Politics As Usual?
Politics As Usual = Exploitation
In 1833 William Forster Lloyd, a distinguished British academic, observed that when a common pasture can be used by anyone to graze cows, the pasture will be overused and lost to all. The cost of use is externalized to the everyone but the benefits are not. This famous parable is generally referred to as The Tragedy of the Commons. It demonstrates how access to a common resource, such as a pasture or public treasury, ultimately dooms the resource because of over-exploitation.
Many people understand how this important concept of exploitation (getting benefits and shifting the costs) applies to government, politics and society. Exploitation is not a public interest. Others prefer to ignore the parable as well as the consequences - the eventual tragedy; the decimation of resources. Politics As Usual leads to tragedy!
Politics as Usual is all about getting benefits and shifting costs to others. But most people don’t think that way until forced to. They are forced to when the tragedy strikes.
Erie County’s treasury is like the pasture in the parable. Erie County politics has failed. The treasury has been decimated by over-exploitation. But our politicians share a conspiratorial silence. Where are the investigations? Who has been prosecuted? Most New Yorkers don't even know there are problems.
Just as effluent pollutes streams, so laws can, and do, pollute society. Politicians of other parties externalize costs. For example, former State Senate Majority Leader Bruno could externalize his district’s fiscal problems to other New Yorkers outside his district. Assembly leader Sheldon Silver can shift NYC debts on people who may never see NYC, and on their children. Politicians write laws to create benefits for some and charge the costs to others. Libertarians call that robbing Peter to pay Paul. But Politics as Usual call this 'fair'.
We tend to hear a lot about "rights" in contemporary America - the right to “a living wage” and the right to health care are some examples. Gary Popkin from NYC wrote this wonderfully succinct explanation of how the meaning of "right" has been corrupted to the opposite of its real meaning:
"right" as envisioned by the Founders meant that the government was
not permitted to interfere with your pursuit of them, i.e.,
pursuit of happiness was to be unhindered by
"right" of free speech means that government cannot interfere with
your free speech. The "right" of gun ownership means that the
government cannot infringe your gun ownership. What does
to health care mean? It means that the government cannot stand
the way of your pursuit of health care, or impede your
obtaining health care.
The 2002 Badnarik Presidential campaign website had this jewel:
“In crafting the Bill of Rights, the framers were careful to acknowledge implicitly and explicitly two key truths: The first is that government does not grant rights it acknowledges them. They exist independently of government... The second is that government is a servant to whom we delegate powers, not a master who dispenses privileges..."
In contemporary America, Politics as Usual is about dispensing privileges - creating new rights for some at the expense of others. Did people forget America was supposed to be about safeguarding individual liberty and limiting government? Government makes laws. Laws create privileges for some and steal inalienable rights from others in the process. Laws steal choices. They make you obey someone else’s choices. It’s like being told where to sit on the bus. Laws make you do things you would not want to do if you were free. In today’s America all other political parties legislate to prohibit and limit choices for some people and mandate the choices of others.
The resulting tragedy can be measured in deficits, debts, inflation, money supply, economic decline, infrastructure decay, lost jobs, lower wages, fewer opportunities, an inability to sucessfully compete, and the flight of talent and capital elsewhere.
The Tragedy is not limited to Erie County and NYC.
- it’s NOT Politics As Usual -