Letters to the editor, Jan. 5

‘Rand’ing and raving

In T&V, David Chowes’ strange description of Ayn Rands philosophies (The Soapbox column, “Ayn Rants,” Dec. 8, 2011) as “totalitarian” stands truth on its head. In the process he also refers to two of Rand’s books, Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, but I find it hard to believe he’s read either title.

Ayn Rand [who escaped a totalitarian communist Russia] was commited, above all, to the maximum rights and freedoms of the individual. The usual criticism of Rand’s philosophies center on her purist opposition to any state interference in the lives of individual citizens. That explains why she is regarded as one of the founders of Libertarianism. Totalitarian societies are the exact opposite of such anti statist philosophies. Instead, they demand that all individuals subsume their ideas and ambitions to the demands of the state, by extreme violent repression if necessary.

Mr. Chowes also exaggerates the role of financial wealth in Ms. Rand’s philosophies. Yes, she did glorify ambitious capitalism. But the hero of “Fountainhead,” the struggling architect Howard Roark, is a man of modest means who makes his living as a construction worker and voices no interest in personal wealth.  Roark is obsessed with fighting for the right to maintain total control of his own intellectual creation, a housing development for which he developed the architectural designs. In the process he’s actually arguing for the right of all individuals to maintain control over their own creative visions and ideas, free from state interference.
What could be more classically American?

Doesn’t that perfectly describe Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison or any other creative, inventive visionary? Their creations were made possible only because it occurred without governmental interference. In the process they changed the world for the better. Ayn Rand simply believed that such visionaries should always be completely free to create their works without state interference. It’s true those men also became very wealthy in the process, but who would deny them their financial rewards? I’ve yet to hear any national outcry for the Jobs or Edison families to relinquish their personal wealth.

As to Chowes’ reference to the economist Friedrich Hayek, he should have instead mentioned his former student and protege, Milton Friedman. It is Friedman’s Hayek-like, laissez faire ideas that are now influencing virtually all emerging market economies. His influence on Chile and China is well documented. And by extension, India, Brazil, Poland and other rapidly growing economies have also been influenced by the economic philosophies of Hayek’s former student. All those countries have now eschewed decades of state socialism in favor of free market capitalism. In the process they have vaulted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class. More than 50 percent of the world’s population is now generally categorized as middle class. Somehow Mr. Chowes missed that historic “halleleujah!” moment in the history of free market capitalism.

But I’ll bet you Ayn Rand would have noticed.

Mark Suall

‘Jumping’ to conclusions on unemployment

I write regarding Town & Village’s Soapbox column written by Stuyvesant Town resident Keith Kelly, December 22, 2011:
In the second and third paragraphs of his op-ed, Mr. Kelly writes of unemployment rates; that in President Reagan’s first two years in office unemployment increased to 9.7 percent from 7.0 percent and in President Obama’s first two years in office unemployment increased from 8.3 percent to 9.3 percent. Mr. Kelly is incorrect, however, to conclude that unemployment “jumped 2.7 percent during Reagan’s first two years, compared to about a 1 percent increase in Obama’s first two years.”

The 2.7 percentage points that Mr. Kelly refers to regarding President Reagan should be divided into that 7.0 to realize that the correct “jump” was 38.6 percent whereas, by similar comparison, President Obama’s “jump” was 18.6 percent.

The percent in the unemployment “jump” during the first two years of President Reagan’s administration, therefore, is closer to twice that of President Obama’s rather than the three fold increase that Mr. Kelly’s calculations suggest.

Billy Sternberg, ST

Issue is zoning, not zucchini

Re: Letter, “Farmers market not the only business in ST,” Dec. 29, 2011

In response to last week’s letters about the farmers’ market, those opposed to the farmers’ market’s location on the Oval, a residentially zoned portion of the property, are not against fresh fruit and vegetables and I am surprised that anyone would think such a silly thing.

As for the writer who tried to claim that the residential zoning laws allow for the farmers’ market to be on the Oval, sorry, but on page 2 of the letter from Amanda Burden, Director of The Department of City Planning, (the governing body with respect to zoning laws) that was sent in response to Councilman Dan Garodnick’s inquiry about what the zoning laws permit here, it clearly and unambiguously states, “Green Markets that operate as an open commercial use would be prohibited on residentially zoned portions of the site.”

