Local Government in Liberal Democracies: An Introductory Survey

By J. A. Chandler | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

The United States of America

J.A. Chandler

The United States has an image of brash modernity, although it is the oldest liberal democracy considered in this book. The institutions of central government, outlined in a constitution that has changed relatively little since its inception, have been able to absorb huge increases in territory, population and wealth. There are many systems of local government in the United States, and some of these have structures and practices that can be traced back to the eighteenth century. Since the 1920s, however, the systems have changed very little, in contrast to those of many European nations, and it may be seriously questioned whether they have successfully absorbed the pressures created by social and economic change.


THE POLITICAL SETTING

The framework of the federal system is outlined in the succinct constitution, which was designed to ensure a balance of power between the major institutions of government. The document lists a limited number of powers that are the province of the federal government. These concern management of currency, raising an army, diplomatic and foreign policy and waging war. The federal government is also able to regulate inter-state commerce and, through this device, has become in the twentieth century increasingly involved in detailed regulation of social and commercial activities throughout the Union. Outside this framework, the states are free, within the confines of the Bill of Rights, to govern their communities as they see fit. They consequently have complete authority over the form of local government within their territories, as well as many elements of civil and criminal law, policing, public works, education and planning. They could, if they wished, own and control industries or manage a comprehensive health and social security system as is the practice in the

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Local Government in Liberal Democracies: An Introductory Survey
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vi
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Bibliography 6
  • Chapter 2 - England and Wales 7
  • Bibliography 27
  • Chapter 3 - The Republic of Ireland 28
  • Chapter 4 - France 53
  • Chapter 5 - Italy 73
  • Bibliography 98
  • Chapter 6 - Germany 99
  • Bibliography 117
  • Chapter 7 - Sweden 118
  • Chapter 8 - The United States of America 138
  • Bibliography 158
  • Chapter 9 - Canada 159
  • Chapter 10 - Conclusion 188
  • Bibliography 200
  • Index 201
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