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I am an honours graduate (BSc. Hons. Strath-Glasgow) coupled with an MBA-ICG (Paris) , experienced, Metallurgist - Materials Scientist and Engineer & Manager turned Consultant & Blogger. I specialised in Superalloys (aero-engine_Seminal Work peer reviewed & published IOM3_MST, Feb.1985, the 2nd issue of this now well known journal dedicated to the fundamental aspects in our multidisciplinary subject area ) My experience over a wide range of Special Alloys is extensive. (Cryogenic,Controlled Expansion-Dilatometric,Magnetic, Corrosion Resistant Grades and finally HSLA-Aircraft Undercarriage. (Great Stuff-I was lucky) My responibilities were especially in Melting & Refining to 1st Forming stage. Responsibilities include QC,QA & Accounting, Melt/Remelt Process  & Products, R&D.  Bilingual English-French. 
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Monday, 22 February 2010

Policy, Politics: Sustainable development; Localism versus Centralisation

I came across the article entitled “Localism-Unravelling the Supplicant State” by David Boyle, New Economics Forum (nef)

Two key words caught my attention, "Localism" and "Sustainable Development". They brought my attention to “nef” a website, new to me, with a green bent and which I found well worth the visit. It proposes many freely available papers.

My rapid reading of "Localism" led me to believe that the example taken from Britain, upon which I am now, as an longstanding ex-pat, ill equipped to comment nevertheless as an international I felt could well have international ramifications and perhaps inspire other countries and economies. Specifically I am thinking of current trends in France where I have lived for many years. Generally Boyle’s paper and methodology could have useful benchmarking value.

Summary of the Localism pamphlet.
“Localism-Unravelling the Supplicant State - is a pamphlet that claims to mark a key shift in the relationship between central and local, as laid down in the Sustainable Communities Act in UK. It attempts, first and foremost, to set out a far broader agenda for the concept of localism, some way beyond the administration that so obsesses politicians, and one that might be capable of achieving a truly sustainable economy,” says Boyle.

It bases its economic analysis on a report , known familiarly as "Ghost Town Britain”, the brainchild of Andrew Simms and Alex MacGillivray who, in 2002, warned that many banks, shops and post offices were closing on Britain’s high streets and that many of them faced a looming tipping point into complete shutdown. The report also listed the disappearance of local police stations, local playing fields and local pubs. All these phenomena had been known before,[Indeed] but had been discussed as separate problems. [Déja Vu, the region where we live has been loosing about 1000 inhabitants per year for the last 10 years or so!]

“What Ghost Town Britain did was to package them as one problem, and – what is more –a problem of economic centralisation,” the author claims.
‘The Supplicant State’, is defined as a phenomenon whereby a state and corporate infrastructure that feels comfortable only when we are all reduced from citizens into supplicants (humble beggars or earnest prayers), to huge, impersonal forces beyond our control.

Administrative localism
Firstly Boyle considers Administrative localism. He quotes Lord Shawcross ( Lord Shawcross of Friston, died 2003 aged 101)
“The housewife of Britain has to accept that the man in Whitehall really does know best.” [The still very Colbertian - Etatic French equivalent would probably be The famous technocratic elite, ENARC Graduates from the prestigious Ecole National de l'Administration and in Industry it would be X-Mines, Graduates of Polytechnique Paris couple with a specialisation at the famous Ecole Nationale superieure des Mines de Paris.]

Boyle takes of course the opposing view to Shawcross, with examples from Norway and more dubiously from France albeit that the decentralisation effort was true in 1982. The point Boyle says he tries to make is that “the UK’s neighbouring countries and allies realised the damage that the drift towards centralised decision-making was doing, to their own democracy and public services, and reversed the trend.” (! )[ in spite of the efforts of French-Norwegian Judge Eva Joly , I may add.)

Boyle argues that political parties (PPs) decision-makers themselves, believe it is only about decision-making – just about the business of devolving decisions to local boards or local voters and claims that PPs do not yet understand either how damaging centralisation has become, or the official mindset that creates it, how it undermines – not just faith in government – but the effectiveness of our public services, our well-being and our ability to sustain ourselves economically.
Boyle provides a numbers to reinforce his thesis in favour of more and better balance in devolution, decentralisation and empowerment goes give similar treatment to administrative inefficiencies.

