sle. There are all sorts of unwrittennrules for comfortable as well as safenliving in New York. One of them is tonkeep moving, making minimal eye contact.nIf a guy on the street tells you anstory, don’t listen, move on; let himnharass the next sucker. If you stop fornmore than ten seconds to contemplatensome sight or to meditate on the passingnscene, make no mistake: someone,nsome creep, is going to harass you. Notnmug or assault you, mind, just harassnyou. The content of this ubiquitousnstreet hassling has changed over thenyears. In the old days, it was likely to bensome obscure religious ranting. Recently,nit has all boiled down to money.nOver the last few summers, the beggingnhas become more insistent. Asnyou drive into New York by tunnel, fornexample, the first person to greet younat the first red light will be a bumninsisting on “wiping” your front windshieldnwith a foul and smelly rag. Younpay him money to avoid his clumsynfarce of cleaning your car.nOn the street, it used to be that thenbums would sit against the storefronts,nnodding out, cups or hats held aloft.nOver the years, they became morenenergetic and aggressive, probablynfrom being well subsidized, and theynstarted standing in the middle of thensidewalk, accosting each passerby innturn. The trick is to spot these guys bynLIBERAL ARTSnLIARS AND FIGURESnThe Commerce Department released anreport last June showing that America isnstill the wodd’s largest debtor nation, butnby using new methods of calculation itnsucceeded in cutting the amount of thennational debt by more than half Undernthe old method, the nation’s net internationalnposition, defined as the imbalancenbetween what Americans own overseasnand what foreigners own in this country,nstood at $663.75 billion at the end ofn1989. Using two new methods of calculatingnthis figure, the Commerce Departmentnsaid the deficit was eithern$463.96 billion or even $281.44 billion.nCommerce Department officials deniednthat there was any political pressure fromnthe Bush administration to alter thenfigures.n46/CHRONICLESnlooking well ahead, and, if you see one,navoid him. Last summer, I spotted anchange: the bums got still more energeticnand aggressive, giving you lip,nactually pursuing you along the way,ndemanding dough. Again, the preferredntactic is to barrel ahead, evennengage in some broken-field running,nanything to turn the bum’s attention tonthe next mark.nThis summer the bums, while stillnenergetic, are becoming increasinglynincoberent, so it is not even clear whatntheir muttered story is all about. Nonmatter: don’t succumb to natural curiosity.nWhatever the bum’s saga is, youndon’t want to know it. Keep going.nThe quality of life has also beennclobbered this year by another odiousntrend: the streets have gotten far smellier.nLet’s face it: New York streets werennever like Disney World, immaculatenand even lovable. But things havengotten a lot worse. In the first place,nthe environmentalists have been crackingndown on the blissfully cleansingnincinerators, and forcing more andnmore garbage to be collected in bags;nbut the bags have been piling up, asnbudget cuts have added to the usualncosmic inefficiency of all governmentnoperations. In addition to the moundsnof garbage festering in the heat, thenbeloved “homeless” have been proliferatingnlike mad, camping out all overnNew York, and the resulfing use ofnNew York streets as a network ofnoutdoor toilets has, as one might expect,ngreatly added to the stench of thenBig Apple.nAs everyone knows. New York hasnalso been suffering from another onenof its periodic Budget Crises. As innevery other state and city, budgets gonup sharply during boom periods, ostensiblynto keep up with growth andnthe resulting “demand” for governmentnservices. Then, in recessions,nsuch as we’re in now, governmentnexpenditures still go up, this time allegedlynto combat the recession. As anresult, Parkinson’s law of governmentnapplies: regardless of what happens,ngovernment spending increases. But,nduring recessions, tax revenues declinenbecause of the drop in economic activity,nand so deficits get even worse thannusual. Since state and local governmentsncan’t print money the way thenfederal government can, they have tonmake some sort of stab at balancingnnntheir budget. Given that actually cuttingnthe budget is unthinkable, thenresult is higher tax rates, which makesnthe economic situation still worse, cripplingneconomic activity during the recessionnand even permanently. In thisnway, state and local governments engagenin a downward spiral toward disaster.nNew York, of course, has been innthe forefront of this process.nOut of the latest budget crisis, onenthing is crystal clear: Mayor DavidnDinkins is universally considered to bena dithering nitwit. It is doubtful if, atnthis point, he could get any politicalnsupport beyond his family and campaignnstaff. More interesting has beennthe shrewd maneuvering of GovernornMario Cuomo. Moving fiscally rightwardnduring the crisis, Cuomo was ablento play off the notorious Tweedledum-nTweedledee nature of New York statenpolitics by denouncing (correctly) thenRepublican state legislative leaders asnbig spenders. In addition to actuallyneliminating 18,000 state jobs, Cuomonmaintained that he would not raise thenalready catastrophically high statenincome tax by even a “smidgen.”nCuomo finally caved in, of course, butnless blatanriy than George Bush afternhis repeated injunctions to “read mynlips.” Intriguingly, too, Cuomo’s campaignnmanager in his first race forngovernor, the astute William Stern, hasnquit the Democratic Party and denouncednthe Republicans to join fulltimena new political formation callednChange NY, consisting of free-enterprisersnlike Lew Lehrman, who was thenRepublican candidate against Cuomonin that original race.nWhile the chances of Mario emergingnas the right-wing candidate fornPresident are, of course, miniscule, as anDemocratic candidate Cuomo wouldnbe light-years ahead of his colleagues innintelligence and wit. And though thenchances of a northeastern ethnic governornactually winning the presidencynare slight, I for one would go a longnway to see the street-smart, fast-on-hisfeetnNew Yorker in a TV debate withnthe blithering Poppy. In some things,nat least. New York still shines.nMurray N. Rothbard is a professor ofneconomics at the University of LasnVegas and vice president for academicnaffairs at the Ludwig von MisesnInstitute.n