The biggest crooks in New York

Earlier I wrote about Plunkitt of Tammany Hall and said I would inform you of any choice selections. As it turns out, it's an amusing and informative read, but didn't offer what I considered to be reasonably-sized quotations for the blog.

However, the general attitude is worth talking about. Plunkitt, of course, being a high-ranking Tammany man, was religiously devoted to the Tammany system and spent every free breath damning civil service reform. He said over and over that Tammany is the greatest democratic institution ever, since its promises of spoils attracted many people to the political system who otherwise wouldn't have stirred. (For those unfamiliar with Tammany Hall's history, at its height the head of the organization would send the complete list of political appointments to the newly-elected mayor.)

A book I'm currently reading gives the needed balance to Plunkitt's account. You may have heard of a little work called The Gangs of New York. Over and over again, in between the descriptions of various criminal activities, does Herbert Asbury record the culprits as being backed by politicians, the supermajority of whom were Tammany men. And as the movie skilfully showed, the governing gang was the biggest bunch of crooks of all.

Tammany Hall was a democratic institution in the libertarian nightmare sense: pure majority rule. The division by the schmucks, the duped or mean 51%, of the entire pie. [Asides about election fraud not encouraged: that weapon works for any holder.] That so, a street thief who pushed over a rich man usually had a lot of friends, and to Tammany that was a lot of votes.

All in all, it was a quick and colorful read, and if you come across it, you won't regret picking it up. The candor with which this arch-statist spins his yarns is refreshing: better to have someone tell you that he's in it for his own good than to hurt you and tell you it's for your own good. Your philosophy won't change for reading it, but you'll like it anyway.

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