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Centralisation (British), or centralization (American), is the process by which the activities of an organization, particularly those regarding planning and decision-making, become concentrated within a particular location or group, keeping all of the important decision-making powers within the head office or the centre of the organisation.


  • The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.
    • James Madison, The Federalist Papers : No. 47 (Feb. 1, 1788) p. 298.
  • I believe very deeply, as I explained in my book The Lion and the Unicorn, in the English people and in their capacity to centralise their economy without destroying freedom in doing so.
    • George Orwell, in: George Orwell. George Orwell: A Life in Letters, selected and annotated by Peter Davison. First American Edition 2013. Online at thedailybeast.com, 12.08.2014
  • But Elias did propose an exogenous trigger to get the whole thing started, indeed, two triggers. The first was the consolidation of a genuine Leviathan after centuries of anarchy in Europe’s feudal patchwork of baronies and fiefs. Centralized monarchies gained in strength, brought the warring knights under their control, and extended their tentacles into the outer reaches of their kingdoms. According to the military historian Quincy Wright, Europe had five thousand independent political units (mainly baronies and principalities) in the 15th century, five hundred at the time of the Thirty Years’ War in the early 17th, two hundred at the time of Napoleon in the early 19th, and fewer than thirty in 1953. The consolidation of political units was in part a natural process of agglomeration in which a moderately powerful warlord swallowed his neighbors and became a still more powerful warlord. But the process was accelerated by what historians call the military revolution: the appearance of gunpowder weapons, standing armies, and other expensive technologies of war that could only be supported by a large bureaucracy and revenue base. A guy on a horse with a sword and a ragtag band of peasants was no match for the massed infantry and artillery that a genuine state could put on the battlefield. As the sociologist Charles Tilly put it, “States make war and vice-versa.” Turf battles among knights were a nuisance to the increasingly powerful kings, because regardless of which side prevailed, peasants were killed and productive capacity was destroyed that from the kings’ point of view would be better off stoking their revenues and armies. And once they got into the peace business—“the king’s peace,” as it was called—they had an incentive to do it right. For a knight to lay down his arms and let the state deter his enemies was a risky move, because his enemies could see it as a sign of weakness. The state had to keep up its end of the bargain, lest everyone lose faith in its peacekeeping powers and resume their raids and vendettas.
  • The shortcomings of centralization were largely ignored until the advent of the computer age. Computing power gave scientists the capability to quantify the fatal flaws underlying the tenets of centralization. The phrase that computer technicians coined to describe these inherent defects is 'single point of failure'. The 'single point of failure' principle refers to a system such that, if that one component were to fail, the entire system would grind to a halt… In socioeconomics, it means that one single error by a government agency could invoke a devastating outcome to society and its citizens. One error could crash a centralized system, leading to total systemic failure.
    • L.K. Samuels, In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action Cobden Press (2013) p. 200.
  • The underlying problem of centralization is that it attempts to force many dissimilar parts into a seamless whole. Of course, nothing is identical in the physical world. No two parts are equal. This means that centralization must force cohesion of mismatched parts—a herculean task that is impossible to satisfy.
    • L.K. Samuels, In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action, Cobden Press (2013) p. 192.
  • The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position.
    • George Washington, Farewell Address, originally published in Daved Claypole's American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796.

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