Centralization Definition & Meaning

The main thrust of the book is to argue the case for an interactive and collaborating approach to both records and knowledge, as a vital underpinning for the mobilisation of the knowledge resources needed to deliver public policy in a transformed public sphere. The case is a strategic rather than technical one; if one accepts the strategy, the kind of framework outlined here is a logical outcome of the implications. Too often, discussion in this field starts with the abilities of current software products and the need to react to new user technologies with management and archiving strategies. Moving from the back foot to the front involves starting from the questions – how can we best add public value to the public policy sphere? Given that the 3rd party arbiters of trust are governed by humans, they are imminently fallible and corruptible. The more one has, the more access one has, the more one can influence decisions of those 3rd party trust arbiters to one’s own or a group’s benefit.

The liberal political philosophy of the eighteenth century was fundamentally opposed to centralized control. The very essence of the philosophy—the doctrine of individual liberty—could be reconciled only with a decentralized form of government. The belief in self-determination for the individual was based on the assumption that he was better able to judge concerning his own interests and needs than was any external authority. The theory of individual liberty recognized that in any properly organized society self-determination was subject to certain limitations and restraints imposed in the interest of the general welfare. But in the choice of governmental agencies to protect the public against the abuse of individual liberty, the principle of self-determination required that political power should never be removed farther from those affected by its exercise than the extent of the interests involved made necessary.

Second, it improved central ‘penetration’ of rural areas, spreading knowledge of, and mobilizing support for, the plan and bypassing obstructive local elites. Third, it encouraged the involvement of various religious, ethnic, and tribal groups, promoting national unity. Fourth, it increased the speed and flexibility of decision-making, encouraging experimentation, and reducing central control and direction. The C.S.A.’s level of military mobilization was unsupportable in an agrarian society. By 1863, the government faced a starvation crisis and a wave of food riots organized by white soldiers’ wives protesting the government’s military policies.

The extent to which this ought to occur, and the ways in which centralized government evolves, forms part of social contract theory. Satisfactory regulation is not, as seems to be implied in much of the discussion favoring the substitution of state for local control, merely a question of placing this function in the hands of that governmental agency which has most power and prestige behind it. The power to exercise a particular function is of little consequence, unless there is an adequate guaranty that such power will be exercised in the interest of the local public for whose protection it is designed.

In all instances, the people have more power over what decisions are made and how the process unfolds. On the downside, a central government falls into the trap of “one size fits all” policies, which address the needs of the country as a whole, failing to address the needs of distinct groups in society. Also, a wrong decision of a central government tends to have a greater and wider impact on society as the system lacks the balancing mechanisms to recall a bad decision or bad policy. In this case, corruption and authoritarianism are the worst case scenarios for a nation. In a more contemporary version, a central government is characterized by a variety of centralized functions with legislators being responsible for the laws that govern a particular country, yet the power is in the hands of the central government or, in the cases of dictatorship, of a single person. In a central government the federal government has more power than the state government, and in a decentralized government, states hold more power.

American legalistic theory has from the beginning of our history as a nation reflected the view that the state legislature is the source of all legislative powers both state and local, and that all local powers are conferred by the legislature and may be withdrawn at will. Local government, according to this conception, is a creature of the state government and, except for such rights as a granted by the state constitution, owes its existence and its powers to the state legislature. This view of the powers of the state legislature was, of course, merely an application of the state government of the English theory of parliamentary supremacy.

A centralized organization benefits from a clear chain of command because every person within the organization knows who to report to. Junior employees know who to approach whenever they have concerns about the organization. On the other hand, senior executives follow a clear plan of delegating authority to employees who excel in specific functions. The executives also gain the confidence that when they delegate responsibilities to mid-level managers and other employees, there will be no overlap. A clear chain of command is beneficial when the organization needs to execute decisions quickly and in a unified manner.

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