Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Centralization of Government Power Makes Collectivism Inevitable

In the end, the battle for what kind of government we want to have will come down to two basic positions.   One side will be collectivist, and the other individualist.    People who align with those two positions may wear various labels, but once you cut through the window dressing people either believe that the default assumption should be that people should be free to run their own lives as they see fit, or that they will need direction from above to see that their attitudes and actions do not cause offense to the collective.  

The honest labels of those who favor the collective are "leftist", "socialist", "liberal", "communitarian", and "fascist."    The dishonest labels of those who favor the collective are "moderate", and "neoconservative."    On the other side, those whose default setting is in favor of the individual, labels include some of the various anarchists, minarchists, libertarians, classical liberals,  constitutionalists, limited-government conservatives, and of course, localists.   There is much philosophical overlap among these labels, but at the root of it all is this question of collectivism or the individual.

Excepting Anarchism which eschews government in toto, all of the other labels on the side of the individual are attempts to have the least amount of government possible while maintaining the order needed it preserve individual rights. Localism allows for each of those other answers (except anarchy) in various locals. It's main difference is the degree of diligence allocated to the emplacement of barriers to the centralization of government power, so that what starts as limited government remains so.  Just how limited depends on the people of each locality.

Those of us who oppose collectivist answers must also oppose answers which centralize political and government power, because the centralization of government power not only inevitably leads to  the expansion of such powers, it also leads to collectivism.   That centralizing government power leads to the expansion of such power is self-evident to even the casual student of history.   I need not dwell on it here.   Rather, I would like to elaborate on the other outcome of centralization- the transformation of the citizenry from individualists to collectivists.

When decisions are made locally, basically everybody is somebody.   A citizen can stand before their city council, or county courts, and make his or her case as an individual and be heard on that basis.   When power is centralized, the individual matters less.   Their opinion does not count for much in consideration of which way the great wheels of state might turn.   Their best hope in such circumstances is to join with some group whose views mostly, but perhaps not completely, align with their own.  By joining with the group, their voice will not be heard, but their voice will become a tiny part of a loud new voice which might be heard- that of the collective.

Once these collectives start forming up, it becomes even harder for an individual person to make their voice heard by the central state.   The roar of the various collectives drown out the individual. And so it is that to have any part of their views heard at all, the citizen must cede the job of speaking to their government to these groups whose views are somewhat like their own, but still yet not their own.   The voice of the individual person is lost.   Whatever nuance they might desire in some public policy will never get a hearing, even where that person lives.  Such is the travesty of the collective.

Add to it that once a collective is formed, the beast has its own interests, which may be separate and apart from the desires of the members which it claims to represent.   Does the National Right to Life for example, really want abortion to end in this nation?   Maybe the organization has more to gain by keeping the controversy going than by attaining victory and shutting down.   What about the NAACP?   When every just grievance has been satisfied, how shall they justify their salaries?   Once the collective gets a life of its own,  it has its own interests, apart and separate from the interests of the individual persons who might join it.

These special interest collectives often get "captured" by a larger collective, and thus their unique voice is lost just as that of their members was lost before them. A national political party is in the large view simply another collective. They can and will co-opt as many of these groups as they can so that the real purpose of the group is subverted.  Instead of holding the party accountable, they become mere excuse-makers for the party.    That is one of the troubles with hierarchies.

And what do you suppose the affect of political "activism" of this sort has on the psyche of the citizens over time?   They learn to think like members of a collective.   They can easily forget to individually examine issues and instead take their cues from whatever large groups they have chosen to identify with.   If the only real access to the system is through a collective, individuals join collectives, operate collectively, and in time whether they desire it or not become operational collectivists.

Localism (Kindle : ePub) provides the answer.  By confronting the issue of centralization we confront the issue of collectivism.   With the limitations on political parties that the theory advocates, the continual push towards collectivism is countered.   Almost all decisions will be local ones, to be decided by the views of individual persons.  And when individual rights are violated, the wronged person can look the decision maker right in the eye and call them on it.   The only alternative to localism is centralization, which will result in all decisions being made by coalitions of collectives, with individuals getting steam-rolled by massive bureaucracies in which no one person can even be shown to have responsibility for the offense.   The battle against collectivism is a battle against centralization.


  1. This doesn't prevent collectivism as:
    1. localities can be as collectivist as they choose
    2. localities can collude to create larger scale collectivism

    1. No, it doesn't prevent collectivism, it permits freedom. It is reality itself which will curtail collectivism in a localist society, the market will kill it, in every way that it really needs killing. Not everyone is going to agree with the assessment that laws against making meth are illegitimate because they are "collectivist."

      If you define "collectivism" as any restrictions on your behavior which violate the NAP, then sure, it permits collectivism. It also permits minarchist libertarianism to a much greater degree than what we have now. What is it that you want, a central state that strictly enforces Andy's idea of the NAP on an unwilling populace? That is a bigger tyranny than the one you object to.

      What localism does, instead of a centrally enforced ban on anything Andy consider's "collectivism", is that it subjects attempts at collectivism to market forces. The transaction costs for the individual to escape collectivist policies is lowered to the extent that places which did not respect the rights of the individual enough would lose to places which respected it more. The free market applied to government. This is the elegant solution as opposed to the brutish idea of "we know the one right answer for everyone and we are going to insist it be universally imposed."

      Now I notice you say that "localities can collude to create large scale collectivism". Do you think this is not happening now? This is what is going on, and localism is needed to short-circuit that process and make it prohibitively difficult. Game this in your head. The more large scale the collusion to impose ANY injustice the bigger potential gain localities can have by bucking the trend and being the one that offers people protection from the injustice. It would be extremely difficult to impose large scale collectivism, even in a situation where some aspect of it had majority support in every state.

      You raise this risk as if localism is being compared to some sort of theoretical perfection. That is not a real test. It must be compared to the other alternatives- a centrally controlled body which decides what the rules are for everyone. I find it extremely odd that people who are yelling the loudest about liberty at heart are grasping very tightly to a system in which they and their friends would very rigidly dictate the rules to everyone, even people they don't in in cities where they have never been.