Politics in Minutes (2016)

Decentralization and devolution

The amount of power and responsibility given to local and regional government varies enormously from country to country. More libertarian political parties tend to advocate a minimal central government, and leaving local governments to manage their own affairs, but in practice often resist this decentralization once in power. Nevertheless, powers such as local administration, the raising of taxes and making laws are often granted to local authorities and, especially where there is a cultural or ethnic division of populations, a more full-blown devolution of power to regional parliaments or assemblies.

The power devolved to these local governments may not be a permanent arrangement, but if it is and offers real autonomy, it is akin to a federal state (see here). The United Kingdom, for example, is a unitary state that has devolved certain powers to regional parliaments, while the Kingdom of Belgium, with several distinct languages and communities, describes itself as a ‘federal state composed of Communities and Regions’.