Centralisation Essay

Skip to main content

Full text of "Centralization, its benefits and disadvantages : a prize essay read in the Theatre, Oxford, June 23, 1852"

See other formats

<BHDWSOV< ^- ar FRS//, >;lO$ANCElfj> 2^. klBRABYO? ENGLISH ESSAY, 1852. CENTRALIZATION, ITS BENEFITS AND DISADVANTAGES, A PRIZE ESSAY, READ IN THE THEATRE, OXFORD, JUNE 23, 1852. HANS WILLIAM SOTHEBY, B.A., FELLOW OF EXETER COLLEGE. IIoAAa juey e<r0Aa fX6ju,ty/xera ; iroAAa 8e \vypd. OXFORD, JOHN HENRY PARKER: AND 377, STRAND, LONDON. M DCCCLII. OXFORD : PRINTED BY I. SIIRIMPTOJf. Stack Annex SYNOPSIS. INTEODITCTOEY Definition of Centralization ..... 7 Principle by which it is to be tested .... 8 Division of the subject accordingly ; various species distinguished 10 Method of enquiry ....... 14 I. Effects of Centralization A. Administrative ; on a State in its Home Territory, as to i. National greatness and security . . . ib. ii. Peace and order of society . . . .19 iii. Civil liberty and municipal institutions . 21 iv. Wealth and material prosperity . . .24 v. Individual life and character . . .26 1. Of the administrative officers . . .27 2. Of the governed (a.) Indirect . . .29 (j3.) Direct influences . 33 B. Legislative ; on Colonies and Dependencies . . 35 1. Effect on the general interests of the Empire ib. 2. On the particular interests of the Colonies . 36 Summary of Results, under ' Benefits' and ' Disadvan- tages 37 II. Supplementary Remarks Relation of Centralization to Civilization . . .38 Effects on the developement of Society . . ib. . . . on the developement of the Individual . 39 Connection of Centralization with the power of Public Opinion with the principle of the Division of La- bour with the law of Social Progress in History . 40 Necessity and difficulty of the question . . .42 Centralization a tendency of the human mind Con- clusion ........ 43 CENTRALIZATION, ITS BENEFITS AND DISADVANTAGES. CENTRALIZATION, in the most precise signification which can be assigned to it at the commencement of an enquiry, is that method of governing under which the functions of government emanate from the supreme body alone, in contradistinction to that under which they are independently exercised by certain subordi- nate agencies. Such at least is the meaning which both the analogy of verbal formation and the common use of language seem to indicate, in preference to any view which would extend its acceptation beyond the sphere of Political Philosophy. But so wide is its etymological sense, and so various are the applications of which, even within these limits, the word is sus- ceptible, that the above cannot be offered as anything more than a provisional definition, subject to those specifications which farther consideration may sug- gest. Yet, notwithstanding this vagueness, we may expect in any word which passes into the currency of public opinion, amid much alloy, some substantial 8 Principle by which Centralization truth. And Centralization, with its usual correlatives, so far from being an exception to this rule, expresses, plainly if not accurately, the designed or unconscious tendency of most polities, either to concentrate State government and management in the hands of a few, or to leave them as much as possible to the control of the governed. In this, as in every instance where the merits of a system are to be discussed, some standard is required by which to estimate them. We cannot arbitrarily select from the consequences of an institution those which, from their immediate application to ourselves or to the more obvious features of society, strike us as beneficial or the reverse, or without much examina- tion classify them under so simple a division as that of Good and Evil. We require, in the first place, to ascend to principles, and justify our praise or our censure by some test more universal and unimpeachable than that of individual, or even national experience. And secondly, care must be taken, in searching for the guidance of more trustworthy maxims than expediency can afford, not to lose sight of that expediency which the science of Politics, practical above every other, is forced to take into account, nor to apply to the Protean pheno- mena of human affairs, the Procrustean principles of an ideal legislation. " I cannot," says Burke *, " stand forward, and give praise or blame to anything which relates to human actions and human concerns, on a simple view of the object, as it stands stripped of every Fr. Rev., p. 10. is to be tested. 9 relation, in all the nakedness and solitude of meta- physical abstraction. Circumstances give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil or political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind/ 3 As Centralization expresses some relation between the rulers and the ruled, the two parties who consti- tute a social community, the application of this rela- tion to principles and circumstances may best be judged, by first briefly stating what the idea of a social community implies as its ends and objects. For no form of government can be preferred to any other, except as it furthers the ends of Government itself ; and it can only be called meritorious or objec- tionable so far as it promotes or retards that kind of existence which Reason and Experience have agreed in determining as the best b . If then, we ask what is the purpose of a State, and next attempt to shew how Centralization assists or impedes the attainment of it, we may afterwards more successfully proceed to distinguish the benefits and disadvantages which it is the aim of this Essay to discover. Society, originated by necessity to ensure the exist- ence of its members, and continued by choice to pro- mote their welfare, implies by this distinction, that some of its objects are indispensable, others only desirable. Under the first head range the protection b Ilept TToKiTfias dpiff-njs rov peXXovra noir)<Ta<r()ai. {rjTrjaiv dvd 8iopi'<racr$ai nputrov TIS uiperaiTaTos Bios. Arist. Pol. VII. i. 1. 10 Division of the subject accordingly. of life and the protection of property : under the second, the other elements of the progressive social condition, in the order of their natural developement ; the abolition of anarchy, the confirmation of parti- cular rights and duties, the promotion of material prosperity, and lastly, the education, in the widest sense of the term, of the individual man. From this series seem naturally to result certain elements, found in a greater or less degree in every long-established community, and forming the points by its effects on which any social system may be most justly estimated. Following out then this principle, there will come before us the influences which Centralization may be expected, or is found, to exert, on National security and greatness, on the Peace and Order of society, on Civil Liberty and municipal institutions, on Wealth and material prosperity, and finally, on Individual life and character : and we shall then be enabled most conveniently to gather up into one view the good or bad results which flow from these modes of operation, and to consider it under any other lights which the discussion may suggest. Before, however, proceeding actually to estimate these effects, it is necessary to notice the ambiguities of which the word Centralization is susceptible, aris- ing from its application to the different functions of government. " Government" being " a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants c ," its powers are exerted in supplying those wants, as they c Burke. Various species distinguished. 