Tag Archives: State-Craft

Power Broker by Robert Caro – Summary & Analysis of Chapter 16

Chapter 16 – The Feather Duster

Robert Moses and Franklin Delano Roosevelt had known each other for a long time. The patrician Roosevelt had been helpful to Al Smith by shoring up the Democrats’ more conservative wing. He had, however, never been one of Smith’s inner circle. Moses took Roosevelt along, but Roosevelt had always been restrained, never being comfortable with Smith’s Tammany crowd. He was called the “Feather Duster” at school due to his propensity to fly in and out of interests and Smith had little good to say of his ability. None of them ever guessed that Roosevelt was using his position to make a future presidential bid of his own. Only Belle Moskowitz saw Roosevelt’s potential and she saw him as a continuing threat to Smith’s own bid to be President.

When Smith appointed Moses onto the Long Island State Park Commission, he also appointed Roosevelt to the Taconic Parks Commission. Roosevelt had an assistant called Louis Howe who he required due to his disability through polio. He could not afford to pay Howe a salary and so tried to employ him as a secretary. Moses dislike Howe and tried to prevent the move. This was one of the elements of their rivalry. Another was Roosevelts interest in parks, one as strong as Moses’s own. Conflicts arose between the two arose over Moses’s rejection of Roosevelts budget requests for development of the Taconic parks and parkways. Roosevelt complained to Smith threatening to resign, and as Smith required his support for his Presidential bid, Smith made great efforts to smooth things over, supporting Roosevelt to succeed him as Governor. Moses disagreed with this, but political expediency ensured that Roosevelt got the nomination. Moses called him “a pretty poor excuse for a man.” Roosevelt’s dislike for Moses was just as intense. Smith lost the presidential race to Herbert Hoover, but Roosevelt won the governorship of New York in 1928.

Smith retired and prepared to assist Roosevelt into the governorship and help him carry on the previous policies, but Roosevelt was evasive. He was against leaving Mrs Moskowitz and Robert Moses in their posts and he was already planning for the presidential race in 1932. However, Moses was difficult to remove. He had erected a power structure in New York all his own, buttressed by public opinion. In the end, Roosevelt had to live with Moses, if not as Secretary of State, then as Chairman of the Parks Commission.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • When the powerful are fighting over power; they tend to dislike the person as well as the policy; but the personal is easier to describe and very immediately: there is not a lot projection being forced between Roosevelt and Moses
  • Authoritarian CEO or consensus driver? This is the conceptual challenge of government. It is the people’s revenue! Why is it not treated like an extension of democracy (public review every 4 years)? Because that would be harder to pull off.
  • FDR and Moses have an obsession with parks…Brokerage politics is about getting the vote out with your existing political machine: that has changed now that people are less locked in based on relationships proxy which was about if you like Al Smith then you should vote for him since he is Catholic etc etc. Now there is more voting based on ideology (another proxy for preferences but an effective tool for organizing). But Roosevelt had sway against Moses because Roosevelt could marshal support for Al Smith’s presidential bid.
The Power Broker is a Pulitzer Prize Winner
Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3
Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6
Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9
Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12
Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15
Chapter 16Chapter 17Chapter 18
Chapter 19Chapter 20Chapter 21
Chapter 22Chapter 23Chapter 24
Chapter 25Chapter 26Chapter 27
Chapter 28Chapter 29Chapter 30
Chapter 31Chapter 32Chapter 33
Chapter 35Chapter 36Chapter 37
Chapter 38Chapter 39Chapter 40
Chapter 41Chapter 42Chapter 43
Chapter 44Chapter 45Chapter 46
Chapter 47Chapter 48Chapter 49
Chapter 50

Power Broker by Robert Caro – Summary & Analysis of Chapter 17

Chapter 17 – The Mother of Accommodation

Now Moses had to operate with limited executive support and he still needed to secure the route of the Northern Parkway on Long Island and this meant negotiation with the barons. Moses accommodated the barons by diverting the route around their land. Moses claimed that the barons, as part of the deal, had contributed substantially to the cost of the parkway, but in fact, the vast majority of the cost of the detour was funded by the public. On top of that, the parkway would be detoured around the most attractive parts of northern Long Island. This compromise was, in effect, a surrender.

Although Roosevelt did not give the easy ride to Moses he was used to under Al Smith, he nevertheless continued to fund Moses’s projects. Moses’s years of ingratiating himself with a large number of New York political organisations made him electorally indispensable to Roosevelt. Moses had in a large part created the new political structures of New York and he knew how to use them. Moses aided Roosevelt with his budget negotiations. He helped with numerous legislative programs. In fact, Moses’s power continued to increase in the Roosevelt years and his reputation as the creator of parks with the press and the public remained undiminished. They continued to praise the architecture and attention to detail that were a hallmark of Moses’s park designs, especially the jewel in the crown, Jones Beach.

