1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Local Government
LOCAL GOVERNMENT, a phrase specially adopted in English usage for the decentralized or deconcentrated administration, within a state or national and central government, of local affairs by local authorities. It is restricted not only in respect of area but also in respect of the character and extent of the duties assigned to them. It is not to be confused with local self-government in the wider sense in which the words are sometimes employed, e.g. for the granting by the crown of self-government to a colony; the expression, in a general way, may mean this, but “local government” as technically used in England refers more narrowly to the system of county or municipal administration, and English usage transfers it to denote the similar institutions in other countries. The growth and persistence of this kind of subordinate government is due practically to the need of relieving the central authority in the state, and to experience of the failure of a completely centralized bureaucracy. The degree to which local government is adopted varies considerably in different countries, and those which are the best examples of it in modern times—the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Germany—differ very much in their local institutions, partly through historical, partly through temperamental, causes. A certain shifting of ideas from time to time, as to what is local and what is central, is inevitable, and the same view is not possible in countries of different configuration, history or political system. The history and present state of the local government in the various countries are dealt with in the separate articles on them (England, Germany, &c.), in the sections dealing with government and administration, or political institutions.
The best recent comparative study of local government is Percy Ashley’s Local and Central Government (Murray, 1906), an admirable account of the evolution and working of the systems in England, France, Prussia and United States. Other important works, in addition to general works on constitutional law, are J. A. Fairlie’s Municipal Administration, Shaw’s Municipal Government in Continental Europe, Redlich and Hirst’s Local Government in England, Mr and Mrs Sidney Webb’s elaborate historical inquiry into English local government (1906), and for Germany, Bornhak’s Geschichte des preussischen Verwaltungsrechts.