Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Value of Federalism

Let me first state at the outset that the ACDP is one of the only parties in South Africa that is built on a federalist approach, meaning at a simple level, if I understand correctly, that the party is driven from the ground up. The opposite form to federalism is probably socialism or communism where the unit at the top is responsible for a far greater share of decision making, and their decisions are simply to be implemented at ground level. This of course is very much the case with the ANC, who have strong communist roots.

This may seem to be a curious conundrum. Those outside of Christianity may perceive it to be a highly systematic, heirarchical institution. Historically, that is not far off the mark. However, with the advent of Protestantism and the emphasis of Martin Luther and others on general access to the Bible, Christianity has moved far closer to federalism. Of course, the authority of the Bible is a central point to which individuals adhere, but the modern church has a much greater access to the views of the multitude, who have been given far greater freedom to match the decisions of human authority against the absolute authority of the Bible. In fact, much of the thriving church today consists of churches that don't fall under the traditional heirarchy of centuries ago.

The basic result is that the emphasis of the ACDP rests more with the absolute authority of the Bible than the absolute authority of the party leaders. Of course there are Scripture principles that aren't explicit and require debate and a final decision at top level, but the majority of Scriptural principles are really undebatable.

The key principle that drives federalism is simply this: take ownership, take responsibility. A party thrives far better when its individual components function successfully on their own than when central leaders have to commit investigative teams to track down how well instructions are being followed through. The principle of accepting responsibility is central to Scripture, where each of us is held accountable for what we say, do and even think. When we accept that we are sinners and ultimately are in no position to blame our misfortune on sexism, racism, apartheid, ethnic and class divides, mean bosses, relentless families and anything else that comes to mind, we are the starting block of actually doing something useful with what we have. In that frame of mind, the first thought of the party can be "what can I give" rather than "what can I get?"

While federalism would seem to be weak in that it grants too much power to those who are incompetent, the culture of taking responsibility is exactly what counters that threat.

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DISCLAIMER: This blog serves as a commentary and the views presented are not necessary the official views of the ACDP. For official statements and contact details, visit: www.acdp.org.za