Togo Party

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, the Republic of Togo’s approximately 5.7 million people live under what can best be described as a "republic under transition to multiparty democratic rule." In point of fact the evolution of Togo’s republic was quite a bit hairier. After the February 2005 death of President Gnassingbe Eyadema, his son, Faure Gnassingbe, assumed the presidency with the support of both Togo’s parliament as well as several regional leaders, despite widespread popular protests within the Republic. The April 2005 election secured Gnassingbe’s position as he won over 60% of the vote. As his father had ruled Togo since 1967, and adhering to the adage "the acorn never falls far from the tree," we might reasonably expect this blighted West African country, roughly the size of West Virginia, to continue to stagnate with its $1,600 per capita GDP and remain a "major transit hub for Nigerian cocaine and heroin smugglers."

I had never given much thought to the Republic of Togo and, while I had actually heard of it, I am certain that I never could have found it on a map or given even the brief political and economic background found in the preceding paragraph. However, living in New York City and being held captive to this week’s celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the United Nations and all its attendant externalities – including, but not limited to, gridlock, innumerable vehicles speeding down streets with a degree of impunity that only diplomatic license plates encourage, and countless barricaded avenues and sidewalks now off limits to us mere serfs who live here – the Republic of Togo has introduced itself to me.

Whenever the United Nations has a major guest speaker or dignitary (let alone 170 of them in this anniversary’s case), New York City goes on gridlock alert as the police close many of the streets surrounding the "Monster at Turtle Bay" to all but the most (self-)important functionaries. Those of us who have to get to work or go shopping must find alternate routes or face interminable traffic and/or imprisonment for ignoring police barricades. It is only with glee that I, local nobody whose daily life is now a continually changing map I must navigate to get anywhere efficiently, read of the suffering of the world leaders in attendance. Wednesday’s New York Times Metro Section headline said it all, "So Many Presidents, So Few Presidential Suites." The article detailed the travails of the assembled potentates including one from "Country A" (the hotel manager being a stickler for privacy) who requested not only a three-bedroom presidential suite with views of Central Park but also a grand piano with which we can only guess he might entertain himself when the priceless view of the park becomes boring.

Mathematically, presidential hotel suites are in short supply as there are 170 countries attending. The city’s supply of hotel rooms has been hit lately with several hotels converting to residential condominiums (The Plaza being the best example), a result of the stratospheric prices New York City residential real estate currently commands. If we generously assume that there are 20 top hotels in New York City, each with 3–4 Presidential Suites and add in the Waldorf’s 26 Presidential Suites, we have at best 106 Presidential Suites. Yet we still have at least 170 leaders of many genera – democratically elected, self-appointed, inherited, violently taken, etc. – each of whom will most likely feel entitled to the best hotel room the Big Apple has to offer, if history has taught us anything about those who rule us (while we pay the bill).

But back to the Republic of Togo. My circuitous route to navigate the city brought me past the Ritz Carlton hotel located on Central Park South (aka, 59th Street). The hotel’s northern facing windows have spectacular views of the park for which it charges top rates. Even the side windows along Sixth Avenue provide oblique views of the park and also garner the requisite premium. Needless to say, Ritz Carlton hotels the world over are exemplars of luxury and excellent service and are able to charge accordingly for their brand and hospitality. However, as I was walking by the hotel I noticed 9 limousines stationed out front. 6 of the limos were double-parked and impeding the flow of cars on the heavily-trafficked Central Park South, one of the main east-west thoroughfares in the city. Each limousine had a placard stating that it was "Reserved for the Republic of Togo" and they were numbered 1–9. The Republic of Togo, a UN member since 1960, needs 9 limousines to transport its leaders and their retinue? With a per capita GDP of $1,600 and NYC limousines renting out at approximately $75/hour, the Republic of Togo is spending the equivalent of one of its citizen’s annual economic production in just 2.5 hours. And that is only on cars for getting around the city! Forget about hotel rooms. If in fact Togo’s leaders are staying at the Ritz then the calculation is even more alarming. But as we learn from the study of reckless government spending of taxpayers’ wealth, economic justification never enters the equation. Anyway, kudos to the gang (no pun intended) from Togo if in fact they did score rooms, especially Presidential Suites, at the Ritz Carlton because then some other "world improver" must be suffering at a lesser, though still outrageously expensive, NYC hotel.

The problems with the theory behind the United Nations are numerous for those of us who understand, accept, and appreciate the concepts of sovereignty, democracy, and constitutional republicanism. The United Nations has never met a free market program it liked and woe to the nation that does not toe the line of its edicts – UN sanctions are doled out more freely than sugar subsidies by the United States Congress. However, until you have spent time in NYC trying to get on with your life while the world’s "leaders" pontificate, bloviate and otherwise justify their existence at the seemingly endless anniversaries, celebrations and other official UN fiestas, you can not truly appreciate the globalist behemoth’s quotidian costs. Despite the frequent, implausible claims of local New York politicians regarding the UN’s economic virtues and the intangible benefits it brings to the city’s "multicultural" miasma, the UN should relocate to a city with more Presidential Suites. At least if we can keep these unelected and unaccountable "leaders" happily preoccupied in their luxurious hotel rooms it will minimize the amount of time they spend organizing and ordering the lives of those who neither elected them nor owe them one iota of allegiance. As an added benefit, the impoverished people of the Republic of Togo will not have to pick up the tab for as many limousine fares.

September 16, 2005