What Are the Pros and Cons of a Unitary Government?

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Unitary Government?

The United States operates under a federal system of government. There is both a national government and the local governments of the states. Unlike a federal government, where some of its power rests nationally, and all other power resides within each state’s legislation, a unitary government is a system in which a single central government has complete power over all the subdivisions. It is actually the most common form of government in the world. So what are the pros and cons of a unitary government?

In our world today, 166 of the 193 United Nations member states operate under a unitary governmental system. Some of the pros of living under a unitary government are less confusion among the country’s citizens over the governing process, an easier and faster response to emergency situations, and a less complex government legal system.

On the contrary, by living under a unitary government structure, local citizens may find that their needs are often ignored, there can be the possibility of abuse of power, and with no accountability, manipulation can easily occur. Let’s dig a little deeper into the pros and cons of a unitary government.

What Are the Pros of a Unitary Government?

What Are the Pros of a Unitary Government?

It’s less confusing to the citizens of the country.

There is one clear set of laws in a unitary government system that apply to the entire country. In the United States, people are subject to different laws. There are national laws over the entire country and individual state laws. So a person who is living in one state and aware of the laws of the state in which they reside can travel to another state and be under totally different laws.

For instance, gun control laws vary from state to state, and they can be confusing. It can be legal to carry a concealed weapon in one state yet against the law in the neighboring state. A citizen needs to be aware of the various laws, so they do not break them.

The government is much smaller.

There is one centralized government that oversees everything for the country. Instead of each state or province having its own governing authority, the central governing authority sends a delegate to oversee the needs of each community. Things run much smoother when only one person is in charge and makes all the decisions. Everyone knows what their responsibility is, and there’s no question as to who is in charge of what.

Emergency response time is much quicker.

Because there is just one central governing body, the decisions as to what to do in the event of an emergency are made quicker. It is much faster to distribute resources in the event of a natural disaster without having to go through several chains of command. The same applies in the event of a war. Because there is just one centralized government in charge, leaders can respond quicker.

It is generally less expensive to run a unitary government.

With one single governing structure, administrative costs are considerably less. With fewer administrative costs, there is potential for the savings to get handed down to the citizens through lower taxes while, at the same time, not reducing services. These benefits are further passed down to those who may be out of work due to a disability. So in some instances, the citizens benefit financially as much as the government.

The structure of the legal system is less complex.

There are no state and local governments with possible contrary laws in a unitary government system. In the United States, there are federal laws, state laws, and county laws. There are different court systems, and when disparities arise between the two, the judicial system will need to step in. Then it is up to the Supreme Court to decide which laws take precedence in the given situation. In a unitary system, everything is run under one governing structure, and there will never be disparities over which law stands over another. A unitary system such as this saves money on lengthy court costs.

Though there is only one governing body, the voice of the people is still heard.

Just as in a federated state, citizens can express their concerns about local matters to the delegate sent by the governing body, who will listen, and then communicate these issues to the governing body. The governing body then can ensure that appropriate attention is given to the matters at hand.

With a unitary government, everyone works for a common goal.

Instead of loyalties being divided between state and federal governing bodies, everyone works together for the common good. There is a sense of unity that is not apparent under a divided political system, such as is evident in the United States between the Democrats and Republicans.

What Are the Cons of a Unitary Government?

What Are the Cons of a Unitary Government

It can sometimes turn into a dictatorship with only one person in charge.

With one person making all the decisions for the country, things can get out of hand as there is no accountability. The people are subject to the whims of the governing authority, who is attempting to run all phases of the government. It’s not likely that one leader is competent in all aspects of running a country, be it a military strategist, financial expert, or an efficient, knowledgeable leader.

It is very easy for manipulation to occur.

When one person is in power, there could very easily be times when that person makes decisions that could be detrimental to the people they govern in order to meet their individual needs and desires. If the person in power wants to pursue things for personal gain, there is no one to hold them accountable for their actions. There are no laws in place to keep the governing authority from pursuing activities that would benefit themself over the people. I

n the United States, where there are checks and balances for every governing body, it is not as easy for a leader to get away with pursuing avenues for personal gain.

Individual states and provinces cannot make their own decisions for their locale.

For example, in the United States, each state has its own tax laws, and the division of monies can go where it is most needed for that particular area. The local government decides what is best for each municipality. With a centralized government, each municipality and province is at the mercy of the laws of the governing authority, which may not have their best interest as a priority.

There is the possibility for a slower local response time to emergencies.

With a unitary government, response time is quick when there is an emergency, such as the threat of invasion. One person can give the command, and there are no other loopholes to jump through in order to send out the military in response to the threat.

However, when it comes to local emergencies, it can take much longer as a delegate has to be sent out to discuss the needs of the community and then report back to the governing authority. This takes much more time than a federal country where the local government is able to make decisions and distribute needed resources immediately during an emergency such as a hurricane or tornado where people can be displaced from their homes.

Sometimes the needs of the local people can be overlooked.

Sometimes the needs of the local people can be overlooked.

In a federation, the leaders at the top can concentrate on the economy, defense, and infrastructure of the entire nation, and local governments can concentrate on meeting the needs of the states, provinces, and municipalities. Under a unitary government, it can take some time for the needs of the people to reach the delegating representative due to the fact that international situations and events regarding the country take priority over meeting local and individual needs.

Which System Is More Beneficial, a Unitary Government or a Federal Government?

In a unitary system, any municipal authority is not accorded constitutional status. The central government determines which decisions it will delegate to the local level and, if it chooses, can abolish the local authorities altogether. A unitary system works best in smaller nations where the government reflects the social characteristics of the country. In federal systems, states or provinces have constitutionally protected sovereignty. This type of system works best in larger nations that are represented by various cultures. It allows states with different cultures and institutions to enact laws that will represent the people of that particular community.

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