You Say You Want a Devolution? by Robert Gore

The Civil War, as it’s known in the north, or the War of Northern Aggression, as it’s known in the south, supposedly “settled” an issue for time and all eternity: that the smaller political units known as states could not leave the larger political unit known as the United States, at least not without the larger unit’s consent. Unless they emigrate, 320 million people are bound to a political arrangement from which there is no other escape hatch, and the 50 states don’t have the option to leave. Similar strictures are in effect around the world. Why?

Centralization, command, and control—the tendencies that defined the twentieth centuries—are in their death throes, done in by their failures and the residual progress they’ve failed to kill. The signs are everywhere. If war is the health of the state, then states are sickly indeed. The most militaristic government on the planet, that of the United States, has not cleanly won a war since 1945, unless one wants to call Grenada a war. What has stymied the US has not been superior military force—the US has the world’s biggest arsenal and most technologically advanced military—but the force that is stymying centralization at every turn: decentralization.

Multimillion-dollar aircraft, tanks, and aircraft carriers can be destroyed by missiles fired from a variety of platforms, their cost a trivial fraction of that which they destroy. Small, diffuse terrorist cells inflict mayhem, destruction and death, especially when they have members willing to die for their cause. The major military powers upgrade their counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts and buy ever larger, more costly, and complex weaponry and systems. Both approaches have been self-evident failures, the former a losing game of whack-a-mole, the latter leading only to chaos, political instability, blowback, and the spread of terrorism and refugees, but no discernible victories. Large, complicated, cumbersome, and expensive keeps losing to small, simple, nimble, and cheap.

Governments’ economic incompetence rivals their military ineptitude. They and their central banks have almost emptied their bag of tricks: fiat debt and currency production, monetization of debt and other financial instruments, interest rate suppression, central planning, negative interest rates, financial market manipulation, and the possible elimination of cash. When the bag is empty, they will be left with global depression, massive debt, bloated central bank balance sheets, fabricated financial market prices and signals, yawning economic inequality, and widespread discontent. The western welfare states and Japan are de facto bankrupt. China is frantically administering hair of the debt dog to forestall the debilitating hangover from a two-decade borrowing binge. Economic entities that consume more than they produce eventually have to produce more than they consume. The bizarre and desperate measures either implemented or contemplated confirm both centralized incompetence and looming collapse.

The Information Revolution drives decentralization. A smart phone puts vast computing and communication power in the hands of its owner. The Internet and search engines allow directed access to virtually unlimited news, opinion, video, photographs, and data. Historically, governments have used control of information to control their citizenries. No one will argue that modern governments do not try to influence or control the Internet in their jurisdictions, or that they do not have some success in doing so. However, success has been, at best, partial and information technologies are the beating heart of advanced economies. How do you separate their central role in innovation, production, and commerce from their central role in disseminating information, fomenting dissent, and coordinating communications and protests?

We have real time experiments in China, Turkey, and other authoritarian states, where governments try to retain the economically beneficial aspects of information technologies but not their “unacceptable” political drawbacks. This have your cake and eat it approach is doomed, and the governments trying to enforce the division will move decisively towards freedom or repression. The latter outcome is not a foregone conclusion, simply because repression is costly and technologically challenging, and will become more so as the world becomes more decentralized and power continues to devolve toward smaller units and individuals.

The most important election this year is the British referendum June 23 on EU membership. The EU has followed the US’s disastrous policies in the Middle East and Northern Africa and has been unable to deal with the refugee and terrorist blowback from those policies. It has no strategy for resolving the issues stemming from the debt of its de facto bankrupt members, other than have the ECB buy it. Growth has been smothered by taxes, regulations, cronyism, and monetary idiocy. European youth have the “opportunity” to pay some of the world’s highest tax rates to fund the world’s most generous welfare state benefits. Those looking for other opportunities—private sector jobs, leaving home, starting families, building wealth—must look elsewhere.

Why would Great Britain want to plight its troth with this gang of incompetents? Why would anyone think it can’t do better by going it alone? These are questions the political establishments in Europe, Great Britain, and the US would rather not have asked, much less have to answer. The animating impulse behind the Brexit movement is one no political power can acknowledge—the desire for more freedom from that political power. Does life become more or less free for the British if they subject themselves to cabbage regulations of 26,911 words? Individuals generally have more of a say in a smaller, closer governmental unit than a larger, more remote one. For anyone living in Great Britain, both literally and figuratively it’s a shorter trip to London than it is to Brussels.

At least the British have a chance to decide this question by a peaceful political process. In the US, smaller political subdivisions have no way to opt out, and this type of restriction characterizes political arrangements in much of the rest of world, leaving violence as the only way to sunder them. In that respect, the non-secession stricture needs urgent reconsideration. Centralization is collapsing under its own weight, discouraging its many proponents not at all. A decentralizing reversal will not be sufficient to restore freedom, but it will be necessary. Almost certainly that reversal will be accompanied by chaotic violence, as current arrangements leave no other choice.

