Only the State Can Succeed at Decentralization

Successful decentralization isn’t rebellion and fracture; it’s a constructive cooperation between central and peripheral powers within a holistic order.

Centralized and decentralized actions solve different problems: scale and coordination on the one side, experimentation and localized knowledge on the other. This is a much better model for successful institution building.

Over the last decade, a number of East Asian states have captured the Western imagination—or at least an uncertain attention—as they appear to be winning on both fronts at once. Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and China are the foremost examples. These states have simultaneously built resilient state capacity and productive markets. While many Western liberal democracies are succumbing to political gridlock and economic stagnation, they have been able to take decisive action and upgrade their systems in response to challenges.

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