Local Autonomy in France and Italy *
By Ferdinand A. Hermens UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME
T HE political development of the Western world is characterized by the paradox that where central government is strong, as in Britain and the United States, local autonomy is well developed, and that where central government is weak, as in France and Italy, local autonomy is severely curtailed. Strength and self- confidence at the political center apparently engender a willingness to let local bodies lead a life of their own; weakness at the center breeds fear that local authorities might rival their national counter- parts, or at least become too strong to be checked when checks are needed in the general interest.
Events in postwar France and, to a significantly lesser extent, in postwar Italy conform to this pattern. Both countries have a tradition of centralized government, born out of the original uncertainty of national unity. In both, the opinion that democracy, like charity, begins at home had gained ground at the end of World War II. Thus, the two new constitutions contain generous provisions for enlarged home rule. In France, where the national government is even weaker than it was during the Third Republic, nothing has come of these reforms; in Italy, where the national government is, for the time being, more forceful and coherent than in France, a measure of progress has been made.
In France, the Revolution deemed it necessary to break up the____________________