Government Via Bloomberg L.P.

by Zoe Pollock

John H. Richardson investigates the political implications of a man like Bloomberg:

He's talking about his latest push to improve the habits of New Yorkers, this time by making it illegal to buy sugary drinks with food stamps. If passed, this rule will join the rule about no smoking in restaurants and bars and the rule about requiring that homeless people have saving accounts if they want to stay in city shelters and the rule about this is a man who spent half his autobiography listing his rules for conducting business and donating to charity with barely a page left over for his wife and children.

He seems happiest when he runs through the data more than 50 percent of adults are overweight, 40 percent of children, 6 percent of food stamps go to sugary drinks, $75 to $135 million is wasted, obesity-related illnesses cost $770 a year per New York household, poor adults get diabetes at twice the rate of the wealthy. There is strength in numbers, and he is strong. He's Bloomberg the man and also Bloomberg L.P., the limited-liability partnership that made him a billionaire. He will fix things if we let him. "Let's try it for a period of two years. We'll measure the results and see if it works." ...

Mike Bloomberg has become important because he represents a great American dream, not the one about owning a home or becoming more successful than your father but the one beneath all of those, the foundational American dream the dream of freedom from politics.

Freedom from the ugliness and corruption and compromise of democracy, with its raised voices and perpetual fights over who is more equal than the others. Bloomberg is the ultimate independent, the calm modern technocrat rooted in metrics and cleansed of ideology, come to drain the swamps of government with his amazing modern business-management techniques ... unless he's actually just an old-fashioned autocrat looking down on us from above and tinkering with our lives like a science experiment, stripping our noisy polis of all its native poetry. Unless the messiness we want to get rid of is actually our soul.