12 Unitary System Pros and Cons

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A unitary system is a political method of organization where most, if not all, of the governing power for a society rests within a centralized government. The government then rules as a single entity, where administrative divisions exercise powers only if the authority has been delegated to them. Unitary governments often create and remove subdivisions frequently, with constituents having not power to challenge the authority or constitutionality of acts that are passed.

This is one of the most common forms of government on our planet today. Over 150 nations are currently structured as a unitary state.

Here are some of the pros and cons of a unitary system of government to think about and discuss.

List of the Pros of a Unitary System

1. It is a government that can move quickly.
Because power rests centrally within a unitary system, there are fewer delays involved in the processing of a decision. In most governments with this system, the power of making a decision lies with one legislative unit or even just one person. That makes it possible to be responsive whenever there is a threat posed, whether it is natural, political, or some other issue that must be addressed.

2. It is a government that is cheaper to run.
Unitary systems may delegate certain powers to administrative units, but the final authority still rests within the one government system. That eliminates the multiple levels of governmental bureaucracy that exist within other systems. Fewer levels of bureaucracy creates less red tape to navigate, which means lower overall operational costs. If run efficiently, the administrative tax burden of the population under a unitary system can be lower.

3. It is a government that can be smaller.
A centralized government can be run from a single location. The authority it controls can be managed with a minimal number of elected officials, party leaders, or representatives. This creates a level of efficiency that is greater than other government formats because it is smaller. The structure makes it possible to accomplish societal needs without micromanaging society on a daily basis.

4. It is a government that can promote a sense of unity.
Within a unitary system, loyalties are not divided. In the United States, for example, people may find themselves being loyal to their state or their community and the federal government may take a secondary role. Because unitary systems create a centralized government that doesn’t create overlapping districts, a sense of unity can be promoted by the government throughout society. This offers the potential of reducing polarity.

5. It is a government that can replicate other systems.
A unitary system may be centralized, but it can also create satellites. These satellites can be stationed within each community, allowing for people to access needed resources while the centralized absolute authority is maintained. That reduces many of the problems which are associated with this form of government because it provides a certain level of infrastructure that can be used.

List of the Cons of a Unitary System

1. It is a government without infrastructure.
A centralized government may save money by reducing administrative costs, but that also means there is less infrastructure available to society to distribute needed resources. If a natural disaster would occur, the response from a unitary system is often slower than other forms of government when distributing relief simply because there is no resource access available. There is a certain expectation for the population to “fend for themselves” until the government can adequately respond.

2. It is a government that can be easily manipulated.
Unitary systems increase efficiencies by reducing bureaucracy. That structure also means that the individuals in the government can affect the future of a population if they pursue power or wealth for themselves over providing for everyone. If one person has the power of the government and they can be easily manipulated, then that society can be easily manipulated. At the end of the day, unitary systems make it easier to abuse the power of the government and it is the general population that is affected by such an action.

3. It is a government which ignores local issues.
Centralized systems deal with a “big picture” scenario. From a government perspective, that means domestic needs are often sacrificed to handle foreign needs and threats. Because the power of the government must be delegated, communities may find themselves without representation when local crises arise. Self-governing is often encouraged, but without any power, it can still be difficult to locate and use resources that may be necessary for survival.

4. It is a government that can ignore its sub-states.
A unitary system often makes decisions according to its current needs or interests on a national level. That means the decisions affect local communities without seeking out their advice to determine what their needs may be. Over time, that can lead to a government which operates based on its own survival instead of ruling according to the interests of its people.

5. It is a government the can become tyrannical.
Not only can officials or legislative bodies be easily manipulated within a unitary system, they can be used to exploit the population. Because there is a large amount of power, often political, that is invested into a unitary system, this form of government is one of the most likely that leads to tyranny.

6. It is a government that can control the financial markets.
Everything is centralized within a unitary system, including financial decisions. Historically, people with wealth and power tend to support their own futures at the expense of the average household. That can place more taxation pressure on the society, including corporate pressures, which can make it difficult to earn a better living over time.

7. It is a government that remains in the control of a select few.
Within a unitary system, there may be national pride, but there are fewer opportunities to get involved with the actual process of governing. The average person is rarely given the opportunity to contact government officials in a meaningful way. If policy changes occur, there are few options available to the average person to create change within their government. Over time, this can lead to high levels of distrust that may eventually cause societal disruption.

These unitary system pros and cons provide evidence as to why it is a popular form of governing in the world today. When structured properly, it can provide local governing resources while still providing national-level support. It is when this type of government is structured poorly that problems occur. The 10 most brutal dictators that ruled through tyranny are responsible for the deaths of more than 100 million people in the 20th century alone.