Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dream Small

In Leo Tolstoy's short story, "How Much Land Does a Man Really Need?" the peasant Pahom determines that his main problem in life is that he does not have enough land.  In his quest to get more and more property, he meets the Chief of the Bashkirs, who own 13,000 acres of the finest, most beautiful land Pahom has ever seen which they are eager to sell.  The price, the Chief informs Pahom, is "one thousand rubles a day"--prospective buyers pay 1000 rubles and then begin a journey around whatever parcel of the land they want.  They can have anything they mark off as theirs as long as they return to their starting point by sunset.  If, however, he cannot reach his starting point by sunset, Pahom will forfeit his thousand rubles to the Chief and leave empty-handed.

Pahom begins early in the morning, and because he is so entranced by the beauty of the land in front of him, he journeys further and further from his starting point as he marks off more desirable tracts of land.  By afternoon it is very hot and he is exhausted and thirsty from traveling all day, but he now realizes that he is a long way from the place where he started and he begins to run back to his destination.  The Bashkirs cheer him on as he desperately runs trying to get back to the designated finish line, where the Chief of the Baskirs awaits him, by sunset.  Just as the last rays of sunlight leave the sky, Pahom's reaches his destination, but as he does so he collapses and dies and the Chief of the Baskirs rolls with laughter as he pockets Pahom's rubles and orders a servant to bury him next to the bodies of all of the others who have fallen before him.  Taking a shovel, the servant digs a grave and buries Pahom in the amount of the land he really needs--six feet to cover him from head to foot. 

I was reminded of this story a couple of weeks ago as I read of Michael Bloomberg's newest plans for New York City--to move New Yorkers into tiny "Micro" Apartments of 275-300 square feet.  To accomplish this, Bloomberg is getting the zoning laws in New York changed which currently set minimum apartment square footage at 450 square feet. The original laws were passed to prevent over crowded tenements, but now Bloomberg says that they need to be changed because many New Yorkers live alone (approximately half of the people in Manhattan live by themselves) and they need cheaper, smaller housing.  Bloomberg is even promoting a contest for designers to compete for the best design of a 275-300 square foot space to include a kitchen and bathroom.

Bloomberg has made a lot of national news this year with his draconian restrictions on what New Yorkers are allowed to eat and drink and specifically his ban on soft drinks over 16 ounces.  He claims that it is his government's job to keep people healthy--and hey if you are going to fit in a tiny apartment you probably need to keep your weight under control.  Most recently, in the wake of the Colorado shootings he was pressuring both Obama and Romney to support gun control legislation.

What many people do not understand is that Bloomberg's initiatives, including his intense desire to control what people in his city can eat and drink and where they can live, come straight out of the playbook of the current elites who use "green" agendas to justify stripping wealth and opportunity away from everyone else and promote pushing people into tiny apartments and controlling their food intake.  Virtually all the United Nations initiatives, including Agenda 21 push for tight control over  Americans and all other residents of developed nations, including where we live, how we travel, what we eat, and what we are allowed to have.  Bloomberg governs a major U.S. city, so the fact that he is implementing these standards as part of his Administration is no small thing.  In fact, we can look for more and more U.S. cities to copy what New York is doing even as they implement their own versions of Agenda 21 through Smart Growth, Smart Code and sustainable living initiatives.  (My sister in Dallas Texas recently visited an IKEA furniture store which featured micro housing displays.  My sister commented that it was cute but had room enough for only one person and even with that, "You would not even have room for a pet."  Sounds delightful.

All of this brings me back to Tolstoy's story and the question in its title, "How Much Land Does A Man Really Need?"  According to Bloomberg, New Yorkers NEED only 275-300 square feet of space.  Yet, according to Forbes Magazine,  Bloomberg himself has an estimated net worth of $22 billion.  Forbes lists Bloomberg as #11 on the list of U.S. billionaires (number 22 worldwide) number 17 on the list of most powerful people and number 12 in the Forbes 400.  According to a May 25, 2012 article in the New York Times, Bloomberg currently owns 11 homes,  including 33 acre estate in North Salem which he purchased for 4.55 million dollars in 2011 for his daughter who is an accomplished equestrian.  His residence in New York City is a Park Avenue condominium which we can be quite certain is great deal larger than 300 square feet.  He owns a 35 acre estate in the Hamptons, also purchased in 2011.  His other real estate holdings include homes in London, Bermuda, Southampton, New York, Vail Colorado and Wellington, Florida.

Forbes lists Bloomberg as a self-made man, and I applaud his success; after all, America offers innovative people opportunities to succeed through their own efforts (in spite of Obama's recent, "You didn't build that" comments, everyone knows that success basically comes through individual achievement.)  But Mayor Bloomberg exemplifies the worst of what is wrong with our country today--wealthy powerful elites stepping on the fingers of those trying to work their way up the ladder to enjoy success of their own.  Bloomberg made his money in a country which allowed opportunity, but now he is determined to micro manage every aspect of every life he can control by determining for us how much we need and are allowed to have, while increasingly fattening his own already luxurious lifestyle.

The American dream used to be to buy a home of our own. Americans aspired to find a good job, or perhaps start a business, marry a person we loved and raise a family.  For most Americans success like Bloombergs has always been out of reach, but tens of millions have achieved their own version of the American Dream.  By saying that New Yorkers live alone and therefore only require 300 square feet of living space, Bloomberg is eliminating the possibility of  sharing a  life and certainly of raising a family.  By telling New Yorkers that they are not intelligent enough to determine how much salt and sugar they should consume he is conditioning them to the nanny state which dictates every part of their lives.

Bloomberg's dictatorship may be confined to New York City, but his ideas are spreading across the country and the message is very clear.  If you have any dreams for your own future, be prepared to dream small. 

 Alexandra Swann's new novel, The Planner, about an out of control, environmentally-driven government is available on Kindle and in paperback. She is also the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen. For more information, visit her website at Frontier 2000

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