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David Stanowski
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The Blog


Fear and Greed
in Galveston

by David Stanowski
17 December 2008

I was overwhelmed by the amount of feedback on my last article on "Galveston's Mokita". About half the respondents said that they understood my decision to stop trying to work with City Hall, because they had attempted to do so, and after many years, they had given up in disgust, too. Others encouraged me to soldier on, and sent many kind words about my efforts to bring about constructive changes.

The big surprise was that no one directly addressed our Mokita. Why do we have a silent agreement to accept our local government as it is? Why did this happen in the first place, and why does it continue? Should we start some kind of group therapy to uncover the reason for our shared psychosis?

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In the investment business, we are well aware that actions are rarely reasoned and logical; they are most often driven by the extremes of human emotion; fear and greed. I have been trying to observe their interplay, here in Galveston, and discover how they might be harnessed for positive change.

Fear is not yet working, because it seems confined to a fear of the government itself! It is amazing just how many people are afraid to do certain things in fear of retaliation from the City. Can the fear of possible economic ruin be harnessed to move past this fear of government?

On the other hand, it is not difficult to make the case that the way our City government is operating is costing us tens of millions of dollars each year in increased economic activity. In fact, it could easily be hundreds of millions of dollars!  Are we not like other people? Are we not greedy enough to want to do what it takes to go after this additional money? How do we channel greed for positive change?

For those who read Mokita to mean that I have totally “dropped out”, I want to make it clear that I am just attempting to re-direct my energy and priorities into activities that don't involve our City government. Since I think that I have discovered what may be the only way to change the current system, which I describe below, it will be obvious why I would never be successful with what I was trying to do. I also remind everyone that one definition of insanity is to continue doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.

My wife and I both signed up for duty on the Recovery Committee, so we are still “involved”, but we hope to find a way to work on projects that are not highly dependent on City government. Unfortunately, much of the funding that will be received will flow through City Hall, and then it will be their job to implement the programs. Reason enough to be discouraged at the outset, if changes are not forthcoming.

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There are many forms of government. Some work better than others, but I do prefer the Constitutional Republic that the Founders chose for us. However, we must be realistic and work with what we have. Even the Communist Chinese have learned to reduce their interference in their business sector which has allowed it to prosper. Is it too much to expect that our City government should function at least as well as the Communist Chinese? Even though we have allowed our government to operate as a defacto monarchy, there are still things that we can do to improve our economy.

The following suggestion is NOT meant to be satirical in any way. I am deadly serious! Desperate times call for desperate measures!

Currently, the City of Galveston functions in a similar way to a Medieval Fiefdom with the City Manager acting as the Feudal Lord, or King, and most of the residents playing the role of Serfs. However, there is one other class of people in our City; the Nobility.

With our defacto monarchy, if the King is not running the City in a manner that allows the economy to prosper, the ONLY people who can force the necessary changes are the Nobility. They are the key entrepreneurs and property owners. THIS is why the rest of us have been wasting our time!

A similar situation occurred a long time ago in Merry Old England. On 15 June 1215, the Barons forced King John to sign the “Articles of the Barons”, part of the process that lead to the Magna Carta. The most important part was Clause 61, the Security Clause. This established a committee of 25 barons who could meet and overrule the will of the King, using any force necessary. This is just what we need!

As a Serf, I would be happy to see a self-appointed Committee of Barons established, in Galveston, to advance their economic interests. It is much more likely that policies that help the Barons will bring prosperity to all of us, as opposed to the actions of our present King.

Ideally, a Galveston Committee of Barons would be made up of self-made entrepreneurs and property owners; no tired old money, please! These would be people who earn their living from local investments, and have a lot of "skin in the game". They could set one requirement for membership of at least $1-3 million at risk. Of course, this would not be up to me or anyone else; the Barons would decide. The idea is to get people who are highly motivated to have a prosperous economy, in this City, and who would have the power to actually control the King.

If we rescind our Mokita, and drop the pretense that we have something approaching a republican form of government, why not make the best of what we do have? If the Barons think that this idea makes sense, I hope that they will proceed to form a committee before it is too late!

At this point, it is all up to the Barons; my work here is done!

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