George Washington Plunkitt of Tammany Hall

The power produces a profound impact on an individual. On the other hand, an individual having the power may produce a profound impact on the development of the community and entire society depending on the power he possesses. In such a situation, the corruption of the politicians that have access to the power is particularly dangerous to the normal and stable development and progress of society. In this respect, the example of Tammany Hall and one of its most notorious representative George Washington Plunkitt is particularly noteworthy. It is obvious that the political career of George Washington Plunkitt may be viewed as the example of exercising power in personal interests of politicians. Nowadays, the methods used by Plunkitt and other politicians alike are absolutely unacceptable for progressive reformers who insist on the necessity of distinguishing personal interests of politicians from the interests of the community and it is necessary to underline that the latter should dominate over the former.

On analyzing the life and work of such politicians as G.W. Plunkitt it is necessary to point out that they primarily focused on their personal interests and view the power, or to put it more precisely the fulfillment of public duties, since they were elected by people, as a tool for the personal enrichment and prosperity. In other words they used their power in accordance with their interests actually neglecting the interests of the public. Naturally, this led to the deterioration of the socio-economic situation in the areas where they “worked” since, having high positions in the political hierarchy, Plunkitt, for instance, simply transformed his political career in a kind of business. In fact, he used his position simply to make money, instead of working for the local community and, in such a way, contribute to the progress and prosperity of the New York City.

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In stark contrast to the public expectations and to the existing legal norms, G.W. Plunkitt became a part of Tammany Hall machine which represented a corrupted mechanism which permanently used public funds or the information they received due to their political position and access to state information in their interests. In fact, they were simply scheming and organized various mechanism of personal enrichment using the public funds and exploiting public needs.

In such a situation, the position of G.W. Plunkitt, as one of the most notorious representatives of the Tammany Hall, is extremely cynical when he distinguishes between “honest and dishonest graft” (Riordon, 145). This means that he perceives the violation of the law as a norm and, what is more important, he even attempts to position himself as a noble politician that took care of the local community because his personal interests coincided with the interests of the public. Consequently, he associates himself with honest graft rejecting dishonest graft that implies that an individual is working solely for his own interests (Riordon, 154). However, in actuality, he made most of his money through land purchases, which he knew would be needed for public projects. Naturally, he resold such land at inflated price. As a result, the money of taxpayers simply went to Plunkitt because of his speculations for land was sold at higher price.

Obviously, such a situation is absolutely unacceptable since it is very destructive for the normal development of society. In actuality, the economic effects of such “work” of Talamny Hall are even less destructive than the social impact. In fact, the machinations of Tammany Hall and G.W. Plunkitt in particular destroy the basis of democracy because they destroy the link or, to put precisely, dependence and responsibility of politicians before ordinary citizens. As soon as politicians start to exercise the power in their own interests and use the information they receive and public funds for the personal enrichment, they start to distance from citizens which they simply use and deceive in their own interests. It proves beyond a doubt that it is necessary to undertake effective measures to prevent such practices. In this respect, it is possible to recommend the limitation of the access of such politicians as Plunkitt to public funds and minimizing the opportunity for operations with land purchases. In fact, their work should be open and controlled by the public (Foner, 317), while the politicians should not exercise the power in their own interests that means that they cannot simultaneously make some business operations, such as purchase and sale of lands destined to public needs and remain an active politician.

Thus, it is possible to conclude that the policy and practices of the Tammany Hall are destructive and should be prevented. In this respect, the public control is of a paramount importance but it should be accompanied by the changes and improvement of legislation targeting the minimization of misuse of the power by politicians.

Works cited:

  • Foner, E. Give Me Liberty. New York: Random House, 2002.
  • Riordon, W.L. Plunkitt of Tammany Hall. New York: New Publishers, 2001.