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Even France now values local government. Over the past 30 years, top-down appointment of regional prefects and local administrators has given way to regionally elected councils and a revision of Article 1 of the French Constitution, which proclaims that today the state’s ‘organization is decentralized’. The British Parliament, too, has embraced local rule by devolving powers to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. And in China, decentralization has reached a point where some scholars speak of ‘de facto federalism’. A systematic study of the distribution of authority in 42 democracies found that over the past 50 years, regional authority grew in 29 countries, remained stable in 11, and declined in only two. And various projections over the past half-century place over 50 percent of the world’s landmass into federal systems in 1964, 40 percent of the world population in federal systems in 1987, and 50 percent (or up to 70 percent if we include China) of the world’s population in federal systems by 2009.


This material was originally published in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law, edited by Michel Rosenfeld and András Sajó, and has been reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. For permission to reuse this material, please visit