“Small is beautiful,” declared economist E. F. Schumacher in his 1973 book of the same title, and the epigram encapsulates the spirit of decentralism. There is a poetic quality to decentralism, rooted as it is in a love of the particular. The British writer G. K. Chesterton noted in his novel of local patriotism, The Napoleon of Netting Hill, that the true patriot “never under any circumstances boasts of the largeness of his country, but always, and of necessity, boasts of the smallness of it.”

A decentralist believes that political power (and, in some but hardly all cases, wealth) should be widely dispersed. He or she believes that concentrated power is the bane of liberty; its remoteness insulates the wielder of power from the citizen—or, perhaps ...

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