While I am now a resident of Chicago, I lived in New York City for the duration of Rudy Giuliani's mayoralty. My support for his presidential candidacy stems from watching him transform a derelict, sclerotic and dangerous city into the vibrant urban center it is today. He did so by promoting the classical liberal virtues of public order, private accountability and entrepreneurial freedom that are sorely needed at the federal level. His triumph in the face of entrenched ideological, partisan and special interest opposition suggests he can succeed in Washington, making good the old adage that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.
At the time Rudy Giuliani was elected mayor, New York was in danger of falling apart and becoming an urban shell. Crime was out of control, with more than 2000 murders a year. There were large areas of the city where I was afraid to venture. A growing proportion of the city was on welfare. The Crown Heights riots had revealed the costs of treating people as members of ethnic groups rather than as individuals linked by civic bonds. Because of the low quality of life and high taxes, middle-class citizens were fleeing the city.
Rudy Giuliani turned this all around. He understood that civil order is the foundation of a prosperous and flourishing society and thus focused on policies that radically reduced crime of all kinds. One cannot say of many politicians that there are people alive because of their policies, but without Rudy Giuliani's leadership many walking the streets of New York today would have faced an early death.
Giuliani also understood that personal accountability provided the best opportunities for escaping poverty. He substituted workfare for welfare. Just as there are people were alive today as a result of Giuliani's policies, there are many more who are earning a decent living and self-respect.
But Giuliani did not simply restore order, he recognized that the conditions for enterprise and freedom required substantial tax cuts and deregulation. It is a tribute to the sum of his policy choices that today most New Yorkers want to stay New Yorkers, and that city has once again a claim to being the greatest city in the world.
To be sure, Giuliani is not solely responsible for the revival of New York. Impersonal forces, like the stock market boom and the decline of the crack epidemic, played important contributing roles. But huge forces militated against regeneration as well. Every day New York's leading newspaper delivered a wide range of bad ideas to the doorsteps of its most influential citizens. Its public sector sustained powerful unions with a vested interest in preserving the status quo.
Giuliani personally held these reactionary forces in check with his relentless stress on the sound political principles of civic order, personal accountability and freedom. Like Margaret Thatcher, he forced the opposition to change so that for the foreseeable future no viable politician in the city will advocate a return to the culture of dependency and the toleration of low standards of social conduct.
The values that were at the heart of the Rudy Giuliani's mayoralty would serve him well as President. Just as there needs to be respect for civic order in city for it to thrive there needs to be respect for global order, particularly in an age of weapons of mass destruction, for the United States to be secure.
The mayor's insistence on personal accountability unites social conservatives and libertarians and would help him secure the breadth of the conservative coalition necessary to govern as President. He is also a strong supporter of federalism — the constitutional structure most amenable to that coalition. Federalism simultaneously allows states to choose social norms that serve their citizens and citizens to choose states that serve them the best.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani successfully acted on his understanding that the greatness of America has been that its institutions foster both respect for the rule of law and a love of freedom, including entrepreneurship. A President Giuliani would have both the vision and determination to maintain, renew, and improve these institutions.
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