Centralisation imparts without difficulty an admirable regularity to the routine of business… in short it excels in prevention, but not in action. Its forces desert it when society is to be profoundly moved, or accelerated in its course; and if once the cooperation of private citizens is necessary to the furtherance of its measures, the secret of its impotence is disclosed…
These are not conditions upon which the alliance of the human will is to be obtained; it must be free in its gait and responsible for its acts, or (such is the constitution of man) the citizen had rather remain a passive spectator than a dependent actor in schemes with which he is unacquainted.
Alexis de Tocqueville from Democracy in America
I love ‘free in its gait and responsible for its acts’. Politicians tell us they want our participation, our citizenship and our contribution. But one feels that they only want us to get involved on their terms – not when we’re ready – but when they’re ready.
Citizenship must be rooted in local experiences of active engagement. We cannot be expected to spring into action only when our masters decide they are ready for us.
The fact that the UK is the most centralised welfare state in the world should give us all cause for concern.