The Obsolete New York Model by Myron Magnet, City Journal 16 July 2009.
A strangely fortunate by-product of the War on Poverty’s focus on minorities was that it largely insulated white America from the most destructive and demoralizing welfare programs and attitudes that retarded progress among many of the black and Hispanic poor. It shunted the New Deal welfare state onto a branch line, while England and Europe hurtled down the welfare state’s main line to much more widespread dependency and idleness, low growth, limited horizons, little innovation, and a grossly bloated public sector, with countless unproductive government drones gobbling up a porcine share of GDP and further constricting liberty through meddling, “fairness”-promoting diktats. But in New York, with its vast population of the hereditary minority poor, we now have something less like the rest of America and more like the European welfare state: heavily and inequitably taxed; undemocratic, unsustainable, and largely pointless; with government telling us what to eat and where to smoke, using its total control of the school system to accomplish little beyond boosting costs dramatically, subsidizing or dictating the rents on half of the city’s rental apartments, forcing private health-insurance buyers to subsidize the care of the indigent, and prohibiting us from asking whether those who use the services we pay for are here legally. Our public services, even vital ones like the subway, work badly, because they operate less for the convenience of their users than for the sake of their unionized, overpaid employees, now not so much public servants as the public’s masters, through the vast political might they wield over so powerful a government. On top of which, New York State, judged the “least free” in the nation in a new George Mason University study of personal and economic liberty, is quicker than the other 49 states to wield eminent domain to take away private property and give it to someone else, the absurd extreme of government-forced redistribution. Such unfreedom—along with “swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance”—would have driven the Founders to arms, but New Yorkers have no idea of how to reform a government that is essentially a one-party elective despotism with no checks and balances, and no democratic levers of change, such as voters’ initiatives and referenda. For us, the clearest solution is to leave, as millions of middle-class individuals and most of our Fortune 500 headquarters have done over the last half-century.