11 have been above enumerated, by the Legislative, Judicial, and Administrative functions which every community, to whatever extent, discharges. Now the word Centralization has been applied not only to a certain state of these powers of government, but also to the authority or power of the ruling body itself from which these emanate : so that in this sense there might be a Centralized government, as well as Legislative, Judicial, and Administrative Centraliza- tion. It does not however seem desirable (except as regards one point 4 , hereafter to be noticed) to give the word so wide a meaning, a meaning moreover which in most of the above instances is capable of being expressed quite as well by other words. There is in fact a wide difference between the first three, and the last of these kinds. Judicial Centralization can mean nothing more than the use of the same forms of Judicial procedure throughout a kingdom : and Legislative, the fact of all the parts of a territory being governed by the same laws. And as to what has been termed e " Centralization of government," though this is not a case of the same laws or forms obtaining throughout a kingdom, it is something even simpler, viz., the unity of the realm itself, whether as opposed to Feudalism or imperfect Federalism. In fact every State, to deserve the name, must have a centre of some sort which gives it unity : there must d That of Legislation, as applied to Colonies. See p. 35. e By M. Guizot and others. See his Origines du Gouvernement Re- presentatif, Leyon III. ad fin. ; also his Civilization, passim. 12 The enquiry chiefly restricted be a supreme power or at least authority, the right of which the other parts acknowledge. This then is simply a necessity of a State, and is not anything of which the merits can be called in question. It is, in fact, identical with that which is generally called by the name of nationality. Our estimate of the benefits or disadvantages of Legislative and of Judicial Centralization can only have place in reference to an empire not geographi- cally united, and not to one of a compact nature, as in this latter the expediency of uniform laws and uni- form procedure does not seem to admit of doubt. Administrative Centralization, however, stands on a widely different footing. For the question here is not whether the whole nation shall act according to fixed rules of conduct, but whether its members, in those local matters f of deliberation respecting which no fixed rule can be given, shall use their own discre- tion, or rely on the management of their rulers. For the affairs of the nation may be divided into three f The objects of municipal administration may perhaps be classified as follows : agentes ; f preservation of order = Magistrates for ( prevention of crime = Police PeraonB< *..< support .... = Poor Adminis- tration . Lunatics Criminah tobemade ' ' ' ' =*"&* {o Things ' ' ' ' ornament ' I to be used ..... = Public property Cases of these being managed by the State are cases of Administra- tive Centralization. to Administrative Centralization. 13 classes, one of which affects it as a whole, a second its localities separately, and a third a greater or smaller number of those localities in common. An example of the first kind would be war or diplomacy : of the second, municipal finance and other similar regula- tions ; of the third, public works of great magnitude, like canals or principal roads, which form a single branch of administration, though extending over dif- ferent parts. Matters of the first class obviously, of the third probably, require to be managed by a single power : it is the second and more specially Adminis- trative which is the truly debateable province of Cen- tralization. But the principle on which, if on any, the theory of Centralization is based, has a wider and deeper ap- plication than to the above-mentioned branch of the duties of a government. It is indeed the question whether, be it in Legislation or in Administration, the people are to take the initiative, or their rulers : in other words, whether the function of Governments towards their subjects is one of suggestion and di- rection, or one merely of correction and ratification. If it be true, as Sir James Mackintosh said, that "Constitutions are not made, but grow," the question, as regards Legislation, may be said to have received its final answer in the failure of all systems of law which have not ultimately sprung from the wants and habits of the people. But, as regards Administration, the question is by no means settled, and is probably capable of meeting with a different reply according 14 Method of enquiry . Effects to the circumstances and history of every nation by whom it can be asked. To disentangle from such circumstances the true characteristics of Centralization, especially that branch of it which it is proposed first to consider, and, divested of party feeling, to follow the ramifications of so vast a principle into the details of national and social life, is, from the nature of the case, no easy task. But our conclusions may perhaps acquire a greater degree of stability, not merely from a description of the political and moral phenomena with which Administrative Cen- tralization has at any time coexisted, but an endeavour, previously to any such induction, to trace, where prac- ticable, the effects which a principle of the kind would, according to the usual laws of human nature, be likely to produce. It is only by recurring to experience that we can be preserved from vagueness in our general theories. It is only by the use of general theory that we can connect and ratify the suggestions of experience. I. We proceed, therefore, to consider first of all the effects of Administrative Centralization on the State at home, under the heads above enumerated; secondly, on its dependencies abroad, where we shall be occupied chiefly with Legislative Centralization ; and lastly to subjoin some remarks on its effects on Civilization in general, including any social or moral tendencies with which Centralization may under this point of view appear to be connected. i. While ' Political Centralization' affords the nucleus on National greatness and security. 15 round which the members of the body politic may gather, and Legislation and Judicature the bonds which unite them all in the mould of a common cha- racter, Administrative Centralization may be expected to promote National greatness and security, by con- tributing to maintain undisturbed the advantages thus acquired. In every matter which may affect its exist- ence, a government should be able to act with rapidity and precision, and to use the services of subordinates who are entirely under its command. And any system which unites in a single hand all the threads by which the resources of a kingdom can be controlled, pos- sesses, over one whose measures require the consent of its independent parts, the same advantage which a well-disciplined band has over an irregular army. Such a government can second its singleness of de- sign by every means of action which a complicated administration affords : communication with foreign nations, the disposal of the revenue and of troops, the subsidiary efforts of magistrates and police, the assistance derivable from the appropriation of muni- cipal property or the means of defence supplied by the absolute control of public works, all are in its hand : and it may exert a power enormously dispro- portioned to its seeming strength by " organizing into the unity and rapidity of an individual will the natu- ral and artificial forces of a populous nations." And if we look to History, the vast resources of men, money, and stores, which a system of delegated 8 Coleridge. 16 Effects on National authority, partially approaching Administrative Cen- tralization, enabled Asiatic monarchs to accumulate in masses whose effect was only frustrated by their heterogeneous composition : the power wielded by the generalissimo 11 of the Roman forces, directing through his subordinate officers the operations of his most dis- tant legions (an office absorbed together with the rest by the politic Augustus ;) furnish the most striking confirmation, if indeed such is needed, of this view. Turning to later times, the constitution of Venice 1 at the beginning of the fourteenth century, shews the security which a Centralized Administration is calculated to afford against internal no less than ex- ternal dangers. After the complete suppression of the popular element, its aristocracy increased the firmness and stability of purpose which naturally characterizes that form of government, by the establishment of the Council of Ten, which controlled the Legislature, strengthened the Executive, absorbed the Judicature, and finally, by the most secret and most inquisitorial k system of police ever known, kept in check any germ of party, whether popular or monarchical, which could endanger the existing government. And the powerful effects of Administrative Centralization in France can- not be better portrayed than in the words of its great organizer 1 . "I had established," said Napoleon, "a h Merivale, Roman Empire, vol. iii. p. 455. '< See Hallam, Middle Ages, i. 322, &c. k Except Jesuitism. This too is an example of the vast power which Centralization may confer. 