counties and parishes first assumed definite shape, or in less remote times, when any conception of the modern town and its social and industrial needs was clearly impossible.

The object of this book being merely to describe in general terms the existing law and practice of municipal government, the more attractive fields of the history and economics of local administration have been left untouched. That there is to-day a general trend towards investing public bodies with greater powers of rendering service to the citizen, and supplying his necessaries and even his luxuries, is manifest. Public opinion is gradually widening its estimate of the minimum level of subsistence which should be guaranteed to every member of the community who performs his share of the necessary labour of the world. So far as local authorities are concerned, the result is seen in the improved standard of public health, the provision of housing accommodation, education and recreation, the feeding of necessitous school children, the provision of work for the unemployed, and, in many cases, the establishment of a

minimum wage for municipal workmen. The cause is doubtless as much economic as it is altruistic. With the increasing complexity of production and distribution, the growth of large urban communities and the interdependence of their various units, society is assuming the form of an organism in which the interests of each member are identical with those of the rest of the body politic; and collective action becomes in many instances both practicable and desirable. In this country social tendencies do not, as a rule, work themselves out to their apparently logical end, but it may well be that the prevailing course of economic evolution will continue until all the basic needs of life are supplied by collective effort. Whether that point will be reached depends on the relative merits of production for use and production for profit. The speculation is interesting, but the remorseless process of natural selection, and not the views of the theorist or the desires of the financier, will decide the point.

Unfortunately for the reputation of local authorities, duties of an entirely unremunerative character are continually being cast

upon them, and increased efficiency is for ever demanded, without any new and legitimate source of revenue being opened. As a consequence, we have the universal outcry against the rising rates,-a complaint which is so general that it is almost as strong in towns where wise administration has kept local contributions stationary, as it is where they have been doubled within a few years. It is quite certain that if the burdens of municipal government are to be adjusted in proportion to ability to pay, and to benefit received, an alteration in the system of rating and a revision of local areas are inevitable.


August, 1907.

« ElőzőTovább »