Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dead tree edition

It may be the case that all of us are the last generation that will appreciate the value of ink on paper.  Nonetheless, this really is much cooler in print.  Here is what I have in PG today which is essentially wordle graphic of all the governments in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Not a short list. Worth the price to see it filling most of a full page of newsprint. But the digital version looks like this:


Blogger Infinonymous said...

This provides a useful perspective.

Too often we forget that Allegheny County residents constitute less than half of the region's population, and that the City of Pittsburgh inhabitants are a minority within the county and approximate 15 percent of the region's population.

To enable the mistakes and stubbornness of relatively few -- whether it be 1,000 residents of a pointless political subdivision or 300,000 voters in a dysfunctional city -- to threaten an entire region would be inexplicable.

Terming the Port Authority a "government" seems curious. What about Pitt? It does everything PAT does -- transportation, police, expenditure of public funds -- only better, then provides additional services. I would not argue for Pitt's inclusion, but the omission renders PAT's spot inexplicable.

Thank you for contributing this to the Post-Gazette, particularly if its size occasioned excision of even a word of Jack Kelly's weekly contribution.

Sunday, January 10, 2010 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I am sure Jack was not impacted a word from anything I did....

The issues involved in what is or what is not a government is too much to even begin to get into here. You may think the distinction is clear, but it isn't. There are legal, historical, practical, even metaphysical issues involved along the way.

Pitt is at best a state supported institution and does not really have any of the powers of government. It also has a clear history of governance independent of the commonwealth. granted it does have a police force but that is not usually enough to qualify something as a local government. Wheras PAAC is entirely a creation of state legislation (the Second Class County Port Authorities Act) and clearly a public transit authority as defined in Pennsylvania.

For those who really want to get into some of the bigger issues more a recent report touching on the issues is here:

Sunday, January 10, 2010 2:48:00 PM  
Blogger Vannevar said...

Am I interpreting Max Weber right when he says that to be a government, the entity has to have a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence?

In that case, the entities with police departments (including transit cops, housing cops, school cops) would count. I would also count the municipalities that contract for police coverage. What Would Max Veber say about the definition of a government?

Sunday, January 10, 2010 8:24:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Hmm... is it a necessary or sufficient condition? The converse can't be true of course since we now have plenty of municipalities that do not have a police force at all any more.

In fact.. the reason Philadelphia consolidated it's municipalities came from a law that was enacted that said municipalities had to have their own police forces. It is probably an interesting question why the lack of local police forces was seen as a bigger policy problem a decade and a half ago on the other side of the state than it is in Western Pennsylvania today. Such is progress I suppose.

Sunday, January 10, 2010 9:13:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I meant a century and a half ago of course.

Sunday, January 10, 2010 9:25:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...


As used in political science, "monopoly on the legitimate use of violence" would refer to the U.S. government and other national governments. I suppose some would try to count the U.S. states in that, but it probably hasn't been a broadly used line of thinking since Reconstruction.

A local government in the U.S., regardless of size, doesn't have the ability to legitimize its use of force as it is all conditioned on actions and laws of the state government and constitution. And the states don't really have a monopoly as they cannot exclude the federal government.

Sunday, January 10, 2010 10:07:00 PM  
Anonymous johnnyg said...

Isn't the ironic thing that we have so many authorities precisely because our local government system is disfunctional? Aren't most authorities created because local government can't effectively--let alone efficiently--deliver a service? My recollection is that I read that the Pgh Water and Sewer Authority was created because the City refused to spend any money on maintaining the water and sewer lines in the City.

Monday, January 11, 2010 3:25:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

the shortest and modal answer is that most authorities were created and exist in order to facilitate borrowing money in one sense or another.

Monday, January 11, 2010 6:19:00 PM  

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