A central theme in the literature of local government law is that local governments are powerless, incapable of initiating programs on behalf of their citizens or of resisting intrusions by the state. How can scholars make this claim when under state legislation and federal and state judicial decisions local autonomy plays a critical role in the law of school finance, land-use regulation and local government formation and preservation? As we have seen, a partial response turns on the varying assessments of the nature of power. But much of the answer also has to do with differing assumptions about the underlying political, economic and social characteristics of local governments.
There are more than 82,000 local governments in the United States, but when most scholars write about local governments generally they are, I suspect, thinking about one particular category of localities: cities. For example, Professor Frug's analysis of local government law is styled "The City as a Legal Concept."' Professor Ellickson's contrast of public and private local organizations is titled "Cities and Homeowners Associations." And Professor Clark's study of local legal autonomy is called "Judges and the Cities."
Our Localism: Part II – Localism and Legal Theory,
Colum. L. Rev
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