Today’s behemoth governments secure few advantages to their productive and honest citizens, and exact myriad and substantial costs. If the collapse of centralization is accompanied by balkanization and devolution, then among the many smaller political subdivisions, enclaves devoted to liberty, limited government, and individual rights become real possibilities, provided they can secure their territories. Such enclaves of freedom would be havens for the productive and honest, at the forefront of innovation, economic progress, quality of life, and political expression. Smaller can be far more beautiful, peaceful, and prosperous than the current blobocracy.

The Brexit vote is more important than the US presidential election because whoever wins in November will be chained to the failing US government, while the British have an opportunity to shed some of their chains. Regardless of who wins in the US, the government will not relinquish its resources, power, or corruption. Centralization has advanced so far and so destructively that every expression or potential expression of a revolutionary desire for devolution—the transfer of power to lower levels and smaller subdivisions—is to be welcomed, be it Brexit or other countries leaving the EU, various separatist movements within countries, or mass disobedience to the dictates of centralized governments. As the Brexit vote and electoral insurgencies in the US and Europe make clear, the underlying pressures continue to build. Something’s got to give, and when it does, decentralization and devolution will give those seeking liberty a rare opportunity to build the kind of society they’ve always envisioned.


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19 responses to “You Say You Want a Devolution? by Robert Gore

  1. frank w. hooper

    A 1990’s book by Davidson and Meese-Mog called The Reckoning, made a very good case about digital technology bringing huge disruptions and decentralization.
    Because our bureaucratic nightmare is even more bloated and clumsy than the Soviet Unions was I just don’t see how We can avoid a total implosion and violent chaos. Trump or no Trump. Add to that all the debt and the never mentioned trillions of Fiat money we have issued.
    I’ve said here before that I don’t think the puppet masters care what happens to our 320 million people, they can let us die off and in a few years when the rest of the world is pulling out of the depression they can move back in and take over the resources that have been largely untouched since the 70’s. How convenient that the “Tree Huggers” were allowed to put our resources off limits about the time We started issuing unsustainable debt and that these bonds are backed by the land and underlying resources we have. We’re assuming of course that Russia and China don’t nuke us first. We seem hell bent on pushing them into it.
    My fantasy is that I’m wrong about everything I just said.


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  3. Excellent commentary on the factors that have dominated US foreign expansion since WWII, and before that domestic expansion capped off by the US Civil War.

    Decentralization, is the key, of course. When the Berlin wall came down in 1989, it left capitalism, or at least a form of it with little competition except police states. Communist governments are the worst centralized states, which is their weakness, and corruption is a characteristic result. This doesn’t mean socialist capitalism is a viable system, privatizing profits and socializing losses. It has the same weakness. Free markets are decentralized, which lower taxes and less government spending provides. Try telling that to a social capitalist.

    The internet of things has the potential to transform life on this earth, let’s hope it’s a peer to peer system, and not one controlled by the NSA. They’re already one step ahead.

    Thanks for a thought provoking article.


  4. Should Trump become president an interesting test will be the elimination of the Dept of Ed. Trump has campaigned on its elimination. It will probably be the bellwhether. A turn to freedom if the DoEd is disbanded. Continued Tyranny if it is not.


    • Your comment goes to something I believe is essential: the complete privatization of education. There needs to be separation of school and state for the same reasons as separation of church and state. Any say that the government has in education inevitably becomes pro-government propaganda and stifle free inquiry, as has certainly happened in the US.


    • I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Trump to end the Department of Education. There is a huge difference between campaign promises and political reality. Even the promises with the best intentions almost never come to fruition, and I’m convinced that Trump is not sincere. He’s making political hay based on telling us what we want to hear. Similarly, the Federal Reserve will not be audited or abolished, nobody will rein in the out of control FDA, EPA, BATFE, DOJ, TSA, IRS, or any of the countless other agents sent forth to eat out our substance. At this late date, none of the candidates are even suggesting that we should have a balanced budget. It’s not even a consideration. We’re not allowed to even discuss it. We may only debate whether we should have a $1 trillion dollar annual deficit, or a $1.3 trillion annual deficit.


  5. Britain has already lost the real war being waged against western civilization, and there is no recovery from that: the demographic war. When a “nation,”* centrally administered by its real enemies, has been “reverse-colonized” by its former far-flung subjects, and disarmed to boot, there is simply no recourse. The end is certain.

    The U.S. is hanging by/on a thread – the 2nd Amendment. When it nally goes, all the carefully-planned reverse-colonization by its central usurpers will finally bear glorious rotten fruit – a journey begun with the Northern invasion of the seceding south will see its apotheosis in the dark dawn of continental devastation and irreparable loss of the founding spirit of this nation.

    Sorry to have be so negative, but them’s the facts, ma’am.

    * “nation” must be understood from perspective of a social pyramid that: individuals, families, communities, states/provinces, nations. The clear progression from one level to the next is organic, and necessarily precludes much “diversity,” as diverse groups have diverse, and always competing, interests. Ergo, the business of modern “enlightened,” “progressive,” central governments is ALWAYS the dissolution of nations.


