Thursday, July 16, 2009

NEXT WEEK: HOW FREE CONCERTS IN CENTRAL PARK SAP THE NATION'S WILL. At City Journal, Myron Magnet denounces not only that bastard FDR, as is the style these days, but also that bastard Fiorello LaGuardia. He attacks the "European-style New York" Roosevelt and LaGuardia engendered as anti-democratic and destructive of self-reliance.

When it comes to actual negative results from our "struggling under the accumulated burden of eight decades of 'progressive' government" in New York, though -- and eight decades should be enough time to produce a good dystopia, I think -- he mainly tells us that it's expensive, and that rich people pay too much for it.

He does claim that New York's "public services, even vital ones like the subway, work badly" -- compared to what? Public transit in Tucson? -- "because they operate less for the convenience of their users than for the sake of their unionized, overpaid employees," and because we have "no democratic levers of change, such as voters’ initiatives and referenda." But he fails to tell us where public services work significantly better, probably because New York doesn't compare well with other places. He might suggest low-tax New Hampshire, for example, but even the most conservative governance is not going to make us resemble that sparsely-populated, rural state in any case (though I like the idea of Town Meeting Day). And Magnet is presumably too smart to offer as an example that Valhalla of "voters’ initiatives and referenda," California.

You can just imagine his exasperation that New York no longer has the high levels of crime and grime of previous decades. Then this would be so much easier to put over! Oddly, the name "Giuliani" does not appear in his essay. Maybe Magnet denounced him, too, and the editors cut it out; or he started to praise the former Mayor, but realized that this would fit badly with his chronicle of decades of urban degeneracy.

So Magnet retreats to rhetoric ("As opposed to FDR’s immense governmental machine throbbing mightily at the end of history, how much grander is Edmund Burke’s vision of society," etc.) and warnings of future perils and further shores. Our allegedly socialistic regime will yet destroy our democratic spirit, he warns -- "Once you start talking about government’s equitable distribution of wealth... you have begun to leave democracy behind" -- just as it has in ruined Europe's, such as it was. He has plenty of horrible examples of genuinely anti-democratic behavior from there -- such as "France prosecuting Brigitte Bardot, and Switzerland and Italy prosecuting Oriana Fallaci, for anti-Muslim statements" -- but no convincing argument that they're coming to pass here. Couldn't he have mentioned our bicycle lanes? They've got to be will-sapping, somehow

The worst part is when he describes, at great length, the insufficient fighting spirit of Dutch and British soldiers. You can tell he wants to say that we're catching it, too. But to paraphrase Bogie, there are certain sections of New York, Magnet, where I wouldn't advise you to try and pontificate.

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