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The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

Author: Robert Caro

tl;dr: Pulitzer Prize winner. Caro’s first biography. An absolute behemoth weighing in at 1,296 pages. Dense ones too.

Moses wasn’t as ambitious as Lyndon (Caro’s other subject) but his mastery of state and local government was more comprehensive than Lyndon’s was of the Senate.

The main takeaway, and something everyone should learn, is that Moses secured his power by becoming indispensable to his bosses. Simple and timeless.

He also doubled down on a certain strength most people don’t have - not necessarily needing the spotlight. Because he was okay operating behind the scenes he was able to amass seeming limitless influence over the state of NY and NYC.

Essentially there wasn’t a park or bridge built in the state or city, between the fifty years spanning 1925-75, that at least didn’t have Moses’ stamp of approval on it.

Caro meticulously details how Moses often railroaded the powerless in order to accumulate power. Whether that be poor African Americans in the city or poor rural farmers, he sometimes took from them even when he didn’t have to.

Moses was not a good man, at least that’s what I took from it. But he was perhaps the best state and municipal operator in American history.


Amazon: The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

First published on May 23, 2020