1 Las. Cas. vii. 97 ; quoted by Alison, French Revolution, VI. 381. greatness and security. 17 government, the most compact, carrying on its opera- tions with the utmost rapidity, and capable of the most nervous efforts, that ever existed on earth. . . . The organization of the prefectures, their actions, and re- sults, were alike admirable. The same impulse was given at the same moment, to more than forty millions of men : and by the aid of these centres of local activity the movement was as rapid at the extremities as at the heart of the empire." Such is the power which Administrative Centraliza- tion incontestably confers on a government which can use it with discretion. But there is another side to the picture. A government can, by these means, it is true, concentrate its resources on a given point. But of what do these resources consist ? They consist, to a great extent, of human beings, with wills, passions, and affections, the cooperation and due direction of which, makes them efficient instruments. But the will of the members of a community towards the good of that community is nothing else than Patriot- ism : and it is on Patriotism, therefore, the only motive power besides Religion capable of acting on large bodies of men, that the real energy of a govern- ment ultimately depends. But this sentiment, though it cannot dispense with the assistance which Political unity imparts to it, yet is more surely based on local and particular interests. Though it must look for light and warmth to the central orb of national and collective grandeur, yet it must draw its sustaining nourishment from the soil on which it grows, and 18 Effects on National greatness and security. twine its roots round custom and familiar association. Men feel a stronger attachment to the institutions which they protect than to the institutions which they venerate. The latter impulse begets the patriotism which takes pride in feeling its dependence on a vast and complicated system. The former encourages that more rational, if less enthusiastic sentiment which is engendered by the knowledge of men's own connexion with the general welfare. Moreover, by the constant exercise of the apparently trifling functions of local administration, not only are the greatest possible number of individuals involved in the common pros- perity of the country, but Patriotism, " a kind of de- votion which is strengthened by ritual observance ra ," runs in no danger of being forgotten among more in- definite, if larger, interests. The uniformity which Administrative Centralization produces, so nearly ap- proaches mere routine management, that when the exigencies of the State demand more speedy and more energetic action, there is a difficulty in quitting the old paths and obtaining help for measures beyond the horizon of individual or local view. A Centralized nation may exhibit most perseverance in its under- takings. Yet transient intensity exhausts enduring strength ; and the concentration of its efforts impairs the vitality which is the mainspring of its permanence and its progression. Thus while the Centralization of Rome perished in the dissolution of her Empire, her m De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, vol. i. p. 84. (Eng. Trans.) On the Peace and Order of Society. 19 Gallic municipalities' 1 survived the general wreck of her institutions, and transmitted to modern Europe the inheritance of her spirit and her law. And Hun- gary , under the disadvantages of isolation from the rest of the continent, of a mixture of heterogeneous races, and of the frequent hostility of the power to which she is annexed, yet still retains, through a sys- tem of local self-government, the elements of Patriot- ism, of energy, and of national well-being. ii. The influences of Centralization on the Peace and Order of Society are not less various than those just considered. On the one hand, a method of government which affects all the elements of the social state with the sole exception of the volitions of its individual members, must to a great degree, affect those also, by exercising a command over the instruments which the execution of their purposes requires, and by holding in its grasp all the means of which insubordination might avail itself. This fact, already exemplified from the history of Venice, is ob- servable in every State which has adopted those watch- ful regulations of internal police which are the natural corollary of Administrative Centralization since it is plainly necessary that a government should be in- formed whether its rules of administration are habi- tually observed or infringed. And these regulations, however objectionable they may sometimes appear, " See Sir James Stephen's Lectures on the Hist, of France. Lec- ture V. See F. W. Newman, Lectures on Polit. Econ., p. 293. C 20 On the Peace and Order of Society. are, it must be remembered, protective as well as coercive : and their absence as regards minor details of social life is severely felt in some of the countries where a Centralized Administration does not prevail p . There are also instances where the peace and order of society may depend very materially on the degree to which government interferes with what are usually considered purely private matters. In countries whose physical character opposes barriers to the movement of large bodies of men, it may be found expedient by a wise discretion to restrain large manufacturers from that indiscriminate employ ment q of capital which might render large bodies of workmen liable to be thrown out of employ at once, who would thus be kept toge- ther, idle and indigent, from the want of means to transport them to a new field of occupation. But while Centralization is thus beneficial to the good order of society, there are also certain opposite con- siderations. Though party spirit may be efficiently repressed by a system which allows to none save the collective will of the nation any outward expression, yet this very discouragement of the usual and overt means of such manifestations has a tendency to en- courage those secret and forbidden associations', which, like certain disorders in the natural body, may em- broil or undermine society, if they do not find their appropriate vent in the discussion of local interests p See De Tocqueville, vol. i. p. 130. q See Laing's Observations on Europe, 2nd Series, p. 158, &c. ' De Tocqueville, i. 84. On Civil Liberty and Municipalities. 21 and the excitement of local feeling. And while the multifarious resources which a Centralized Administra- tion commands, supply some of the most efficient means for the detection and suppression of crime, yet where everything is left to the government, the people are apt to give less ready assistance, than where every member of the community is engaged on the side of justice by the feelings of duty and responsibility which local self-government implies. And it may be ob- served (though this was perhaps rather an abuse than a consequence of Centralization) how greatly the gov- ernment nomination of municipal officers s in France contributed to the exasperation of feeling which cost Louis XVI. his crown and his life. iii. On the rights enjoyed by men in their private and municipal capacity, the effects of a Central Ad- ministration may naturally be expected to be most distinctly traceable. No one person ever manages the affairs of another exactly in the way that person would prefer. Nor do those ends at which a govern- ment aims for the general interest, always coincide with those which the individual pursues for his own advantage. And the murmurs which may arise against the acts of the supreme power are in some danger of being disregarded by its functionaries, as resulting (in their eyes) less from enlightened views than from ignorance of what is best : so that the course pur- sued by the State in its collective capacity, if direct 5 See Bechard, De V 'Administration Interieure de la France, (Paris. 