New York State is known as the “Empire State” for a lot of reasons. There’s a lot of historical context, but the main reason that New York’s official motto is the “Empire State” is because even today, the staunchest conservative scholars all agree: it’s not actually a democracy. It’s an oligarchy, and probably the only one in the United States, which makes it a social phenomenon all by itself.
This is how New York works in its Oligarchy. First, three men in a room get together (no, really! They do!): the Governor, the Speaker of the Assembly, and the Speaker of the Senate. They alone decide which bills will get voted on and which ones end up in the trash, usually over scotch and cigars.
Structurally, and from a political science viewpoint, this makes every other elected official in state government moot. There’s simply no need for them, other than for appearances. This is also what makes the Empire State, truly an “Empire,” and an Oligarchy.
Which makes Governor Cuomo’s crackdown on corruption in the state capital a bit disingenuous. Since there’s no real need for a state assembly, or state senate, then throwing them all in jail for corruption isn’t really going to change anything.
A Buffalo News columnist, Denise Jewell McGee, who usually is a straight shooter came up with this awesome sociological idea (implied): that state legislators who aren’t corrupt break from the Group Think, and the Actor-Observer effect and just do the right thing in standing against corruption. There’s one problem with this sociological theory: in order for people to break away from Group Think or the Actor-Observer bias, they actually have to be a part of the group, and they actually have to be “actors.” In an Oligarchy, they are neither.
Historically, New York was on the British side of the Revolutionary War. Then it almost went to war with Vermont over land encroachment. Then it got into an argument with Ben Franklin over Pennsylvania territory. Then it decided that it didn’t have to follow the new U.S. Constitution and created its own land/trade treaties with foreign nations, including with Native Americans. New York State was founded on the idea of being the capital of the British Empire in North America, and while cutting ties with the British after the war, never got out of the “Empire” state of mind.
And let’s forget for a moment, the fact that those three men in a room have never been from west of the Hudson River.
Corruption in New York State can never be addressed as long as the social will of the people, also known as a representative democracy does not exist. Just like the state government, most of the principles of social order, social structure, and social forces, remain moot.