IV.2: Benefits of Local Control

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Benefits of Local Control

Citizens of a local community will always know what benefits them far better than politicians in a faraway city.

And there are many more benefits of local control or self-government. For example, different communities have far different needs and desires, as well as different climates, resources, and philosophical and religious views. So, one-size-fits-all solutions don’t actually fit anybody.


Local governments may become corrupt, but their very lack of strength limits the damage that can be done. Never yet has a city government been able to execute a holocaust or genocide. To escape from local tyranny, all one has to do is move outside the city. (Coalition for Local Sovereignty).

To the contrary, larger political entities all too often do carry out holocausts or genocides. Obviously moving outside an American state would be more difficult than simply moving outside a community. And moving outside the nation would be very disruptive.

Local control or sovereignty can also provide benefits to satisfy both conservatives and liberals.

First, it can reduce the power of national politicians and bureaucrats, greatly increasing the liberty of local individuals. This particular aspect should especially delight the conservative.

But local control can also delight the liberal, if applied in a way that supports equality. For example, a community could exert control over local pay and working conditions if it so chooses. In this way local control can diminish the power of corporations over workers, and this should especially delight the liberal. This would be far better than national minimum wage laws worked out in deals with corporate lobbyists.

One of the benefits of local control is that a community could hold a corporation accountable for its effects on the community’s natural resources.

But without local control, corporations can exploit resources and leave a community with the mess. The public allowed corporations in the first place, only because it believed it would “get more than it would lose in the bargain.” Yet, today corporations often “dictate terms” to the public. But a “healthy public … would never allow itself to be controlled by its own creatures”. (Kemmis 1992, 129-33)

Community citizens would become far more interconnected with their neighbors if their community had the benefits of local control.

Not only would they be working together toward common goals, but together they could protect themselves from harmful national and state policies.

An American sociologist, Robert Nisbet, pointed out that modern man’s allegiance to community associations is being crushed by a culture that attempts to nationalize and collectivize every aspect of life. (Nisbet [1953] 2010, 239) Another sociologist, David Putnam, found that People “divorced from community” are more likely to become extremists. (Putnam 2000, 338)

Both Nisbet and Putnam wrote that we would be better served by more de-centralized government. That is, we need less national control and more local control. Even our American state governments are too far removed from citizens’ everyday lives. The overriding point of both Nisbet’s and Putnam’s research is that we all need to be much more closely involved in face-to-face interactions with our nearest neighbors.

When states have more decision-making power, they can experiment and then copy the best policies among themselves.

This would be even truer with local communities, because, for one thing, there are so many more of them.

The only real disadvantage of local control is that without appropriate limits, it can expose minorities to prejudice from the local majority. But a coalition of communities with minority-protecting authority over local communities could resolve that problem. And that coalition could be national in scope but yet totally separate from the national government.

Why does one group of citizens have to shove their will and way down the throats of another? Why do we all have to live under one-size-fits-all laws, especially those that are clearly matters of personal belief and conscience? Do one-size-fits-all laws unite us or do they divide us?

This site is for discussing how to improve our political system. It is NOT for discussing party politics or political figures. So if you have a non-partisan question or comment, feel free to leave it below.

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Coalition for Local Sovereignty. (No longer on the internet). Formerly at http://www.localsov.com.

Kemmis, Daniel. 1992. Community and the Politics of Place. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Nisbet, Robert. [1953] 2010. The Quest for Community. ISI Books’ Background series edition. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books.

Putnam, Robert D. 2000. Bowling Alone. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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