1851,) vol. i. p. 66. C 2 22 On Civil Liberty and and rapid in its aim, is too often open to the charge of unfeelingness in its means : while " the path the human being travels, That on which blessing comes and goes, doth follow The river's course, the valley's playful windings, Curves round the corn-field and the hill of vines, Honouring the holy bounds of property, And thus secure, though late, comes to its end'." The superior intelligence of a government, an argu- ment sometimes urged in behalf of Centralization, directs the affairs of each locality better than the in- habitants can direct them, only in those states of society when it monopolizes all political capacity. When civilization has proceeded to that point with which Administrative Centralization is generally con- temporary, the ignorance of local bodies does not seem so justly presumable. And though municipal bodies suffer by the comparison of their immethodical proceedings with the precision and perseverance of a supreme government, yet that amount of energy which they actually display is in danger of being weakened, when constant interference makes them feel no more than a life-interest in local matters. It would certainly be an unwise line of policy in any government to give up all control of this nature, especially over municipal property which the occa- sional perverseness of municipal officers may alienate or waste u : but the supineness in pecuniary rnisfor- I Coleridge's Translation of Schiller's Piccolomini. II See Bechard, i. 122. Municipal Institutions. 23 tunes which a constant reliance on state assistance begets, is a greater evil than even immethodical man- agement and fickleness of purpose. As there is no doubt that no government ought to have it in its power to follow out whatever caprices may suggest themselves, whether to despotic or democratic tyranny, the greatest care should be taken to sustain those barriers which local institutions, by invalidating the instruments of arbitrary power, oppose to the tide ol popular excitement. And Administrative Centraliza- tion by employing a corps of functionaries not ac- countable to the population whom they govern, in- volves those dangers to local liberty which, in Ame- rica *, the responsibility of such officers so happily avoids. Nor must it be forgotten that the accumula- tion of the elements of power at a single centre stores up at that centre a magazine of materials which the smouldering fires of insurrection, or the stroke of a single hand, may kindle for the destruction of free- dom. It is not in ancient States alone that the seizure of the Acropolis involves the mastery of the Capital. The throne of despotic Russia has been ere now transferred from one dynasty to another without a blow on the part of its subjects : and we have seen in our own day how, under the sway of a Centralized Administration, the bravest of our neighbours may be forced to acquiesce, since powerless to interfere, in the subtly prepared and swiftly perpetrated measures, * De Tocqueville, ubi supra. 24 On Wealth and which have changed the most popular, to the most despotic constitution of Europe. iv. The influence of Centralization on Material Prosperity, including under that term everything re- sulting from trade, commerce, and the mechanical arts, is perhaps of more difficult appreciation. The wealth of a nation may be the wealth either of the government, or of the people ; either those resources which the State has at its disposal, or the accumula- tions and investments of individual enterprise. As regards the former, there does not seem, prior to ex- perience, any reason for expecting that a Centralized Administration will be distinguished for extravagance, unless through insufficient information regarding the requirements of particular localities ; requirements which those localities themselves, from their better knowledge, might be able more judiciously to supply. Accordingly we find that in France, where the public buildings, even for very subordinate purposes, which meet the traveller's eye, are executed on a scale un- known to ourselves, the supply, in many cases, in- finitely exceeds the demand. " Roads, canals, bridges, quays, and public buildings are consequently con- structed not in a commensurate proportion in extent and expense to the want to be provided for, but on a disproportionate scale, and with an excess of mag- nificence ridiculously in contrast with the small im- portance of the object, and the actual or possible wants of the community or locality. This dispropor- tion between cost and advantage to the public, is the Material Prosperity. 25 great characteristic of all public works in all States in which the people have no voice in the management of their own affairs 7 ." And in addition to the amount spent on such objects, the salaries necessary to support a fully Centralized Administration must form a serious item in the national expenditure 2 : a system which suffers by comparison with that wherein services ei- ther unbought, or rewarded by inconsiderable emolu- ments, attract their officers to posts of local honour and interest. With regard to its effects on the prosperity of the governed, it is manifest that in a rude age, when the government alone has the command of the few me- chanical or scientific appliances which exist, Centrali- zation may be highly useful in prosecuting enterprises which would otherwise be totally neglected. But the case is different in a period of advanced civilization, which always places sufficient resources for most pur- poses at the disposal of any moderately large number of men. If we could think that a system of govern- ment supervision would have been likely to prevent a catastrophe like that which lately filled with ruin and desolation one of the busiest of our manufacturing valleys, much might be sacrificed for so inestimable an advantage. But there is too much reason to believe that amid the multiplicity of official occupations, and the numerous directions in which the overtasked ac- tivity of government functionaries has to be exerted, y Laing, ii. 166. 7 Bechard, i. p. 12, 13. (Sixty-three millions of francs, in France.) 26 On Individual matters of this description, as is actually the case in France", may fall into irretrievable neglect, no less than under the superintendence of local administra- tion. Indeed municipal bodies, it has been said, 'do fewer things well, but do more things/ and if left to themselves they are especially useful in being able to attempt those improvements in the condi- tion of the poor, or other experiments which circum- stances may suggest, the demand for which is in general so tardily responded to by the supreme government. The absorption, too, of all public undertakings by the government, tends, as was the case under Napoleon's administration 15 , to diminish the vigour of private enterprise, and to enrich the capital at the expense of the departments : while the contrary system, by giving wealthy individuals an in- terest in distant centres of action, improves the social and industrial condition of the provinces, and may encourage the latent merit which would be lost among the crowds of an overgrown metropolis. v. But it is on individual life and character and on the general tone of moral and social feeling by which these are improved or impaired, that Administrative Centralization has the most real, if not the most ob- vious, influence. The system to be efficiently worked M. Bechard says (i. 15) "Nos landes abandonnees, nos cours cCeau transformes sur plusieurs points du territoire en torrents destructeurs . . . offrent une affligeant contraste avec 1'etat de culture avancee qu'on trouve dans la plupart des autres etats de 1' Europe." b See Alison, VI. 401. Life and Character. 27 implies, as we have seen, a large number of function- aries" necessarily under the control of the central government : and we may therefore consider its effects 1. on its instruments, i. e. the officers whom it employs : 2. on the people who are thus governed. 