New York Politics & Government: Competition and Compassion

New York Politics & Government: Competition and Compassion

New York Politics & Government: Competition and Compassion

New York Politics & Government: Competition and Compassion


Two values often at odds with each other -- competition and compassion -- dominate New York's political culture. Since the eighteenth century New York has been known for its economic leadership and entrepreneurial opportunites. Its nickname, "the Empire State", reflects the state's continuing role as a national and international center of industry and commerce. Yet New York's political culture, as Daniel J. Elazar has noted, is paradoxically both individualistic and moralistic. Compassion is extended not only toward those unable to compete in the marketplace but also toward the numerous interest groups and institutions -- labor, business, nonprofit agencies -- that depend on the state's largesse for their own well-being. This distinctive political blend can produce inconsistent yet complementary public policies, such as providing tax incentives for economic development alongside liberal Medicaid benefits.

In this excellent overview of New York politics, five distinguished scholars explore the state's paradoxical political culture, examining its local, regional, and national components through the years.


The American domain is given form and character as a federal union of fifty different states whose institutions order the American landscape. The existence of these states made possible the emergence of a nation where liberty, not despotism, reigns and self-government is the first principle of order. The great American republic was born in its states, as its very name signifies. America's first founding was repeated on thirteen separate occasions over 125 years, from Virginia in 1607 to Georgia in 1732. Each colony became a self-governing commonwealth. Its revolution and second founding was made by those commonwealths, now states, acting in congress, and its constitution was written together and adopted separately. As the American tide rolled westward from the Atlantic coast, it absorbed new territories by organizing thirty-seven more states over the next 169 years.

Most of the American states are larger and better developed than most of the world's nations. Territorially, New York is a medium-sized state, but in terms of its population and its gross domestic product it ranks with the larger nations of the world and is a power in its own right.

From its earliest settlement, New York was a major gateway into the North American continent, whose importance increased over the years. While the state is no longer the largest of the fifty (both California and Texas are now larger), New York City is still the center of immigration into the United States, not only from Europe but from Asia and Latin America as well. Wave after wave of immigrants have come to the Big Apple and have periodically reshaped the character of its diversity. New York surpassed Pennsylvania in this respect at the very beginning of the nineteenth century, and while the peak years of immigration came at the end of that century . . .

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