Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Local Government has been Emasculated" (But so has everything else)

From a systemic perspective, the central-vs-local government clash continues to be pretty bemusing.

On the one hand, central government decides how much localism there should be, and giveths and takeths away from local or super-local (regional/LEPs, etc, whichever the trendier?) all the time.

On the other hand, the hierarchy at all levels is being infiltrated by both the private sector, and the "new", networked form of group organisation which has managed to somehow avoid the "postcode lottery" moniker so far.

Lord Heseltine is advocating even more decentralisation away from central government, and offers some small looks into where local-interest power means that Stuff Gets Done, ie. that the hierarchy needs to get out of the way of people just getting together to achieve something.

A few days ago I started thinking about how a community wifi effort (Google Doc) could benefit and be hampered by a "network" approach vs a "hierarchical" approach. (Hint: there's no straightforward answer.) Richard Veryard suggested that the network/hierarchy split (or spectrum) wasn't too useful, which I'm still unpicking, but it did get me thinking about why we organise into different types of group.

It is perhaps most true to say that democratic models are the most complex they have ever been. This is different to saying that "we need to move to a network democracy" or that "it is local government's time".

It is understanding instead that we have a very real situation of multiple, overlapping, integrating models of democracy organisation/objective/philosophy. There is no "one approach fits all" solution because there never was - we just managed to shoehorn the world into the latest mainstream model through a heavy imbalance of power.

Local Government has been emasculated. But so has central government. And perhaps so have ordinary citizens along the way.

I'm going meta. There is no such thing as democracy, but there is such a thing as a democracy network. Which, confusingly, includes networked democracy - but also centralised democracy, European democracy, local democracy and hyperlocal democracy.

Which means there's no point arguing over which one's best, only over how we make sure they all get along.

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