Other Local Governments

The federal, state and local governments covered here by no means include the whole spectrum of American governmental units. The U.S. Bureau of the Census (part of the Commerce Department) has identified no less than 78,218 local governmental units in the United States, including counties, municipalities, townships, school districts and special districts.

Americans have come to rely on their governments to perform a wide variety of tasks which, in the early days of the republic, people did for themselves. In colonial days, there were few policemen or firemen, even in the large cities; governments provided neither street lights nor street cleaners. To a large extent, a man protected his own property and saw to his family's needs.

Now, meeting these needs is seen as the responsibility of the whole community, acting through government. Even in small towns, the police, fire, welfare and health department functions are exercised by governments. Hence, the bewildering array of jurisdictions.