1. The two conditions d which ought to be united in every officer who is not either to be made a mere machine, or on the other hand to be guided alone by individual caprice, are those of independence and responsibility : the same conditions, in fact, which Providence has appointed for the formation of moral character in mankind in general. Now the perfection of a Centralized Administration must consist, in one respect, in its complete command over the officers whom it employs : and this end is best attained by making them dependent for the tenure of the office, and responsible for their conduct in the exercise of it, to the supreme Government alone. But the checks on misgovernment, supplied in some cases by public opinion, in others by independence in the official, are under such a state of things completely neutralized. The functionaries who presided over German affairs from 1807 to 1814, not accountable to those whose affairs they managed, and holding office only at the pleasure of the foreign invader, " became the willing c The number of these under Louis Philippe amounted to 807,030 (Laing, ii. 185). When M. De Tocqueville wrote, the number depend- ing on the king was 138,000 : while in America only 12,000 are re- quired, who however do not depend on the president. d i. e. not conditions necessary for the performance of his work : only those requisite to prevent its having an unfavourable effect on himself. 28 On Individual instruments in the hands of the French of the most grievous exactions, contributions, and oppressions, which without their assistance and organization could not have been carried into effect by the French com- missaries 6 ." Evils such as these Norway avoids, by giving to each official a tenure of his post for life, and thus making him independent of the government : Great Britain (in the case of her Indian Empire), by giving the East India Company, the party most in- terested, the power of recalling a governor-general and other officials : and America, by the responsibility to public opinion, and resistance to the growth of an oligarchy, which is effected by the removal of all officials at intervals of four years f . Nor in the latter country does it appear that the ignorance of the forms of official procedure has that detrimental influence on the management of affairs which some suppose it likely to induce. The frequent change of function- aries may indeed cause mismanagement under a Centralized Administration ; but the stronger interest in the result which the system of local self-government naturally produces, may reasonably be expected to compensate for the want of special official training. It is found moreover, in addition to the want of moral dignity and hold on popular feeling by which bureau- cratic government is characterized, that the inde- pendence and social well-being of a great portion of society is destroyed by the deferred expectations ' Laing, ii. 191. q. v. as to the following statements. 1 Ib: 196, and De Tocqueville, ubi supra. Life and Character. 29 and compulsory leisure of those who are educated, as is so much the case in Germany and France 8 , with a view to this as their ultimate profession. Thus the energy of character elicited by the feeling that con- tinued exertions are the sole guarantee for future sub- sistence, is supplanted by a habit of mind which diffuses indeed, from the education demanded in all who aspire to such posts, a humanizing influence throughout society, but tending, by a contracted routine of business and a limited though secure maintenance, eventually to extinguish many capacities which might otherwise have been exercised in more various and useful directions. 2 a. The effects which this system produces (in- directly perhaps, but most surely) on the people in general, as distinct from that section which undertakes their management, seem, in the first place, to be, a diminution of energetic action, even in matters not included in the sphere of administration, through the encroachments of government on this debateable ground. In a state of society imperfectly civilized, and possessed of little information, Centralization, as it is more urgently required to satisfy wants in- adequately met by the deficient state of knowledge, so it has its ill effects counteracted by the undisci- * For the proof of this as regards France, see the Report on the Budget of 1850, quoted by Bechard, i. 13 ; as regards Germany, see Laing, ii. 198. The hopes of an official life are a prominent fea- ture in many German novels. See J. P. Richter's Quintus Fixlein. De Tocquevillo has some good remarks, vol. iv. part 1, on the "venal humour" produced by place-hunting. 30 On Individual plined energies and untrained habits of the people : but in an advanced state of civilized existence, where habit and custom are far more powerful, it depresses and impairs both public spirit and private enterprise. Thus it was the policy of Trajan h , admirable as was his administration in many respects, to diminish, through a fear of encouraging faction, that attention to public affairs which the local governments of the pro- vinces were sometimes disposed to shew : a method of government which, by teaching the people to look to the imperial power on every occasion, whether for pe- cuniary assistance for public works, or for advice con- cerning municipal regulations, left them no principle of activity in themselves, and promoted a habit of helplessness which under less humane and enlightened superiors led to much evil and neglect*. And Self- respect, which has been thought capable of being derived from the actual share which a democratic constitution may give every citizen in the supreme government, is more surely grounded on the constant and responsible discharge of functions by which the interests of neighbours and friends are affected and involved. Thus in those countries where Liberty is rather as it were brought within the reach of the people to enjoy than held up at a distance for them to venerate, public spirit is promoted, and the forma- h See Dr. Arnold's Life of Trajan, Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, X. 656. 1 So De Tocqueville notices that in the southern states of America there is more centralization and less public spirit. Life and Character. 31 tion of character assisted by the management of local interests. And the stir and commotion which these occasion, dangerous as they may appear to foreign observers, yet seem to a fairer judgment to quicken the pulses and invigorate the blood of society. When Liberty comes down among the children of men, the waters are indeed troubled ; but it is by the visit of an angel. Nor is the effect of the local self-government which Centralization excludes, less apparent on public mo- rality. In matters of this nature which it is possible for Law and Police to reach, it may be more reason- ably expected that the concern of the chief inhabitants for the good order and credit of their locality will operate efficiently, than the less interested though more numerous functionaries of the State administra- tion 15 ; while the tendency of Centralization to go more into detail than the nature of things allows, may secretly encourage ', though it outwardly prohibits those practices, to check which local opinion and ad- ministration have always been found so powerful 01 . And the companies for the promotion of moral objects not within the province of government, so remarkable a feature in modern civilization, seem liable to dis- couragement from the same cause which, under the suspicious rulers of the later Roman empire, re- k See Bcchard, i. 192. 1 M. Bechard farther charges the functionaries in France with cor- ruption, (ubi supra.) m See F. W. Newman, p. 290. 32 On Individual Life and pressed associations for purposes as innocent and more material. Administrative Centralization may also indirectly affect social character and sentiments through Art and Literature : but only, it is true, in a secondary and mediate manner. We have already seen how the education necessary to qualify individuals for office may spread some intellectual light through a country. But Centralization by implying a central seat of government implies also a metropolis ; and it is to a metropolis that all who seek fame or emolu- ment by the above pursuits are induced to resort. If art is fostered by the cooperative criticism which any assemblage of persons in towns can furnish, much more must it be improved by the distinguished mem- bers of all professions whom a metropolis attracts into its circle. Taste may be cultivated by national collections. Industry may find its material in national libraries. Genius may be stimulated by the rewards or gratified by the fame which collected wealth and appreciation have power to bestow n . But it must be remembered that while one spot is thus enriched by the talent of a country, the rest are proportion ably impoverished. Metropolitan excellence can only be attained at the cost of provincial exhaustion . The question, in fact, is, whether a nation shall shine with n See De la Centralisation, par Timon (M. de Connenin), passim. His contemptuous comparisons of provincial towns with Paris are a strong argument against the principle he eulogizes. See Lord Cockburn's Life of Jeffrey. Character; Literature; Education. 