The success of Jones beach had its problems. By 1930, the park had over two million visitors a year. The traffic on the Southern Parkway was frequently backed up due to the continued existence of rail crossings. Moses was able to get funds to build bridges over the railway, thus alleviating the traffic problems and continuing to develop the Southern Parkway to stretch further east across Long Island. Land owners began to see the value of their land increase due to the developments and they became more willing to let go of their land. Moses’s popularity was at its peak at this time, and he would manage to get his way with Roosevelt simply by threatening to resign. With this lever, Moses’s parks and parkways in Long Island began to extend and develop rapidly. Roosevelt’s forbearance of Moses was continuing to reap political benefits for the governor. Thus, the uneasy partnership between the two was held together due to mutual benefits and grudging respect.

Left to a large extent to his own devices, a more unsavoury aspect of Moses began to appear. Although the development of the parks system was primarily for the benefit of the public, he had little regard for the public as people. He discouraged the use of the parks by black people and the working and lower middle class. He resented the fact that they messed up his beaches. He thought them dirty and slovenly. He limited access by buses and trains, the normal transport of the poorer citizens. Black people were discouraged from using “white” beaches. He lowered the temperature of the swimming pools because he thought “negroes” didn’t like cold water. He increased parking fees at the parks to discourage the working classes. Roosevelt protested, but Moses brought out the resignation card and Roosevelt relented.

When Al Smith decided to run against Roosevelt for the 1932 presidential nomination, Moses took time off to support Smith. However, Moses soon realised that Smith’s bid was doomed. Roosevelt had taken much of Smith’s support. Moses continued to battle for Smith to the end.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • Moses’ racism is bound up in his hate for the poor. It is morally repugnant today and it was then, however, it was socially acceptable then;
  • Gaining political influence within the various groups in a city is important.
  • Look at Project In Isolation Not In Reference To Other Projects (A Persuasion Tactic): in government should not be viewed against other projects but should be looked at in isolation. To look at the project without reference to funding other projects is the opposite of the reality of how government works where the budgets are finite however Moses had a much easier time to make it work.
  • Disregard for people versus love of the public: Moses loved the public generally hated the various people, not a healthy way of thinking.
The Power Broker is a Pulitzer Prize Winner
Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3
Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6
Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9
Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12
Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15
Chapter 16Chapter 17Chapter 18
Chapter 19Chapter 20Chapter 21
Chapter 22Chapter 23Chapter 24
Chapter 25Chapter 26Chapter 27
Chapter 28Chapter 29Chapter 30
Chapter 31Chapter 32Chapter 33
Chapter 35Chapter 36Chapter 37
Chapter 38Chapter 39Chapter 40
Chapter 41Chapter 42Chapter 43
Chapter 44Chapter 45Chapter 46
Chapter 47Chapter 48Chapter 49
Chapter 50

Power Broker by Robert Caro – Summary & Analysis of Chapter 2

Chapter 2 – Robert Moses at Yale

Considered a “Jew” by his classmates at Yale. Known internally as “a democracy of talent”, the structure of Yale was in fact a social pyramid based on family background and closed to Jews. Moses roomed alone, seen as “diffident, quiet and shy” by his classmates but as exceptional by his few friends with a great love of learning. Joined editorial board of the Yale Daily News and joined the swimming team. Moses broadened his acquaintances through these two groups. He travelled Europe extensively, enthusiastically visiting the great museums and galleries and developed a great enthusiasm for Samuel Johnson.

Back at Yale, Moses attempted to democratize the structure and to improve the status of sports such as swimming, using the Yale Daily News to promote his views. He persuaded the minor sports to combine into a formal association for funding. On June 11, 1908, Moses announced the formation of the Minor Sports Association.

Moses resigned from the swimming team when he couldn’t get his way on funding. He became more active in literary circles. His academic work continued to be outstanding. In his last two years he had roommates, members of literary groups KitKat and The Current. He became liked by his circle of friends.

Moses’s idealism strengthened through the years. He was known as intense in argument but honest, speaking from the heart. Moses did not achieve a membership of any of the important Yale societies, but his achievement was impressive for a Jew achieving a certain amount of power and influence. He had managed to build a coterie of followers within the structure with himself at the head. This was to influence his progress in the wider world thereafter.

