Does decentralisation of power really matter? Will it deliver a state of affairs agreeable to the general public, or will it be a disappointment?

Strangely enough, and in spite of what might seem to be obvious, decentralisation will be deeply unsatisfactory so long as authority is only parcelled out to subsidiary executives, rather than completely dissolved into the hands of individuals and thus so atomised that it ceases to be power and simply becomes self-determining capability.

Of course, and as a matter of fact, only decentralisation is on offer, not dissolution. Indeed, to the degree that decentralisation will bring coercive responsibility closer to those coerced, it will actually be more unpopular, and the unpopularity will be more accurately focused on those responsible, local councillors and officers, leading to a deep reluctance to serve on such councils because of the exposure to criticism.

In essence, the point made here is that only an unintrusive and distant government can address the irritation currently expressed by the population through various means such as voting for fringe parties, annoyance at the land use planning system, routine neglect of the law, and general disenchantment with politics.

However, there remain important questions over the policing and the administration of justice that are difficult to untangle. Would we prefer that the police were run out of a local county office, rather than a Ministry of Love in some London bunker? And what of the fire service? It's tempting to think that the RNLI might be a useful model, but on closer examination it is no reliable guide since its services are provided to people who are by and large not the donors who support its work; in other words, the private provision of lifeboats is a very special case.

Perhaps we could agree that:

Police administration should be at a medium level, for practical reasons related to local knowledge, and because a central police force has worrying implications for general liberty.

Justice should be administered as it is at present, through local magistrates for minor offences, and Crown judges for other cases.

Indeed, if power were localized through the Crown in both these cases it would become relatively free of political distortion, and thus less likely to provoke resentment. In other words, if the police and magistrates were selected by the Crown, in some sense distinguished from the political state, this would permit a degree of localisation, essential in any case for many practical reasons, while at the same time minimising, perhaps even avoiding altogether, any degree of resentment. This is a compromise, and not so very different from the situation that emerged piecemeal from the eighteenth century to the twentieth.