33 concentrated brilliancy in science, letters, and art, or spread a diffused and equable mediocrity over a more extended circle. While the former tendency (since no Homers wander now) seems more likely to elicit those mighty spirits, " full-welling fountain- heads of change," who have ever formed some of the chiefest sources of a nation's pride, the latter seems calculated to humanize a greater number, and afford those benefits to the many, which the cares of an anxious subsistence too frequently exclude. And the same observation may be made as regards the influ- ences of Journalism p . The greater number of centres of political information and activity which local self- government implies, require more numerous news- papers, not all however capable of commanding the talent lavished on those which represent the opinions of a great legislative and administrative focus. Unfavourable as is the conclusion to which these considerations may seem to point as regards Centrali- zation, oui' estimate must be considerably modified by remembering that the improved state of civilization with which it generally coexists, presents such facili- ties of locomotion and transport as may neutralize almost all the injurious consequences (if we think them injurious) which the sacrifice of the many to the few might in a ruder age produce. /3. But in addition to the above indirect effects, Centralization may also more immediately influence v See on this point De Tocqueville, iii. 130, &c. 34 Education. social character and sentiments, by means of Edu- cation. Education (or rather Instruction) is either general, professional, or Religious. Whether the di- rection of these by government is beneficial or the reverse, depends on the degree of culture prevailing in a country, and on the disposition of persons to make use of opportunities. But, since some education or other is the only means of raising man much above the animals, at least the rudimentary elements should be required of all. But this is a different question from the one, whether the State should have a mono- poly of education : a question which may be answered at once in the negative : though the monopoly of education is what Centralization naturally leads to. " Give me Education for a hundred years," said Leib- nitz, " and I will change the world ;" and to a ruler who by thus directing the opinions of his subjects, moulds them freely to his will, the expression " shep- herd of the people," would be not metaphorically, but literally applicable. As regards the professional edu- cation, towards the adoption of which some European governments seem tending, it may be the exercise of a wise discretion, so to regulate the number of those instructed for particular employments, as to diminish the misery which the competition in over-crowded trades and professions so fatally engenders among ourselves. And Religious Education, which may suffer the same fate as Secular under a central- ized regime, can only be fitly bestowed under the policy of tolerance to all, and encouragement to one, Effects of Centralized Legislation on Colonies. 35 of the modes of teaching, which even then must inde- pendently fulfil its function of spiritual culture. B. In proceeding to speak of the effects of Cen- tralization on a Colonial Empire q , Legislation must chiefly be taken into account. This, though it seems to do so, does not in reality stand on the ground of unity of legislation at home. There is a great dif- ference between abolishing the anomalous laws of local communities, and disallowing the right of a delegated legislative power to distant colonies. For these, a Central Administration, where it is possible, which is not often the case, is of course most in- jurious : and not less hurtful is that phase of it which is generally possible, the nomination of local officers by the government at home. 1. To the interests of the empire at large, more dangers seem likely to arise from the disaffection caused by the hindrances inseparable from Centralized Legislation, than from the supposed democratic ten- dencies of a fully delegated power. And though, doubtless, the inexperience of youthful communities may in many cases abuse this trust, yet the reserva- tion of a right to annul proceedings of the colonial rulers found generally detrimental, would answer every purpose at which a Centralizing Legislation aims. The Romans solved the problem of fusing conquered States into one body by leaving, where compatible with alle- giance, institutions and laws to the conquered : nor 4 On this point much information has been derived from Wakefield, Art of Colonization, xxxvith and following Letter. D 36 Effects on Colonies, fyc. was it but by an infringement of this necessary prin- ciple that America was finally lost to England. 2. The interests of colonies in particular, as distinct from the empire in general, may be affected, a. by the nature of the functionaries who administer them and these functionaries may be either at home or abroad. The former will be liable to the charges of ignorance certainly, of neglect probably, as well as of becoming incapacitated for legislation, though it is their business, by routine habits. The defect of those abroad will be, that they are attached to an external centre, and therefore detached from a common interest with those whom they govern ; just as the English clergy before the Reformation, belonging to tlieir centralized system, formed radii intersecting the re- gality and nationality of England, b. Distance, and therefore slow communication with the home govern- ment, increases to an almost incredible 1 extent the correspondence necessitated by administration ; nul- lifies permissions when at length received ; and some- times produces fatal results to trade and navigation by the hindrance of useful public works 8 . Such are some of the effects of Legislative and even partial Administrative Centralization, on colonies. If a State's duty is, not to devour its own children, but rather, Deucalion-like, to turn the bare stones of the r In the single year 1846, the Colonial Office of Paris received from Algeria no less than 28,000 despatches. Wakefield, p. 251. " Borrer, quoted by Wakefield, who mentions the loss of ships for want of a light-house which was to have been built in New Zealand. Summary of Results. 37 wilderness into centres of vitality and action, a system must be modified, which produces opportunities for oppression in the governing, disaffection in the gov- erned, and seriously affects the economical welfare of distant dependencies. It remains now, previous to the supplementary re- marks, to sum up, under the two heads required by the Essay, the conclusions at which we have arrived. The Benefits then, of Centralization are, that it assists the greatness and security of a country through the close coherence of its parts, and the defensive or offensive efficiency of its organization ; that it is fa- vourable to the order of society by keeping in check dangerous elements or introducing economical regula- tions in circumstances where dangerous elements may be developed : that it may help municipal liberty by assistance and consolidation during the times when society most requires them ; that it may increase material prosperity, by occasionally performing works beyond the means of local bodies ; that it may benefit individual character and manners by those humanizing influences which the results of collective arts, sciences, and branches of literature in a metropolis will gene- rally be found to produce. The Disadvantages of Centralization are, that it dries up the springs of Patriotism in particular lo- calities, and while rendering a nation capable of great efforts, impairs the powers which may renew them : that it fosters conspiracy while repressing faction, and loses the assistance of society in the coercion of crime : 38 Supplementary Remarks