New York Politics & Government: Competition and Compassion

By Sarah F. Liebschutz; Robert W. Bailey et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
The Character of New York: Competition and Compassion

Sarah F. Liebschutz

"After living a dozen years in New York, I don't pretend to comprehend their politics," observed Oliver Wolcott, an early governor of Connecticut. "It is a labyrinth of wheels within wheels."1 Two centuries later, New York's politics are still labyrinthine. They continue to reflect the ethnic, regional, and cultural diversity that has characterized the state since pre-Revolutionary times. Such diversity has shaped the character of New York, a character dominated by two values often at odds with each other: competition and compassion. For much of its history, when New York was America's most populous and powerful state, the two values coexisted more or less compatibly. Since the 1970s, and New York's fall from undisputed preeminence of size and economy, the coexistence between competiton and compassion has been sorely tested. As the twentieth century comes to a close, the tension between them is strong and played out overtly in the political arena.


NEW YORK: MANY NATIONS

New York is many nations. Its geography and its people are remarkable for their diversity. With nearly 18 million people and 47.7 thousand square miles of land, New York is the largest state in the northeastern United States. The New York landscape contains much more than Manhattan's concrete canyons and asphalt jungles. This fact seems to amaze many people-- Americans and foreign visitors alike--who think New York and New York City are one and the same.

New York's geography is among the most beautiful and varied of all the fifty states. Its elevations range from Mt. Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains, at five thousand feet, to the Atlantic Ocean at sea level. New York is

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