Britain and the United States in the Caribbean: A Comparative Study in Methods of Development

By Mary Proudfoot | Go to book overview

Chapter VI
THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT

1. THE ATTITUDE OF THE METROPOLITAN POWERS

Whereas the influence of metropolitan institutions is very pronounced in the forms of central government set up in the dependencies, this is not the case in the sphere of local government, which is weak or non-existent in both groups of islands. The United Kingdom as a metropolitan power is very much more concerned about this than is the United States, which, when it considers this kind of problem at all, regards it as being the responsibility of the people of the dependencies themselves. This difference in attitude probably stems, in part, from the fact that the United States tends to believe that the character of a society can be most effectively changed, and the quality as well as the material standard of living raised, if the people are first provided with more of those material goods in common circulation in the United States, and with more of the conveniences of civilized living, as this is understood by continental Americans. A better environment will, in fact, result in better human beings, and the better human beings can then safely be left to evolve their own forms of government. These will, it is assumed, bear close resemblance to those of the United States. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, with its much longer and more varied experience with backward areas, is less disposed to see the problem in such simple terms, and official policy is based on the belief that the character of society in the dependencies must be changed before substantial improvement in standards of living can be expected.1 Only when B.W.I. communities achieve a sense of social and political responsibility and a common determination to raise their own standards of living by their own efforts can they acquire, or even make much use of more material goods. Man, in fact, makes his own environment, and local government can be an important factor in this development.

____________________
1
See, for instance, Moyne Report. 'The material betterment of the West Indies must be accompanied by, and is to a large extent conditional on, a moral resurgence among the people themselves." Ch. III, para. 16.

-134-

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