Lights Out! The Politics of Power

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Everyone knows that New York, New York is Potomac, Part II, and therefore, is foisted upon the same worshipped grounds as its beastly, Beltway brother to the South. Is anyone yet sick of hearing about Ms. Ragamuffin Clinton, the revolting Michael Bloomberg, and NY’s grab bag of dysfunctional problems?

I am. I don’t care about the Beltway, and I don’t care about New York. I’m tired of the constant worshipping of these eternal symbols of statism.

There aren’t a whole lot of things that are more miserable than being a sitting duck in the midst of a massive blackout. I was one of those ducks out of water, literally, as the Detroit area came to a grinding, blackened halt at about 4:15 pm on Thursday August 14, 2003.

What an experience it was to know that none of us here in the Midwest suffered from any blackout; only those poor New York folk did. Middle class folks all over my neighborhood sat around during a 2—3 day blackout, with nothing but battery-powered radios to entertain and inform us. The candles and books got old after awhile; at some point you just had to have beers with the neighbors, and hear about your own plight from some overexcited newscaster babbling in the background.

Meanwhile, listening to the radio, what did we hear about? NY, NY, NY, NY, NY, and more about NY. New York is this, New York is that, the poor New Yorkers blah blah, but hey — now their power is up!, and, the winner of the Don’t Give-a-Hoot Prize was the statement we heard every five minutes come Friday the 15th: “Wall Street is up! Wall Street is up!” Even more tiresome was the minute-by-minute reports on the trading volume.

The significance given to New York City demanded that it be accorded first-in-line status for a return to electrical power. By Friday morning, New York was returning to normalcy, one step at a time, and all the media could say was — the Midwest what?

Those of us removed from the attention center of New York had $200—$300 of meat and shellfish rotting in the freezers; condiments, leftovers, and refrigerated meats taking a deep breath of killer bacteria; no lights, no phones, no cell phone service, no water system, no functioning toilets, no cooling factor on a 92-degree day; no gas, water, ice, dry ice, batteries, or other necessary supplies left to purchase; and we are supposed to care about NY and Wall Street?

I don’t think so.

My friends and family that live out of town confirmed to me that they could get little or no information about Detroit, or even Cleveland and other parts of the East. Several people told me that they had not discovered the Midwest’s problems — which were far more severe than New York’s — until well into the day on Friday, nearly twenty-four hours after the blackout was launched. The national news was entirely focused on NY. And NY, of course, had to be tended to first in this politics of power. Turn NY on, get Wall Street up so all of those Wall Street parasites — subsidized by Greenspan and the Fed — can get their bullish, little butts back to normal. The middle class peoples in the Midwest, however, can eat grass, live off of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and candles, and wait three days for someone to look their way.

New York’s dreamy high rises and bustling markets are tied to the State in far too many respects to ever become the image of an unhindered economy and private wealth. Yes, New York is an important financial center, surfacing as a symbol of capitalism in many respects. On the other hand, however symbolic New York is as a free market center, it is essentially tied to authoritarian statism in many forms, with New York’s financial center being tied to a regulated, mixed economy.

Come to think of it, what’s so abnormal about the media worshipping the nation’s two most heavily subsidized government seats?

Meanwhile, private interests like Meijer’s stores — in Michigan — were not only using generators to power their stores and stay open for their consumers, but they also closed one store so it could turn over its generators to a local hospital that needed them. Meanwhile, government bureaucrats sat on their duffs, arguing over who needed to get their power back first and why.

Post-blackout, the media went right back on track with its usual bureaucrat worshipping, telling us all how the Detroit mayor and Michigan governor were splendid heroes for being cool, calm, fantastic leaders in a time of great crisis. The barf factor of such gibberish was staggering.

Detroit’s Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, indeed, read his little press conference over the radio waves, so he could console all of us peons that we’d be just dandy under his virtuoso leadership. Though he gave us his usual inarticulate stumbling, bumbling, and general fumbling on the radio, disguised as a leadership speech, he was called a "great leader." Imagine that.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, in one of her “heroic” deeds, threatened “price gougers” with severe consequences should they dare try to demand more dollars for their dwindling goods. Then she shamed those who were wasting resources by going boating, on their own gas, because they had nothing better to do during the total blackout. Such moral strength and leadership abilities she has!

In more private commerce bashing, the Detroit media even heralded a guy who bought bottled water, under protest, at a gas station convenience store. You see, the store had water priced at $1.25 a bottle, and when this doodle head bought two bottles and was charged $3.00 (instead of $2.50), he fought back, refused to pay the "inflated price," the media got wind of it, and it became the Big-Meaty-Man-of-the-Day feature. We were fed this scoop as if it were our one great inspiration in getting back at crude capitalists that refuse to give away scare resources because people think they have a right to them in times of trouble and, er, scarcity.

In more politics of power, early on in the blackout, a spokesman from the local electric company told us that when the power came back on, they would start in the outward, more rural areas, moving inward toward Detroit, so as to avoid a system overload that might take place if they started with the heavy population center area first — meaning the city of Detroit and its closest suburbs. To us people who are technologically challenged in the realm of grids and power distribution, that made sense.

The last time something similar to this took place, it was called racism. It was racist to get power to white people first, before black people. Never mind that there is an ordered, structured way of bring the grids back up on line; political conniving, coercion, and special interests always get in the way.

Sure enough, the Detroit Mayor got to work on scheming so that his city was propelled into the forefront of first power, first serve. Detroit, for the most part, got their power back well before many of the less populated areas. So much for the initial plans by some spokesman from the power company; he didn’t stop to think of the fallout from his initial declaration for an ordered return to full operations.

Let’s face it, in times of crisis, private interests and middle class folk are always subordinated to reverence for the State, and this includes its major authority hubs and its self-elected, political elites. While the little guys in the Midwest grapple for power between themselves, the big guys — in Washington and New York — keep reminding us that they are the only places that matter because only they can set the tone for our next marching orders, and, like it or not, we are to worship and abide without further inquiry.

The media propagates this notion without fail. So goes the shilling and embellishments, and onward goes the freebooting, with the reputation of the State as God once again being reinforced in time of crisis. No Amen to that. Crapola is a word that comes to mind instead.

Karen De Coster, CPA, [send her mail] is a paleolibertarian freelance writer, graduate student in Austrian Economics, and a business professional from Michigan. Her first book is currently in the works. See her Mises Institute archive for more online articles, and check out her website, along with her blog.

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