  6. A succinct diagnosis of our terminal illness. To re-order the words of a cliche: “It’s too big of a fail to save”.


  7. Sir: At the very lowest level, get out or the hive and shift to maximum overdrive ignore. Rural land is an insulator of sorts and being inconspicuous once there is a handy tactic. Dirt is cammo, move with: [a] spade [b] dozer.
    Why folks stay in the inner sanctum hell of the cities is beyond rational comprehension.
    An hour commute if necessary, gives a soul time to think and further plan. It cleanses the soul and develops your noticer and focuser.
    Git sum……Soapweed


  8. I fully expect this country to erupt into gunfire from one end to the other, and gradually break up into any number of city/states. The leftists here are mentally deranged, and will never accept anything other than “their way”. The history of this country has never been one of accepting dictatorship, or even gradual movement towards that. The evidence of that is here in this blog, and other blogs and the multitudes in the liberty movement. The left always over reaches, and the right always seems to back into a corner before active resistance. What many do not understand, with the current insanity in various places, is that a critical point of pressure must be reached before the explosion. Millions of outrages eventually reach a point at which they CAN’T be tolerated. In history, the Big Change is set off by something small, with stupendous fury behind it. We live sitting atop a keg of gunpowder, and the fuse is already lit.


  9. Great article, but it misses the other half of the crisis. I has become cliche (and apparently, so google tells me, untrue) that the Chinese symbol for “crisis” is a combination of “opportunity” and “danger”.

    As you say, “[s]omething’s got to give, and when it does, decentralization and devolution will give those seeking liberty a rare opportunity to build the kind of society they’ve always envisioned.”

    True enough. But when that “something” does give, in addition to an opportunity for liberty, there will come a danger. That danger is greater centralization. Remember, the EU and the US are “too big to fail”.

    Debt is the threat. Debt will create the crisis. And debt will be the primary justification for Unification, just as it was in the 1780’s among the Confederation of former British colonies in America. Just as the United States of America was always, really, the Unified States of America — where secession would not be tolerated (even if the parties who ratified the Unification were unaware of it) — there will be “solutions” proposed to this crisis that will require much greater sacrifice (of liberty) than their proponents will admit. It may seem nonsensical (and it is), but to the problems caused by too much centralization, … more centralization will become the “solution” favored by most people.

    Regardless of myths about Chinese writing, a crisis usually does have a moment of opportunity hidden within it. The problem is that what hides the opportunity is all that damned danger.

    Borrowing again from Chinese (mythically?), … we live in interesting times.

    Or, … we’re about to.


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  11. Brexit is needed only look at who’s going to vote.
    The average UK sheeple will wait until the night before and let the media make up it’s mind for what it votes.
    If it can be bothered at all.
    To sort out the facts from fiction needs the sheeple to go pro-active.
    Their idea of doing that? Change the TV channel.

    I watched as a man stood reading a newspaper, on it was a headline about Brexit and a full page breakdown of who said what and why.

    “See that” he angrily said to me, but It wasn’t about Brexit it was about a footballer who had got arrested for drugs. “shouldn’t be allowed to play, he’s a disgrace”. Four lines and a thumbnail picture on the bottom of a page full of the UK’s future.


  12. We’re all hoping for a big decentralization win, but I don’t think it’s quite right to say that big centralized US militarism has been a failure. It’s certainly been a failure in the ways that were mentioned in this article. It squanders our nation’s productive capacity while making us less secure. Clearly, it’s a failure from any sane military or foreign policy perspective, but I don’t think that’s the actual goal. Like cancer, the goal of big government is to grow, and by that analysis, the big centralized military empire has been a huge success. With no legitimate military threats, our government needed to create a threat to justify crony military spending and expansive big government empiricism. The fact that a $50 IED can cause millions of dollars in downstream US government expenditures is not a policy failure once we understand that the goal is to spend money. In fact, the asymmetrical nature of The War Against Terrorism is quite an asset for those in the business of empire building. War is the health of the state, and the US is now engaged in perpetual war. The US empire has metastasized.

    There is certainly cause for hope that decentralized information sharing via the internet, smart phones and other technology works against big authoritative centralized power, but for every cell phone video posted to YouTube and every Straight Line Logic blog post, we have examples of these technologies being used to spy on citizens, suppress free expression, etc. Technology is a tool for liberty or tyranny, but it’s difficult to know which is the greater factor. I think it’s too soon to tell if information technology will be a tool that makes government accountable to the people, or will it be a tool used by central authorities to oppress the people?

    I’ll feel much better about the demise of decentralization when there is one single place in the entire world where a person can live in liberty, which for the purposes of this discussion is defined as freedom from excessive government. It’s no accident that there is not one square foot on the entire planet where I can go and not be under the rule of one oligarchy or another. At best, we may emigrate from one tax plantation to another on the global tax plantation.


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