Analysis & Key Takeaways: Chapter 2 of Power Broker
  • Anyone who has been in student politics will recognize the low stakes, high pettiness of student politics. Robert Moses organized student minor sports leagues for fundraising purposes. He wants to bring all the clubs together as a kind of unionized entity in order to gain funding leverage. He also wanted to fudge the finances to advance his singular sport of choice: swimming. Of course, distributing the funds would be how he could funnel more to his sport then the more popular sports. When his ideas were rejected, he cut out friends that opposed him. He figured out early that money is power.
  • Networks matter and so do cultural groups. Religion (cultural group marker) is a foot in the door in some cases and a means of exclusion in others. The fact that shared experiences create alliances is not going to disappear anytime soon because the human brain is wired to prefer things that are similar: example Movie Sequels….it’s not that we have to like the human brain, to acknowledge these patterns;
  • Is Robert Caro building up Robert Moses in this chapter? Do people have an honest recollection of a person after that person becomes influential in wider society? Or do recollections warp, inserting false memories? Moses sounds like a superstar or at least an overachiever, CV stuffer;
  • Resign if you can’t get your way. This mantra is something Moses threatens to do a lot throughout his career, figure out where you stand and then threaten to resign as a bargaining chip, but only if you are confident that ‘they’ need you.
The Power Broker is a Pulitzer Prize Winner
Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3
Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6
Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9
Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12
Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15
Chapter 16Chapter 17Chapter 18
Chapter 19Chapter 20Chapter 21
Chapter 22Chapter 23Chapter 24
Chapter 25Chapter 26Chapter 27
Chapter 28Chapter 29Chapter 30
Chapter 31Chapter 32Chapter 33
Chapter 35Chapter 36Chapter 37
Chapter 38Chapter 39Chapter 40
Chapter 41Chapter 42Chapter 43
Chapter 44Chapter 45Chapter 46
Chapter 47Chapter 48Chapter 49
Chapter 50

Power Broker by Robert Caro – Summary & Analysis of Chapter 18

Chapter 18 – New York City before Robert Moses

Nowhere had the Great Depression hit harder than in New York City. More than one person in every three had lost their jobs. The rest were often paid a fraction of their former salaries. Malnutrition was rife. Children missed out of education. There was fear and terror of the future.

Tammany corruption within the city was endemic. Federal relief payments were being syphoned off. The test for employment was politics rather than need. By 1932, New York’s debts were over $1 billion, equal to the debt of all the other states combined. The reckoning for Tammany rule had arrived.

The city’s failures were not entirely due to the Depression. They were also caused by under-investment in crucial infrastructure. Corrupt employment practices had resulted in a lack of qualified technical staff. Public works were either lacking or substandard. The development of parks and parkways driven by Moses stood out even more starkly as an example of what could be done. Road connections, both by bridge and tunnel, between Manhattan and the mainland were seriously inadequate. New York City, in terms of the state of its parks, playgrounds, statues and other public provisions, was a crumbling disgrace.

Central Park was a good indication of the demise of the city. The idealist construction of the 19th Century had been destroyed by the Tammany governance.  The zoo there stank from neglect, the animals either sick or malformed.

The city was surrounded by beaches, but their use by Tammany insiders restricted the general public to severe limitations. The beaches that were available were inhabited by lifeguards who couldn’t swim, or homeless people’s makeshift shacks.

During the Depression the parks started to fill with shack towns or “Hoovervilles.” There was a tremendous strain on housing and the slums were overflowing, with barely an acre of green space to provide relief. In 1932 there was only one playground for every 14,000 children. This did not prevent the construction of a casino in Central Park, at vast expense, by Mayor Jimmy Walker, who proceeded to use it as his own personal domain; somewhere to wine and dine his cronies.

Moses had other things on his mind, namely, the construction of metropolitan parks and parkways, the Triborough Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge and connecting roads to alleviate the city’s traffic problems. Moses was planning to connect Manhattan with the northern states, Long Island and New Jersey. It was the most ambitious city development plan in the world. But was it achievable?

Moses persuaded Roosevelt to allocate funds as part of the State Budget. The rest of the money however, was to come from the city. Roosevelt’s successor, Herbert Lehman, was a champion for Moses and set up a special commission with Moses as chairman to start the development. Some of the initial funds were syphoned off for other purposes and it was a struggle for Moses to persuade the funders. New York City meanwhile, was unable to pay its employees and was close to being declared bankrupt. However, in the summer of 1933, Moses was to bring fresh hope to his plans by running for Mayor.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • The bridge is power, it’s the layers, public relations, and banks. Moses used the power of the bridge in order to leverage towards other projects;
  • Any jurisdiction runs the risk of being mismanaged when the same people get re-elected time after time; it goes from democracy to kleptocracy rather rapidly. Mismanaging funds is often the act of screwing the future to help the present (since we don’t know what the future may hold).
The Power Broker is a Pulitzer Prize Winner
Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3
Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6
Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9
Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12
Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15
Chapter 16Chapter 17Chapter 18
Chapter 19Chapter 20Chapter 21
Chapter 22Chapter 23Chapter 24
Chapter 25Chapter 26Chapter 27
Chapter 28Chapter 29Chapter 30
Chapter 31Chapter 32Chapter 33
Chapter 35Chapter 36Chapter 37
Chapter 38Chapter 39Chapter 40
Chapter 41Chapter 42Chapter 43
Chapter 44Chapter 45Chapter 46
Chapter 47Chapter 48Chapter 49
Chapter 50

