The New York Connection

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Problem with Billionaire Mayorality

Look, I'm not one to say that Mike Bloomberg is acting immorally when he gives hundreds of millions of his money to groups that help him politically. It might actually surprise you to hear that I think he's a philanthropist who feels he's doing the right thing for the city, and that by and large, the charities he gives to would in many cases get the money regardless of whether he were mayor. I think Bloomberg is a principled guy.

But that's not really the point. He may be principled, or he may not be, but he certainly is unaccountable. When your personal wealth can in the short-term make up for city budget cuts, that's a problem because the long-term effects of what you're doing are masked. Private property is critical for our democracy precisely because it insulates individuals from political pressure, and requires them to take responsibility for the services that they want. What Bloomberg is doing is part of the whole Republican saga of taking more and more power for a smaller and smaller group of people.

He may or may not be a reasonable guy. And he may be a good listener, though I have my doubts. The point though is that the system is no longer forcing him to be either a reasonable guy or a good listener. He no longer must behave as if he must be responsive to the city's constituents. He may choose to anyway, but that's his choice, and whether a mayor works in the best interest of the city should not be up to the mayor's private whims simply because that person has amassed a large personal forture.


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