English local government seems, on the surface, very different from American local government. Lacking states, England has a unitary rather than a federal system of government. Lacking a written constitution, it has a central government formally unrestricted in scope. Parliament is not barred, according to the prevailing theory of the English constitution, from doing anything it decides; for example, it can make whatever changes it may see fit in the structure of local government. Aside from the question of political feasibility, no explicit constitutional obstacle prevents Parliament from redistricting local government, reducing or enlarging its powers, or altering its organization in any other way. Neither does tradition erect any overwhelming obstacle to such far-reaching changes, since national rather than local government was the original source of sovereign power: for nearly a thousand years local governments in England have derived their powers from the exclusive sovereign at the center-in the early days from royal charter, later from parliamentary *Reader in Political Science, London School of Economics, and Visiting Professor, The Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.