! History has conclusively and irrefutably proven over and over again that every government that has been allowed to define its limitations has eventually degenerated into a police state; and that is exactly what is happening in America.
So, even though the US Constitution is technically the supreme law of America, it has been surreptitiously superseded by a system of laws that is almost completely unconstitutional. Nevertheless this unconstitutional legal system is enforced by a renegade government using force and threats of violence! When are these oath-takers going to admit that supporting and defending the Constitution is the very basis for their existence as public servants; that they derive their legal authority from the Constitution; and that they are not obeying their solemn oath? Consequently they have no legal authority! They are operating under the color of law! They are outlaws!
There is absolutely no valid, legal excuse for not supporting and defending the US Constitution! Let’s finally face the truth, these renegade government officials are liars, cowards, extortionists, terrorists, and traitors! They are criminals of the worst kind! They are domestic enemies of America and its Constitution, and they should be tried for treason and sentenced to long prison terms! The fact that none of them has been prosecuted for treason is irrefutable proof that the US government is corrupt, criminal, illegitimate, morally bankrupt, and out of control.
It appears that, as long as Americans have “a beer and a ballgame”, or any number of other pleasant but childish distractions to pursue; they couldn’t care less about truth, principles, morality, individual liberty, or the Constitution! They are disgusting and pathetic losers! Does America have to degenerate into a North Korea style police state before these pathetic Americans finally realize what they have so foolishly and irresponsibly squandered? Isn’t it painfully obvious that it will be too late by then? Shame on them!
Does anyone truly care about America and the revolutionary idea of individual liberty that she was originally established to promote and protect? An idea so powerful that it totally transformed the world into a much better place for everyone to live! Does anyone still care about truth, principles, ethics, morals, and individual liberty, or have we all been corrupted by the neurotic quest for material possessions and the twisted and dangerous delusion of government provided “security”?
Isn’t it obvious that the “cure” has become far worse than the disease which that cure was supposed to alleviate? If our brilliant founding fathers could see what Americans have done to the beautiful country that these brave founders risked everything to establish, they would vomit! Will America degenerate into an omnipotent police state in which all liberty and meaningful human progress has been completely crushed, or is it possible that individual liberty can somehow still prevail? Wake up America before it is too late! We don’t have much time!
Heart-felt, articulate, and on target. Every nation seems to suffer periodic spells of insanity, interspersed with all-too-brief times of freedom, self-responsibility and prosperity. There have always been voices warning of the dangers of the course a country is on: many patriotic Germans, for example, warned that Hitler was leading the nation to disaster well before his armies marched across Europe or manned the death camps. Their warnings were swept away in the fervor of the moment. For my own sanity, I have accepted that the reach of my own words is in the hands of others, who may well ignore or reject them. Ultimately, all any of us can do is educate ourselves (an ongoing process) and lead a life as fulfilling as possible, avoiding violating the rights of others and taking what steps we may when others violate our natural-born rights. And of course, we should speak out, but I think it’s important not to be discouraged if our words aren’t heard by very many. It’s too big a burden to carry to try to fix other people’s consciousness; that can only be done by each individual.
Of course you are absolutely correct. There is a beautiful poem which advises that we should go placidly amid the noise and the haste because there is no doubt that the Universe is unfolding as it should. Unfortunately that is small consolation to all of us proud and stubborn individuals who have a powerful instinct to survive and who don’t want to get trampled by the awesome, out-of-control juggernaut that naive people have foolishly helped to create! If there is a way to avoid this horrible fate, I sincerely hope that we will find it! All the best.
Another great article Paul.
If I may, I would like to add that centralization also expands the decision making process (Boyd’s OODA Loop – Observation, Orientation, Decision, and Action).
Any time you insert a third party you get slower OODA loops, the more people between you and your action, the longer it will take to affect change by action.
Here is an article on centralization that I think no liberty lover should miss. It is a bit long, but was worth every minute I spent reading it. The author, David Montgomery, keeps adding new examples and new insights to it from time to time. It calls attention to many of the horrible and often hilarious examples of what centralization can do to you, if you let it, and it contains many enlightening suggestions on how to escape it. All in all it is very optimistic, for David sees statism as reaching the end of its rope where the noose it has fashioned and fastened around its own neck is waiting to be pulled taut.
With centralization, bad ideas are magnified. These ideas are reinforced by the concept that they came from several heads collaborating to reach the point of being developed. Or so the members of the committee say.
But has a committee ever designed a bird? NO, they haven’t; if they did, you’d probably get the reincarnation of the dodo out of the committee.
Has a committee ever designed a banking system? Well, yes they have…and we have the Federal Reserve to show for their efforts.
Has the Federal Reserve been a success? If you measure by the value of their one and only product (United States currency units), I don’t think so. Would anyone brag if the value of their one and only product is worth much less than when they started? Would anyone brag about the way you always need more units to get the same amount of goods and services?
On second thought: Maybe the Federal Reserve did succeed in designing the 20th century version of the dodo.
A camel is a thoroughbred race horse that was designed by a committee!
I agree, I just couldn’t come up with that well-known example when I was writing that epistle.
Radical subsidiarity = voluntaryism ( http://voluntaryist.com/ )
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