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Advantages & Disadvantages of a Unitary Government

Updated February 21, 2017

In an unitary government, only one centralised agency holds all the power and rules over the entire country. The Parliament in Great Britain, for example, makes and carries out the law for the country. The United States, on the other hand, operates under a federation, where the people are ruled by both a federal and state government. Unitary style of government comes with many advantages and disadvantages.

Pro: Uniformity

Every state, province, territory, county, city or town is governed by the same laws and policies as the rest of the country. This means that when you move to a new location or travel to a different city, you don't have to worry about learning new laws.

Pro: Fewer Conflicts

In federal governing systems, sometimes federal and state butt heads over certain laws that one or the other imposes. Since there is only one central ruling institution in a unitary government, unitary governments don't face those types of conflicts.

Pro: Less Duplication

Many governments provide services for the public such as police forces. In a federation, both a city and state government might provide the same service, such as local and state police officers patrolling the same stretch of highway. Also, federations employ overlapping bureaucracies. In a unitary government such duplication doesn't happen because there is only a single governing entity. Less duplication equals lower public cost.

Con: Out of Touch

The centralised system of a unitary government can put it out of touch with the needs and demands of its individual communities. Since there is no city or state government to handle local problems, the unitary government may not be aware of a rise in crime, unemployment or poverty in an individual community. The government may also ignore these needs.

Con: Slow Response Time

Since all demands, needs, requests and complaints go through one centralised system, the unitary government is often slow in resolving local problems, even if it is listening to concerns of its communities.

Con: Lack of Community

With one central government, a unitary government lacks diversity. It is not invested in individual communities; therefore, it tends not to preserve or develop historical or cultural resources such as museums for individual regions. A unitary government only has one history or culture just as it has one central government.

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About the Author

Kristen Marquette has been a professional writer since 2009 when FireLight Books published her debut novel, "The Vampiric Housewife." Since 2000 she has helped students hone their written and verbal skills in English as a tutor. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University.