News & Analysis
The Caro Come Down ...
Robert Caro: GOP Abuse Of Filibuster 'Unconscionable,' Harry Reid Has Done 'A Terrific Job' ... Harry Reid, as majority leader of the United States Senate, has done "a terrific job," according to the most celebrated historian of the institution in a generation. Robert Caro, author of "Master of the Senate," the Pulitzer Prize-winning volume of his Lyndon Johnson biography, said that Reid's opposition and its abuse of the filibuster have made running the upper chamber "near impossible." Caro sat down for an interview with The Huffington Post in conjunction with the release of the fourth volume of his biography, "The Passage of Power," which covers Johnson's vice presidency and some of his presidency. "Harry Reid as a majority leader operated in near impossible circumstances," Caro said. "The other side is intractable and it has the votes to stop legislation. That he has been able to get as much as he has -- as little as it is -- through the Senate is a tribute to him as majority leader. I think he's in near-impossible circumstances. I think he's done a terrific job." – Huffington Post
Dominant Social Theme: So many good people are struggling to raise America up via government activism.
Free-Market Analysis: Robert Allan Caro once wrote a brilliant book about Robert Moses, who is a seminal planning figure in modern America life.
The book Caro wrote about Moses is justifiably celebrated. In it – and Caro writes exhaustively long books – Caro shows clearly how and why central planning doesn't work.
He excoriates Moses, the ultimate, big city, New Dealer technocrat, in the book. Three examples.
One ... Moses built a highway around Manhattan that effectively blocked the average person from getting to the shoreline of the island. Moses himself was always chauffer-driven, so he much preferred the view of the night sky and Hudson River from his sedan and arranged New York's road system to take advantage of this preference. His friends preferred it as well.
Two ... Moses built a huge highway right through the heart of the Bronx, effectively destroying a vital neighborhood of more than a million. The blight he left behind devastated generations, bankrupting families and businesses, but to Moses such collateral damage was part of the part of the price of progress.
Three ... When he built another road system – really the only one – into Long Island, he purposefully made the overpasses too low for buses so that the hoi polloi would not be able to use mass transit to ride out to the island cheaply and efficiently. The result for nearly a half century has been a nightmarish commute as commuters continued to be constrained by Moses' exclusive vision for the island.
Moses felt he was doing the work of the people with his roads and parks. But ultimately he was a terrible elitist whose best friends were people like the owners of the New York Times who backed many of his horrible projects and made it possible for him to follow them through – even when they basically destroyed parts of New York, especially the boroughs.
Caro shows clearly how Moses' central planning doesn't work. He writes that the more roads Moses built, the more crowded the roads became (because people liked to use their cars). Moses hadn't figured on the preferences of people to do what THEY liked.
He'd figured that if he built a lot of roads, the mass transit congestion would ease. Instead, he compounded the problem by ruining neighborhoods with a dizzying strata of intrusive highways and basically helped make New York unlivable for everyone except those who lived in downtown Manhattan.
It is too bad that after completing such a masterwork as his exhaustive biography on Moses, Caro will now be known for his four-volume (thus far) biography of Lyndon Banes Johnson.
In the HuffPo interview excerpted above, he says he can find no evidence that Johnson in any way participated in the death of John F. Kennedy. This flies in the face of more and more information that is being unearthed and presented on the Internet about Johnson's at least circumstantial involvement.
The Internet Reformation has been devastating to the 20th century narrative of "great man" history. What has emerged for those who choose to look is a form of directed history in which elites create narratives that tend to realize a goal of global government.
It is this emerging insight that Caro seems increasingly to be struggling against. He's gone from writing some of the most compelling portraits of failed political leadership to leading the charge to protecting political hacks like Harry Reid and US President Johnson.
As a young investigative reporter for the Long Island newspaper Newsday, Caro has explained that he analyzed why a proposed bridge across Long Island Sound from Rye to Oyster Bay, championed by Robert Moses, would not work. According to Wikipedia ...
Caro believed that his work had influenced even the state's powerful governor Nelson Rockefeller to reconsider the idea, until he saw the state's Assembly vote overwhelmingly to pass a preliminary measure for the bridge.
"That was one of the transformational moments of my life," Caro said years later. It led him to think about Moses for the first time. "I got in the car and drove home to Long Island, and I kept thinking to myself:
'Everything you've been doing is baloney. You've been writing under the belief that power in a democracy comes from the ballot box. But here's a guy who has never been elected to anything, who has enough power to turn the entire state around, and you don't have the slightest idea how he got it.'"
This was the central epiphany that animates Caro's bio of Moses. It is so good that those who appreciate free-market thinking should read it in tandem with Ludwig von Mises's Human Action.
But now Caro has spent the better part of his career writing a voluminous biography of Lyndon Johnson. And this week, he defends the hack Senate majority leader, Reid.
Conclusion: What happened, Mr. Caro?