The issue in question is, quite simply, about the law and what is and is not legal in a residentially zoned area.

Since Councilman Garodnick has said that he is willing to help the farmers’ market relocate somewhere on the property that would not be in violation of the residential zoning laws, all that management has to do in order for the farmers’ market to have a continued presence here is take the Councilman up on his offer.

Non-compliance with the zoning requirements for the Oval, on the other hand, will clearly demonstrate Rose Associates’ and CW Capital’s willful disregard and contempt for tenants and the law.
Stuyvesant Town was designed to provide a peaceful oasis in the middle of a busy city, but the non-stop commercialization of the Oval has negatively affected the quiet enjoyment of both the property and the homes of those who live in close proximity to the Oval.

The residential zoning laws are designed to protect both tenants and the property and that is why their enforcement is essential and will continue to be vigorously pursued by concerned tenants, should it prove necessary.

Name withheld, ST

One thought on “Letters to the editor, Jan. 5

  1. Re: Letter to T&V by Mr. Mark Suall


    Firstly, than you for offering to T&V such a thoughtful and civil comment.

    Let me quote Thomas Hobbs who said that “in a state of nature it will be man against man.” If humans were perfect, no laws or government would be necessary. But, if we believe in the Freudian construct of the id or the Chirstian concept of original sin (literally or metaphorically). the world’s nations needs supervision by (hopefully) a benign government.

    I might remind you that our that our present economic catatrophe was (in part) due to the loosing of governmental rules regarding financial institutions. President Obama has not been able to reintroduce the sane policies that were in effect before George W. Bush abolished them — because the Repblican house control has said “no” to everything So, the rich became richer on the backs of the remainder of the citizens. One should not be able to bet and if you win you keep the gains — however if you lose you are rebursed by the government (i.e. the people).

    Going back to Hobbs, let me suggest that sans government interventions, it is the most powerful citizens would control the society and subvert our republican democracy. The media reports daily how much money each GOP contender has… Because that is one of the most important operative cuases of who will win. As, the Supreme Court
    rules that corporations are people with the same First Amendments rights of citizens.

    You are correct in saying that you suspect that I never read either Rand’s “The Fountainhead” or “Atlas Shrugged.” But, I saw her on televison (really!) and heard her coterie of admirers “The Long John Nebel” radio program quite frequently and heard many discussions about her philosophy: “objectivism” on C-SPAN/2-BookTV. I never read “Das Kapital” or “Mein Kamf” to form my opinions on Communist or National Socialism.

    Of course Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and… deserved all of the monetary compenstion they received — they created innovative ideas and industries which changed the world. But, how about the Wall Street weasels who advised their clients to buy a security which they knew was worthless — and then bet against the very investment? Or, the ones who told poor folks to lie on their morgage application and sold houses to people who would end up homesless? Wall Streeter’s got rich on the back of the poor — doesn’t that suggest government regulation?

    The free market: you allude to economist Milton Friedman… Yes, he was brilliant. He also aided the ruthless dictator Pinochet who with the help of our country “eliminated” the democratically elected president and took dictatorship of Chile — while killing and torturing thousand of members (which he though) were members of the opposition. Many of them have never been found.

    Sounds like General Pinochet could be put inder the rubric of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and… — as all were attempting to create a more perfect society. Well, many for the very rich and corporate interests.

    I am always suspicious of those who call for radical changes. (“Radical” can mean either ‘dealing with the root causes pf problems or just plain extremism.) Of all the GOP presidential candidates, Ron Paul is the closest one can find to Ms. Rand. I actually agree with many of Paul’s positions. Fro example, he is hostile towards ‘the American Empire.’ This sounds reasonable to me. But, many of his positions (and newsletters) are so extreme — both individually and in scope… How about the unintened consequences? And, some of the intended?

    And, it was the GI Bill, after the Second World War which created the middle class we used to enjoy. The decline in union mebership that added input into a viable majority of Americans able to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Just notice how money talks as workers walk. Union membership is now one third of what it was three decades ago.

    I could go one and on… Ideas may seem beneficial… But, when implemented… Well, only the Shadow knows? That’s a story waiting to be imlemented.

    I began with Hobbs — so I will close with Aristotle: “Moderation in everything.”

    David Chowes, PCV

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