Thursday, August 23, 2007

Livingston, Chavez and Bloomberg?

We have been noticing just how much the whole congestion pricing issue has created some strange bedfellows-from the scions of New York real estate to the more politically radical advocates of environmental justice. Nothing, however, beats the recently announced alliance between Red Ken Livingston and Hugo Chavez, the "socialist" dictator of Venezuela.

According to the Financial Times, Livingston has struck a deal with Chavez, whereby the apparent dictator for life is supposed to forward around $32 million to subsidize poor Londoners to ride the city's buses. In exchange, Livingston will come down to Caracas to help that city implement a congestion pricing plan.

Livingston and Chavez (along with the DMI's Schlesinger)-perfect together. Red Ken has no problem aligning himself with the latest left wing tyrant because, as we have already pointed out, he has a history of doing so; and takes particular glee if the partner in question hate the US. In this case he makes no bones about where his allegiances lie: "Frankly I'd rather be getting into bed with {Mr. Chavez} than, as the British government has been, getting into bed with {US President} George Bush."

But then again Red Ken would have said the same thing about Mao and Stalin-or Saddam Hussein for that matter. And this is the dangerous kook who New York wants to use as a role model for it public policy agenda?

The fact remains, however, is that there is a great deal of affinity between congestion taxing and a whole slew of other government dictates that seek to penalize behaviors deemed anti-social; and Mike Bloomberg leads the way in this aggressive paternalism that is so often mislabeled as "progressive." The common denominator? The feeling that most folks don't really know what's good for them and you need, in the words of Rousseau, to "force people to be free." It is a dangerous slippery slope that our mayor walks; and some of the fans of congestion taxing should give us pause before a misplaced enthusiasm takes a feverish hold on our senses.