Civilization that it encroaches on individual and social freedom while it stifles the energy of individual and social enterprise ; that it injures wealth by extravagance as regards public, and neglect as regards private pro- perty : and finally, that it encourages in its function- aries a spirit of servile dependence, and an unsympa- thising temper towards the governed, while in the governed it produces that moral attenuation, which, like its physical counterpart in other natures, in man too marks the commencement of degeneracy and decay ; " Sponte sua quae se tollunt in luminis eras, Infecunda quidem, sed laeta et fortia surgunt ; Nunc altse frondes et rami Matris opacant, Crescentique adiinunt fetus, uruntque ferentem." II. Wider and less definite results, not so suscep- tible of particular proof, yet not the less certainly connected with the subject, may here perhaps most fitly be suggested. Civilization, above all or the co- ordinate developement of Society and the Individual, will not be uninfluenced by so potent a tendency as that which we have been considering. If, as seems true, part of the developement of Society results from the worthy occupation of the governing part of it, any system will be unfavourable to it which wastes time, better bestowed on large questions, in the petty details of local administration. And, though the con- centration of intellect may promote social progress, yet moral sympathies require local unions, incapable Power of Public Opinion over the Individual. 39 as they are of adequate growth among the closely packed masses which the concentration of intellect, as of wealth, implies. And it is by cooperation of the higher and middle classes for the benefit of the lower in heal institutions of Education or Charity, that moral sympathies between all three are most likely, if at all, to be developed, and the barrier broken down which separates the Two Nations, as Plato calls them, of the Rich and the Poor. To the developement of the Individual any system is injurious which diminishes the number of oppor- tunities for the conscientious exercise of his single judgment ; just as in Religion an externally imposed system of rules to meet all contingencies hinders the growth of Conscience by the minute details of Casuistry. Local business, even if not successfully conducted, enlarges the circle of ideas, and in some degree counteracts the narrowing tendencies of merely industrial pursuits. Civilization, too, viewed in its modern aspect, seems to repeat one of its ancient characteristics, the predominance of the State over its members, now represented by the hold which Public Opinion has over the Individual. For though now, destined for Eternity, he is not, as once he was, held of inferior dignity to Collective Man : yet he may have to bow to a more arbitrary power the opinions, feelings, and tastes which a majority will always im- pose, if possible with the stringency of law, on the minority of society. Eor this is the form which the composite monster of which Plato speaks, assumes 40 The State versus the Individual. at the present clay. It might well be, among those to whom the Future was a prospect on which " shadows, clouds, and darkness " were resting, that the indefeasible personality of the citizen might be required to yield to the united majesty of the com- munity, and that men should conceive then, as they have done since, of a power transcending in its final cause and formal beauty the petty interests of its material constituents, and combining the variety and force of the multitude with the unity and coherence of the individual. There may be indeed something wonderfully attractive to the philosophic Statesman in all that such a centralized system involves ; the descending hierarchy of officers, the multiplicity of functions, and the graduated subordination of parts under the single ruler, that sits at the helm of affairs and ramifies into the minutest details of administra- tion his secret and imperial influence ; " totamque, infusa per artus Mens agitat molem, et magno se corpore miscet." And to the fascinations of such a Political Pantheism we might be right to yield, were human forms of po- lity not liable to human accidents, and were the prac- tical execution of a system always commensurate with its ideal perfection. To minds enamoured of system for system's sake, to whom simplicity of design and symmetry of adaptation are recommendations which the actual vices of the machine in action do not always outweigh, Centralization may appear as it has ap- Centralization in History. 41 peared to modern France, strikingly characterized as she is by these logical predilections the very con- summation of political harmony and grandeur. But when we consider how the system may work ; and when we see, how the ever-progressing principle of the Division of Labour, while it views government as a mere profession, thus supplying Centralization with its theory, tends to carry it into practice by develop- ing each man's powers in some one limited channel, we recognise the necessity of surrounding individual completeness and independence of character with the firmest bulwarks ; and, slow to admit a system of an opposite tendency, we shall agree with Aristotle, that Xtav evovv tflreiv rrjv 7ro\iTiai> ) OVK ecrnv OL^LVOV. Centralization, in the still wider sense in which it is brought before us by History, appears as the alter- nate reconstruction of previously disrupted societies. The human race, projected from the formative will of its Creator, is first the one family, is then dispersed into communities; each of which viewed in its pri- mary and ideal character, presents in its subordinate yet independent parts, an analogon of man's physical constitution, where the functional activity of diversely harmonious organs ensures under the superintendence of the central nervous energy, the continuance of Life. Declining from this their original state, societies are disintegrated into anarchy, and recombined into still more numerous unities, by the amalgamations of Con- quest, of Colonization, of Federation, of Monarchy; or present, finally, that narrower and intenser applica- 42 Necessity and difficulty of the question. tion of the principle which is the bane of Administra- tive Centralization. It is at this stage that the Poli- tician must encounter it : it is at this stage that it becomes most formidable. As the Philosopher tries to grasp his ' fundamental antitheses,' so the States- man must reconcile his; and they are, especially in this instance, problems of a more pressing character. For while Philosophical doubt, though it may vex the heart and weary the brain, seldom conducts to the Euripus, the problems of Politics are always pro- pounded by a Sphinx, and the prosperity, if not the fate of a nation, is in the hand of the (Edipus who can answer them. To attempt the framing of such solutions : to com- bine new wants and old arrangements : to make poli- tical unity compatible with local independence: to steer between the rebellious prejudices which shatter all improvement, and the whirlpool which draws all improvement to itself: in a word, to reconcile the centripetal and centrifugal forces of society, and imi- tate in states the harmony of the universe, this is the task of the Statesman and the Legislator, nor does it seem that it can be efficiently performed without a due sense of the evils of Centralization. But if from a sight of these evils we should be led unreservedly to condemn it, we must remember that its principle, though precluded by the inevitable weaknesses of our nature from innocuous developement, may yet be one of those tendencies of the human mind which Philosophy no less than History acknow- Centralization a tendency of the human mind. 43 ledges, and which point to some state of unseen per- fectibility, where the individual will shall be inde- pendent of, yet harmonious with, the Supreme, and neither absorption on the one hand, nor discordance on the other, shall mar the symmetry of their co- operation. And if the complexities and shortcomings around us seem to remove from mortal ken so glori- ous a consummation, yet we, too, may say with Plato S 'AAA' eV Ovpavw ia-co? TrapaSetyfjia avaKCLrai rw (3ov\ofjLi>q) bpav KOL op&vri eavrov * Republic, b. ix. ad fin. OXFORD : FEINTED BY I. SHKIMPTON. A 000 097 800 7



