ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Lessons from Europe

Empowering Local Government

This paper examines the literature on the evolution of local government in eight western European countries in an attempt to find clues to what makes for successful devolution of power to local governments. It appears likely that rising incomes led to a greater demand for local public goods and also helped the citizenry to articulate this demand in a politically effective way. History may have played an important role by delaying, though not halting, the devolution of power to the local level in states which inherited centralised bureaucracies. While some of the pattern of evolution seems explicable, much remains to be understood, in particular why centralised absolutist states evolved so differently in Scandinavia as compared to France, Spain, and Italy.

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