Monday, August 25, 2008

What is decentralism?

Longtime readers of this space may recall that I make occasional references to the philosophy of decentralism. Until now, however, I had difficulty finding a succinct statement of principles. This difficulty was resolved with the help of Rob Williams at Vermont Commons when he linked another Vermont site that republished the statement shown below.
Decentralist League of Vermont
Statement of Principles, March 1977

"In a free and just society all men and women will have the fullest opportunity to enjoy liberty, achieve self-reliance, and participate effectively in the political and economic decisions affecting their lives. Wealth and power will be widely distributed. Basic human rights will be protected.
"The principle of equal rights for all, special privileges for none, will prevail.

"When economic and political power is centralized in the hands of a few, self-government is replaced by rigid and remote bureaucracies, the independence of each citizen is threatened, and the processes of freedom and justice are subverted. Centralized power is the enemy of individual liberty, self-reliance, and voluntary cooperation. It tends to corrupt those who wield it and to debase its victims.

"The trend toward centralization in our social, economic, and political systems has given rise to a deep sense of powerlessness among the people, a growing alienation throughout society, the depersonalization of vital services, excessive reliance on the techniques of management and control, and a loss of great traditions.

"Decentralists share with 'conservatives' repugnance for unwarranted governmental interference in private life and community affairs. We share with 'liberals' an aversion to the exploitation of human beings. We deplore, however, conventional 'liberal' and 'conservative' policies which have concentrated power, ignored the importance of the human scale, and removed decision making from those most directly affected.

"Decentralists thus favor a reversal of the trend toward all forms of centralized power, privileged status, and arbitrary barriers to individual growth and community self-determination. We oppose political and economic systems which demand obedience to the dictates of elite groups, while ignoring abuses by those who operate the controls. We believe that only by decentralization will we preserve that diversity in society which provides the best guarantee that among the available choices, each individual will find those conditions which satisfy his or her human needs.

"Decentralists believe in the progressive dismantling of bureaucratic structures which stifle creativity and spontaneity, and of economic and political institutions which diminish individual and community power.

"We support a strengthening of family, neighborhood and community life, and favor new forms of association to meet social and economic needs.

"We propose and support:
-- Removal of governmental barriers which discourage initiative and cooperative self-help
-- Growth of local citizen alliances which strengthen self-government and broaden participation in economic and political decisions
-- Widespread ownership of productive industry by Vermonters and employees
-- Protection of the right to acquire, possess and enjoy private property, where the owner is personally responsible for its use and when this use does not invade the equal rights of others
-- Rebuilding a viable and diverse agricultural base for the Vermont economy, with
emphasis on homesteading
-- A decent level of income for all, through their productive effort whenever possible, or through compassionate help which enhances their dignity and self-respect
-- Reshaping of education to promote self-reliance, creativity, and a unity of learning and work
-- A revival of craftsmanship in surroundings where workers can obtain personal satisfaction from their efforts
-- The use of technologies appropriate to local enterprise, and which increase our energy self-sufficiency
-- Mediation of disputes rather than reliance on regulations and adversary proceedings
"This decentralist program implies a de-emphasis of status, luxury, and pretense, and a new emphasis on justice, virtue, equality, spiritual values, and peace of mind.
"Decentralism will mean a rebirth of diversity and mutual aid, a new era of voluntary action, a full appreciation of our heritage, an affirmation of meaningful liberty, and a critical awareness of Vermont’s relationship to the rest of the nation and to the world."
The desire for decentralism drives many, if not most, of the secessionist movements in North America today. It drives my desire for Ohio independence. Decentralism reflects more than mere political separation from the Empire; it speaks of a desire to reclaim our basic humanity.

1 comment:

Absent said...

Thank you for this post. I was looking for a good definition of decentralism and this is it.