Is decentralized power inherently less corrupt?

It is an axiom among those of a certain political bent that the more local the government the more likely it is to faithfully enact the will of the governed.

I don’t believe this is necessarily true. A podunk Aldermanic District can have every one of the warped political machinations that pervert democracy on Capital Hill, and if it only appears they have less it’s because they have fewer resources at their disposal and victims to be enraged by their malfeasance. If given the opportunity the worst Congressional decisions in history could all have passed at a 4-H meeting.

Can anyone cite some evidence leading to the conclusion ‘With less power comes greater stewardship’?

I don’t think it’s so much that decentralized power is less corrupt, but rather that the scope of the corruption is smaller by definition, since things are decentralized. (what you said more or less in your 3rd sentence). And, since the scope is smaller, the accountability should be greater as well. If you’re elected by a constituency of 100 people, you’re going to be a lot more personally accountable than if you’re elected by a constituency of 10,000 or 100,000.

What you get at the federal level is industries making tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions and the entire industry getting billions of dollars of benefits (health care, banking, agriculture…)

What you get at the local level is a suitcase with $20,000 cash and a company getting a million dollar contract.

Naturally few people see the first as a problem, while the second is considered horribly immoral and illegal.

Also when the mayor decides to start being a tyrant you can move to the next town thus removing his power over you. It’s much more difficult to move to Canada if you don’t like the president.

Without reading the other posts and or thinking about it tooo much…I’d say local power is more likely to become corrupt, but when it does it more along the lines of a good old boy pain the ass kinda thing and not a here come the Jack Booted Feds to oppress the crap out ya kinda thing.

I’d say no it isn’t. What helps is a set of diverse power structures that can exert some form of checks and balances. That’s why the Constitution is such a brilliant document.

Exactly. The competition inherent in divided powers means that corruption by one group is harder to conceal. The other groups have an interest in exposing it. If the mayor is taking bribes, the city council and local judges are motivated to make this known to the people. (Yeah, okay, they might be motivated in part by jealousy… “How come we aren’t getting this special treatment?”)

Sure, but “personally accountable” works both ways. A lot of local corruption is “good-old boy” networks, where ones personally accountable to keep ones friends rich and happy.

Of course there’s some of this at the national level, but just because of the scales involved, its not as big a factor. A President might break the rules to help his friends business, but that’s just going to be one business in a large country. While in a small town, one business can basically account for most of the economic activity.

And a President is going to have to deal with a lot of people in the press and opposition parties and other businesses who aren’t his friends, and will have a strong incentive to publicize corruption. In a smaller town, it’s possible for one social network to basically dominate the press, gov’t and business community.

You’re equivocating: your thread title asks about decentralized power, but your opening post refers instead to local power.

Locally exercised power can be just as centralized as anything you can imagine. Think of a prison with a corrupt, sadistic, and autocratic person running it.

Hell, think of the captor in Oscar-winner Spotlight. Hard to get more local than that. But absolutely totally centralized power. No checks and balances to prevent him from doing any thing he damn well pleases.

Neither centralization nor decentralization have anything to do with corruption or the lack thereof. The pros and cons of a centralized state have more to do with state strength and its capacity to enforce policies, regardless of how harmful or corrupt these policies are. USA might be considered a decentralized state, theoretically speaking, with the endless checks on power on every level of governance, down to local courts and state administration, which can be positive, in terms of preserving democracy, and can be negative, in terms of the tall order it is to try and enforce benign policies, such as the Affordable Care Act or same-sex marriage (if you think these are good things, that is).

An example of the opposite would be the UK’s Westminster system, which is still democratic but has an easier hand enforcing country-wide laws that don’t need to be endorsed and approved on every step of the way.

I must point out that I’m not comparing centralization/decentralization to unitary-statism/federalismm, because decentralization is possible in unitary states, and sometimes necessary, such as fiscal and administrative decentralization, and China would be a perfect example of this, where local administrations (in this otherwise extreme case of unitary statism), have a lot of freedom in collecting revenues and taxes and investing them in the way they see fit, sometimes even ending with a surplus at the end of the fiscal year.

More or less this. As I understand, in the real world, local governments are often fairly corrupt, but it’s typically in the way of appointing friends and family to random government positions and such. Even if a majority of local politicians are corrupt, there’s a limit to what they are able to do. And that’s exactly why corruption in more centralized power is so much more worrisome. They have so much more power and, as a result, it takes fewer of them to result in greater harm and it also means they’re going to attract more external influence. Consider, one might be able to bribe a local politician for a whole lot less than a state or federal one, but one may have to bribe a whole lot more to achieve the same effect, or it might even be impossible if that power is one that cannot be exercised at the local level.

The least corrupt way is where there is healthy competition between the political parties and one or the other is routinely thrown out and replaced.

Look around at the most corrupt states and you will see it is generally one party rule.

Not in my observation. Corruption at the municipal level may be smaller in scale but is harder to monitor and rectify, given your local government code.