Seven Qualities of Centralized Power

photo: AfricaStudio

When a society adopts a one-dimensional paradigm, two terms garner most of its attention: left and right (aka: liberal and conservative). This has been the case in America for several generations. It’s the root cause of today’s deepening turmoil.

No society is one-dimensional, however. And when the complex intersections of our political preferences are discussed using limited language, cross-talk and conflation emerge.

The solution is to draw distinctions about power. Its “vertical” observations must be added to our ongoing “horizontal” conversations about values: the interwoven fabric of two axes can then be examined.

The qualities of citizen-based power were examined earlier. Here are characteristics exhibited by centralized power ……


This concerns the control of data. Centralizers restrict its flow, allowing only a few highly-vetted loyalists to view information. This “classified” approach opposes the citizen-empowering preference for transparency. The power poles disagree on who “needs to know” …… the few versus the many.


You’ve heard the phrase “go big or go home.” The centralizer says: “Go big. And regardless of outcome, go bigger next time.” This quality explains why wars are centralizing events: the scale these existential contests is immense. It also explains why large monuments were left by top-down societies like those run by Pharaohs and Roman emperors. Perhaps the most monumental achievement in history was the landing of a man on the moon …… an indication of America’s shift toward centralized power.


Centralists create reams of regulations, where complicated rules seek some simple goal. This contrasts with citizism’s preference for emergence, where a simple set of initial rules (and conditions) leads to the complexity of self-organizing systems.


“Go local” is never the emphasis of a centralized organization. Concentrated power seeks a national/global orientation. This tendency has made the country’s largest cities very successful. It also favors the media organizations that focus on national players and policies.


Like the other characteristics on this list, quality five applies equally to the left and right sides of the political circle. On the upper left, governmental bureaucracies attempt to set policy for an entire nation. On the upper right, corporations control markets with top-down plans for national or global domination. The two high quadrants often work together toward these ends.


Closely related to quality five, this characteristic is about silos. Every member of an organization holds a position within a vertical org chart. Most seek to move “upward” where they can control more power. But only those with proper credentials will reach “the top.” This tendency contrasts sharply with the flexible, decentralized organizations favored by the lower pole.


Centralized power always seeks uniformity, despite its recent mantras about diversity. A monolithic set of common beliefs is pursued. Like other qualities, this one can’t describe differences between the left and right.

Other characteristics are also exhibited by centralists. Their need for predictable structure sits in opposition to the citizist’s comfort with some chaos.

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