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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Review of "A Tale of Two Cities"

The New York Times has the following article:

A Tale of Two Cities, in 1886, and Events That Shaped a State []

I've been writing about Henry George because I'm in love with the man's thinking. Not necessarily his economics so much as his ethical thinking. That being said I'm not the only one learning from him.

The Author is reviewing a Book by Professor O’Donnell and writes:

“Professor O’Donnell, who teaches history at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., writes that by transplanting himself from California to New York, George gained a national forum for his “single tax” on property, which was fundamental to his platform.” [Events That Shaped a State]

The author is mostly interested in the navel gazing history of New York City, but sure enough Henry George had the chutzpah to take on both the Tammany Hall machine, the unstoppable Teddy Roosevelt, and the City of New York. The result was a loss for George. Now if George had thrown in with a coalition with Teddy Roosevelt Roosevelt would have won. Which brings us to the present when we have Bernie Sanders running as a Democrat. We've learned that democracy in the United States starts with people fighting to build coalitions:

“Representative Abram Hewitt, a Democrat and pro-labor industrialist, won with 90,552 votes over George, who took 68,110 as the candidate for the United Labor Party. In third place with 60,435 votes was a 28-year-old Republican, former Assemblyman Theodore Roosevelt. George’s supporters claimed that the election was stolen by Tammany bosses (who would have had to appropriate only 14 votes at each of 812 polling sites).” [Events That Shaped a State]

Tammany Hall was eventually destroyed by an insurgency within the Democratic party culminating with Robert Kennedy defeating Tammany Hall in 1966. (see Archived Article)
“Tammany had earlier tried to buy George with a seat in Congress. Why would they, he asked, if the Democrats figured he couldn’t win anyway?” [Events That Shaped a State]

It takes Moxy to beat a Machine. And both Bobby Kennedy and Henry George Had it:

“You cannot be elected,” William M. Ivins, the city chamberlain supposedly said, “but your running will raise hell!” [Events That Shaped a State]

But nobody can do it alone. If George had had followers and fellow travelers with the same dedication and moxy he had, he might have gotten even further. Even so he fought Tammany Hall and set the stage for others to do so successfully later.

“To which George replied, “I do not want the responsibility and work of the office of the Mayor of New York, but I do want to raise hell!” And he did.” [Events That Shaped a State]

The article also talks about Gouverneur Morris and his attitude towards common folks:

“That diversity was reflected in Gouverneur Morris, who “expressed disrespect or even contempt for New York’s common people at the same time he was risking his life and welfare to write a constitution that would keep them safe and free,”

Democracy and Good government in the United States has always been a bottom up struggle. I make the case that they are one and the same. The Morrises, their allies and frenemies, tried to transplant the Sea Dog Aristocracy of Britain to the Colonies along with it's con artist secret corruption and private, separate advantage. Not so much consciously, but simply because of their selfishness. On the other hand people like Henry George...

“and James Fenimore Cooper, who chronicled the unfettered life and other noble causes while criticizing abolitionists, and Thomas E. Dewey, a Republican who championed civil rights, environmental protection and great public works like the New York Thruway.”

stood up for and uplifted common folks, and at the same time fought corruption in all it's immoral forms.

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