Decentralisation or Centralisation of Power


“Authoritarianism in Indian Democracy”

Different philosophers and thinkers have been supporting centralization and decentralization from time to time. For the establishment of democracy it is increasingly felt that decentralization of power is a check upon the degeneration of democracy into dictatorship. Philosophical Radicals, organized syndicalists agree that authoritarian rule and an excessive concentration of power are among the main obstacles in the way of social and individual progress. Even the communists express at least theoretical dislike of the centralized authoritarian state. Marx, for example, described the state as a parasite of society and looked forward to the time after the revolution when it would automatically wither away. No body can deny that if we want to change society for the better there must be freedom, justice, peaceful co-operation between the non-attached yet active and responsible individuals. This goal cannot be achieved through police espionage or military slavery. The centralization of power needs creation of an elaborate political hierarchy, the suppression of free discussion and the imposition of authoritarian system of education.

In some of the societies the state exists for the purpose of ensuring privileges to the ruling class. In feudal community the state is the instrument by means of which the landed nobility keeps itself in power. Similarly, under capitalism the rich retain their power with the help of the state. Clearly enough in such societies the people in power will always try to retain power in one or the other way. It is wrong to say that authoritarianism can help a government to consolidate democracy. But these dictatorial shortcuts can never take us to our destination. We must march directly, if we turn back to it we shall merely increase the distance which separates us from the goal. Political road to a better society is decentralization and responsible self-government.

In the present circumstances, it seems improbable that civilized community will take that road. Firstly, a society which is prepared for war cannot afford to be any thing but centralized. That is why any country which proposes to make war as an instrument of policy must have all powerful executive. So a democracy which prepares for was ceases to be democratic. The reverse is also true. That is why a highly centralized executive will always wage a war because whenever a tyrant feels that his popularity is waning he is tempted to exploit nationalistic feelings in order to consolidate his own position. Moreover, the individuals start feeling that the state is himself. In this manner the state is made the instrument of an individual’s mania of persecution and grandeurs.

Some may say that in the present state of circumstances every nation feels that it must prepare for war. That is why there is general tendency to increase the power for the Central executive. They say that a mad race for arms and conflicts in the world and the power bloc rivalries have resulted in a state of war. Consequently, there is a tendency towards totalitarian state. Before the Second World War the war hysteria had gripped most of the European nations and so there was centralization. For example, in England the Sedition Bill was passed and there was an enrolment of air raid wardens. Similarly, in France executive had taken much power. In such conditions they say that there was nothing wrong for India to move towards authoritarianism. But just to sacrifice democracy for the sake of war victories is morally unjustified and betrayal of the trust of the people. A true democrat would like to say even if India had lost battle with Pakistan without losing democracy it would have been better.

A common man is easily impressed by the successes of the government. Rather the glamour of success becomes one of the methods of perpetuating authoritarian rule. But if success is to be achieved by making a large number of people slaves it is analogous to killing the patient in an attempt to cure him.

The typical method adopted by the authoritarian rulers is to provide a set of terms in which their policies are rationalized and the crimes are justified. They serve as moulds for the thoughts of the people and the feelings and desires. This type of rationalization has been given by the Fascists, Nazis and Communists alike. In India the authoritarian government was ruling in the name of eradication poverty and disciplining the nation. Everything was justified in the name of discipline.

Again power is intoxicating by itself. That is why the people in power always try to retain it. That is why in all dictatorial countries the instruments of domestic policy are spying, torture, arbitrary imprisonment and execution. There may not have been executions in India, but arbitrary imprisonment was facilitated with the help of NSB and MISA.

The consequence of this curtailment of individual liberties and a progressive regimentation of the masses had frustrated people. The rational idealist deplore this tendency. It is completely wrong to think that tyranny will result in democracy. It has been suggested that we should not be misguided by the false attractions for this form of government. There was so much of dormant resentment that it might have burst and the result would have been one of the most unfortunate in history.

December 6, 2015evirtualguru_ajaygour10th Class, 9th Class, Class 11, Class 12, English (Sr. Secondary), English 12, LanguagesNo CommentEnglish 10, English 12, English Essay Class 10 & 12, English Essay Graduation

About evirtualguru_ajaygour

The main objective of this website is to provide quality study material to all students (from 1st to 12th class of any board) irrespective of their background as our motto is “Education for Everyone”. It is also a very good platform for teachers who want to share their valuable knowledge.

0 thoughts on “Centralisation Essay”


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *