Its just a way to make things easier on the Micro Level. Counties usually handle things like metroparks and mass transit systems, some courts, and other things like that. Having the state handle that would be difficult because it would have so much to run. Think of Ohio. It would have to worry about the Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Dayton, and Akron areas, along with everywhere in-between. Its much easier to have a smaller governing body who can go more in-depth with issues.
Russo, it comes from the general principle of separation of powers, which, although enshrined into our US Constitution as the division between federal and state (and hence local) jurisdictions, actually predates them. Many other countries have “counties”–England’s and Ireland’s are the most famous, having developed over centuries as discrete administrative units–but the United States was the first country to really divide administrative power on various levels, not merely by geographic locality, but also by subject matter. For instance, a county will typically have the power to make its own laws on land use, zoning, health and safety issues such as noise control, animal control etc., or else those functions will be given to city governments. State governments should deal with statewide concerns, not how many parking places your new proposed retail center in Wagga Wagga is supposed to have; consequently, the national-level government should be dealing with national issues as opposed to purely local concerns. We developed this system out of the American colonies before 1776, when it was felt that local administration over local matters was the best and least intrusive form of government. Development of a national government was actually somewhat of a reluctant process precisely because it was felt that counties and localities provided the best and safest way to maintain administrative control and provide social services.
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