Lessons on How to Amass Power, Get Things Done, and Be Eaten Alive

By Taylor Pearson

Robert Moses may be the most influential historical figure you’ve never heard of.

Moses was the master builder of New York. If you’ve ever set foot in a major city, he’s affected your life.

He built more infrastructure than any individual in modern history. To name a few of his works, he built Shea Stadium, Lincoln Center, Jones Beach, the United Nations headquarters in New York, the Henry Hudson Parkway, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and the Triborough Bridge.

He also had more public works named after him in his lifetime than any other non-president in American history: Two state parks, Robert Moses State Park (Thousand Islands) and Robert Moses State Park (Long Island); the Robert Moses Causeway on Long Island; the Robert Moses State Parkway in Niagara Falls, New York; and the Robert Moses Hydro-Electric Dam.

By the time he left office, he had built 658 playgrounds in New York City alone, plus 416 miles (669 km) of parkways and 13 bridges.<a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" title=' Wikipedia ‘ href=”https://taylorpearson.me/power/#easy-footnote-bottom-1″>1

There is not a section of New York City he did not touch.

The works of Robert Moses.

Other builders — architects, engineers, and public officials — from around the world consulted him on many of the major building projects of the 20th century.

New York politics has never been for the faint of heart. In Moses’s era, it was filled with names like Rockefeller, Roosevelt, and La Guardia.

Moses was not intimidated.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was governor of New York, Moses once stormed into his office and shouted, “You’re a liar, Mr. Roosevelt.”

He referred to Fiorello H. La Guardia, possibly the most powerful mayor in the history of New York, as “that dago son of a bitch.”

Not only did these remarks not get him removed, Roosevelt and La Guardia actually gave Moses more power.

In his book, The Power Broker, biographer Robert Caro offers us a look at Robert Moses, focused around a single question:

How does one individual amass so much power?

Power = Extreme Competence x Public Opinion

The answer, told in extreme detail over the course of 1,165 pages, boils down to extreme competence for getting things done combined with a vice-like control over public opinion.

Over time, these two turned into a self-reinforcing cycle that made Moses’s power almost dictatorial.

Extreme Competence

Moses started his career as an idealist. For almost a decade he fought uncompromisingly for reforms in New York city politics and public works.

There was only one problem: he didn’t get anything done.

And so, Moses learned to become more pragmatic. He started to inch his way up the power pyramid of New York politics cutting the deals that needed to be cut and intimidating the people that needed to be intimated to get things done.

His big break, and where he demonstrated his ability to get things done, was during La Guardia’s mayoralty.

When La Guardia was first elected mayor of New York in 1934, he was elected as a Republican Party candidate, who also appealed to the “Fusion” group of Independents. The Go to the full article.

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