Power Broker by Robert Caro – Summary & Analysis of Chapter 3

Chapter 3 – Home Away from Home

Moses moved to Oxford University in England for his post-graduate work. This was to give him a clear, definable sense of public purpose and the duties and rights of those born to privilege (noblesse oblige). Moses swapped the pseudo-democracy of Yale for the elitism of Oxford, which he preferred and became the first American President of the Oxford Union debating society.

Moses continued his foreign travels around the colonial British Empire between terms. He enjoyed the bohemian atmosphere of post war Oxford, affecting a haphazard style of dress and carelessness with money. He told his parents that he would be devoting himself to public service, but this devotion was also accompanied by an increasing arrogance and Anglophilia. He developed a contempt for the working classes and especially for the colonised populations of the British Empire, saying “the subject peoples of the British Empire were not ready for self-government.”

Moses’s prose style hardened and improved at Oxford. His cast of mind had also hardened into support for noblesse oblige, encapsulated in the British Civil Service, a perfect instrument for civil reform but one disfigured by patronage. However, his notion of meritocracy applied only to the members of the educated upper class. A system that for him elevated the most intelligent young men into powerful and influential positions. He advocated suppression of socialist tendencies and working-class activism that challenged these beliefs. He urged the American Government to follow the British model and supported the election of Woodrow Wilson as President.

Moses graduated from Oxford with honours in 1911. He then carried on his studies in London and Berlin. Moving back to his old rooms in New York in 1912. He enrolled at Columbia University for his PhD, completing his thesis in 1913. While he was completing his thesis, he entered the training school for the Bureau for Municipal Research. His education was over and he now entered the world of public service.

Analysis & Key Takeaways: Chapter 3
  • Having contempt for the working class is obnoxious; like having contempt for something you do not appreciate, understand or are exposed to. We can only interpret reality from the information we are exposed to in publications, in anecdotes and in relationships. If we believe the patterns [we are exposed to] are objective reality then we are doomed. Doomed to jump to conclusions for quicker decision-making (finding short-hands from the gut) that are possibly very wrong.
  • Robert Moses went to Oxford which has a reputation for telling its students that they are special, smarter and better then non-Oxford students or people generally. This brand management has a re-enforcing nature to it.  In Moses’ case, it may have contributed to his contempt for the poor (financial and possibly spiritual, attitudinal poverty). Poverty and races were strongly correlated in New York in the 20th century and still is due to variables such as: a), b), c)….and z) the time value of money which compounds for those who have it, but subtracts for those who do not understand compounding interest and/or do not have sufficient cashflow. For Oxford graduates, “anything is possible, so they are told, so why are these poor non-Oxford folks so down? Well, then we the elite shall marshal them….” Meanwhile, there are likely Oxford students who aren’t condescending, I am just as guilty as others of extrapolating from patterns that or only partially representative of objective reality.
  • A recurring theme in this book is that the municipal government is where things done rather then where deadlocks form, municipal is where anyone serious about getting public policy should start. Why are there layers of government controlled by individuals anyway? Technology isn’t in place yet.
  • PhDs should be completed quickly if you can.  It’s intellectually self-pleasuring in the best case scenario. Don’t think you’re smart because of a PhD or other advanced degree. But go out and test your hypothesis in the wild, post-doctoral, test and refine.
The Power Broker is a Pulitzer Prize Winner
Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3
Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6
Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9
Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12
Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15
Chapter 16Chapter 17Chapter 18
Chapter 19Chapter 20Chapter 21
Chapter 22Chapter 23Chapter 24
Chapter 25Chapter 26Chapter 27
Chapter 28Chapter 29Chapter 30
Chapter 31Chapter 32Chapter 33
Chapter 35Chapter 36Chapter 37
Chapter 38Chapter 39Chapter 40
Chapter 41Chapter 42Chapter 43
Chapter 44Chapter 45Chapter 46
Chapter 47Chapter 48Chapter 49
Chapter 50