Web Letters | The Nation

Location value should make us all comfy

Real estate in New York is like oil in Texas. Wherever land costs a lot (and pays off a lot), and wherever oil is deposited, you find bullies hurting people and raking in fortunes. Easy money always attracts loose morals.

It does so inside and outside government, both the bribe givers and the bribe takers. (What’s the difference between a bribe and a campaign contribution of millions? Time’s up.) The real state is real estate and always has been, from the days lords and kings to the present day of landlords and bank lenders.

The only antidote is to realize that natural rents belong to us all, to begin sharing them à la Singapore and to keep promulgating that realization. More at Progress.org.

Jeff Smith

Portland, OR

Jul 11 2014 - 1:00pm

Chen Shui-bian was a champion of democracy

Its sad that The Nation’s article on New York City real estate led off with the story of Chen Shui-bian and his wife, Wu Shu-jen, when there were so many better stories. The article fails to convey any of the reality of the story: Chen was acquitted in the first trial of bribery by Yuanta, but the prosecutors appealed to a higher (and presumably more pro-ruling party) court to gain the victory (the first judge pointed out that since President Chen had no say in the merger, it was rather stupid of Yuanta to bribe the Chens). How another judge who made an early ruling in Chen’s favor was removed under savage political pressure and a more pliant judge brought in, a warning to subsequent judges. How the prosecutors all promised to get Chen at any cost, and even conducted a sick skit where they portrayed him as a AIDs victim and social pariah. This was not a corruption prosecution but a political persecution.

The Nation article points up the real problem with the Justice Department. It didn’t go after Chen because he was corrupt. It went after him because he was weak and an easy target, a man slowly dying in jail. Powerful Chinese one-party state politicians and officials and their children own large real estate holdings in the US, but they are never touched. The Justice Department has never seized anything from the ruling party that put Chen in jail for having the temerity to beat them in two presidential elections. As for Justice’s non-punishment of Wall Street…

In reality, this case thus presents the odious spectacle of the US Justice Department colluding with the former authoritarian ruling party in Taiwan to seize the assets of a pro-democracy, pro-independence politician after he left office and was in jail, dying and too weak to protect himself.

The conclusion is obvious. If only Chen Shui-bian had blown up the world economy through extensive fraud or run a one-party state that jailed and murdered its opponents and maintained itself in power, his US investments would be still be safe and sound. But because he remained committed to democratic process, he became a target.

Michael Turton

Taichung, TAIWAN

Jul 4 2014 - 12:12am