About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
No third term for Michael Bloomberg, please
Don’t get me wrong, I like Mayor Michael, despite the fact that he is a Republican (until recently, he turned “independent” earlier this year, when he was considering a run for the Presidency). He has done much good for the city, not only in terms of fiscal policy, but of environmentally friendly decisions, support for the arts, and even (gasp!) gun control. Besides, he is an affable man who talks sensibly and seems to really care for the city he has inherited from neo-fascist Rudy Giuliani (who also, incidentally, sought to overturn the term limits law and run a third time -- and was thankfully rebuffed).
First of all, a third term may be bad for Bloomberg’s health and reputation. According to a New York Times report, only four mayors (out of 108 during the city’s history) won a third term, before limits were imposed by the voters. All four emerged with their reputations battered, despite having done fairly well, and in a couple of cases really well, during the first two terms. Moreover, one three-time major died a few years after his last term, battling cancer, one was nearly pushed out of town by popular furor, and a third one seriously considered committing suicide. Why tempt fate, Michael?
More importantly, what is disturbing is the very idea behind Bloomberg’s proposal: he truly thinks he is the only guy (in a city of eight million!) who can steer New York through the current financial crisis, on the basis that he has been so successful for the past eight years, and that he knows about money because he is a billionaire. Besides the obviously arguable validity of the latter point (running a private corporation founded by oneself is a completely different thing from running a city as a democratically elected official), the basic point is that the vitality of democracy resides precisely in the assumption that while many may validly contribute to it, nobody is essential. Personality cult and a sense of individual invulnerability and infallibility is what has brought disasters to democracies (think of the recent spectacular debacle of Governor Spitzer of New York), and that historically has led down the path to fascism (no, I am not accusing Bloomberg of being a fascist, I’m simply saying that his attitude is generally connected to the conditions that lead to fascism).
Furthermore, even more enraging is the way Bloomberg wishes to accomplish this feat. You see, New York voters have twice affirmed, in recent years, that they do want term limits. We can have all the discussions you want about the wisdom of forcing political careers to be short (though just imagine what the country and the world would be like if we allowed George W. to run for a third term...), but the fact of the matter is that the people have spoken, and Bloomberg should bow to their decision because we are (supposedly) in a democracy. Instead, Mayor Michael wants to ask the City Council to overturn the law, something that at least a few council members have said could be challenged in court because three of the five city’s boroughs -- Brooklyn, Bronx and Manhattan (the remaining two being Queens and Staten Island) -- are under the tutelage of the US Department of Justice’s civil rights division, which would have to authorize the action in question. This would likely cause the city to be involved in a potentially long, contentious and expensive legal battle, all in the name of changing a twice-voted law to allow the oversized ego of a single man to prove how he can save all of us from financial ruin.
Please, Michael, rethink this whole thing over, retire while you are on the upswing, and let democracy run its course. This is the city that never sleeps, surely we can find at least one person as awake and ready to take the helm as you. Right?