Why are the parliamentary and municipal systems of government so different? Some insights can come from looking at how these systems evolved.
There are three main aspects of government – executive, legislative and judicial. Parliament started with a legislative focus and later adopted executive functions. Municipal governments started with a judicial focus maintaining public order but also had executive functions like maintaining common areas.
This video describes and explains the history of parliamentary and municipal government structures and how they evolved from those of the Kingdom of Wessex. These forms were fundamental to Alfred the Great who fought off the Vikings unified many territories such that he is considered the first King of England. As England grew in power, its forms of government came to be used around the world.
The Shire was an important level of government. It was divided into Hundreds, an area of fluid boundaries that could support 100 families or provide 100 soldiers. Each hundred was divided into Tithings, a unit of 10 families. Each family area was called a Hide.
Our municipal governments descend ultimately from the Hundred Court. The Shire Reeve or Sheriff would invite two knights from each Hundred Court to set the ‘farm’ or food rent. In later years the monarch would call two knights from each Shire to sit in the parliament.
Understanding how we got the different systems of government will help us continue to change them.