Archive for February 16, 2011

The ghost of the postcode lottery

February 16, 2011

For health read all public services

Localism is probably the most debated concept within the new Government’s lexicon; if only because it is superficially easier to understand than the ‘Big Society’.

In effect the debate about localism is part of a very old debate about what is the most appropriate level of Government for decisions to be made.

At one end of the spectrum are the communists who would hold that all decisions that could affect the people should be made centrally. This (theoretically) ensures that all decisions made are done so in the best interests of all the people and that (ill-defined) fairness extends throughout the land. At the other end of the spectrum is a rampant form of libertarianism or anarchism where every man is free to act in their own self interest at all times.

Squaring the circle of exactly where this balance should fall has been a challenge for thinkers down the ages. Most of the time the solution is simply an unspoken compromise.

However, the European Union (beloved of formalising it’s rules has formally adopted the concept of subsidiarity; which in turn has been borrowed from Catholic Social Teaching.

To quote Wikipedia, subsidiarity is:

Is an organising principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority.

But subsidiarity does not necessarily solve all our problems, especially in a country as small and centralised as the UK.