Five important areas requiring more decentralised power and responsibility Boyle listed are:
1. Re-localising decision-making
2. To front-line staff.
3. To service users.
4. To smaller organisations.
5. To local business.
Each is explained in Boyles pamphlet.

The pamphlet attempts to give a definition of a broader concept of what localism could and should mean in opposition to what the author sees as a ploy by political parties (PPs) to keep the localism debate narrow; The PPs do this by giving the impression that the whole idea is brand new, and that they are the brave pioneers.

Boyle considers that the roots of localism go back a very long way, via Catholic social doctrine – and the doctrine of ‘subsidiarity’ – right back to the Scottish enlightenment. "It was there, in the coffee houses of eighteenth-century Edinburgh, that the philosopher David Hume first cast doubt on scientific method, peering at ideas about what causes what and finding there was nothing there. All you can do, apparently Hume said, is say that events tend to happen together." [I would point out that Hume’s remark should be considered in the context of his time, a time of European turmoil notably the French Revolution,[David Hume Scots Philosopher was a friend of J-J. Rousseau, French Philosopher] times where political correctness and diplomacy were, in all probability, strongly advisable, democracy still to be re-invented - I have argued fairly recently following French, (English speaking) Sociologist Bruno Latour, in my paper on The Innovators Dilemma entitled “Conversations-on-Innovations” that politicians should take the scientific experimental approach to their decision making cf. Conversations on the Search for a ‘Physics and Chemistry – an Alchemy’ of Innovation - Reward Systems.

Two centuries after Hume was writing in Edinburgh, the Viennese philosopher Karl Popper, a refugee from the Nazis, came up with an interim answer. But, more importantly, he also applied it to politics. You may not be able to prove what you believe about the world, no matter how often an observation or experiment takes place, but you can disprove it. Popper used the example of swans. It doesn’t matter how many white swans you see, it still doesn’t prove that all swans are white. But if you see a black swan, then you know that not all swans are white. This rejoins the thesis referred to in Conversations above in that Popper’s method is an experimental one.

Popper was writing during the Second World War, when his home city was in the hands of totalitarians, and he found himself applying this insight to politics too. In doing so, he produced one of the classic twentieth-century statements of philosophical liberalism, (not Neo-liberal today’s abusive form) “The open society and its enemies, ( Neo-liberals) Societies, governments, bureaucracies and companies work best, he said, when the beliefs and maxims of those at the top (many of whom unwittingly are Neo-liberals) can be challenged and disproved by those below.” Quotes Boyle.

At the heart of all this is a decadent metropolitan snobbery. It is because the contempt that the City of London feels for industry and small business, and the contempt that Whitehall civil servants feel for their local counterparts, has been swallowed whole by Labour and Conservative governments alike.

That is the heart of the new Supplicant State, Boyle repeats.

As a conclusion Boyle asks, rhetorically, if there is any issue to the “Supplicant State” syndrome he describes?

His response is an optimistic "yes-we-can" Why? “Because of the economic crisis, adding that,” diverse local economies seem to be considerably more resilient than ones that are dominated by a few big names.”

Twelve measures necessary to target:
Boyle lists Twelve measures necessary to target: while bearing in mind the need for balance Localisation vs Centralisation. I’m afraid you must read the original, to be fair to Boyle.

My view of local vs central is a much simpler one dictated by birth, education and geographic distance from central power.

1. Culturally as a Scot, born raised and educated in devolution, independence of spirit and mind, engraved by church-religion protestantism "Life and Work" is the motto of the Scots Kirk, legal and eduction system, far from central power. As many individuals (social and sociable animals), a civic sense, a sense of neighbourhood, values of pulling one's weight not off-loading one's weight, over-weight on others.

2. Ecological-Environmental reasons: Peak in petrol, Climate- change Energy conundrum.
"Too easy to consume energy vs energy production" in today's developed economies not to mention the incredible race to emulate our model in rapidly developing countries or continents India, China... cf. FRS, Prof. David MacKay's Without hot air.

I strongly believe that taken together a balance - an equilibrium point, will be reached easily. The balance is written in the definition as it is in "Without hot air. So too are many of the action necessary to achieve an energy... balance.

I must note here that if I can manage the translation from the original french I must type an publish my "No-holds-Bard and Barred" "sketch for the development of a department and a region.

My Own 1st Approach:
Conversations on the Search for a ‘Physics and Chemistry – an Alchemy’ of Innovation - Reward Systems.