I like it that Sarah Palin talks about smaller government, and that her very existence makes the lying incumbents in Washington nervous. I like that she cultivates a persona of simple straight talk — even innocence.
But the problem with Sarah is that, like so many Americans, she’s never really thought too deeply about the State. In actual fact, her life, rogue or not, is the story of state subsidy, state employment, state redistribution of wealth, state corruption and state centralizing power.
Children of the 60s are the special children of both the warfare state and the welfare state, that scientific bureaucratic corporate state that Ike warned of in 1961 fifty years ago. And Sarah Palin, bless her heart, is devoted to her parents.
Her human parents had careers in the public school system. Dad was a science teacher, and mom a school secretary in Idaho, and in Alaska as well. They believed in public schooling. Sarah and her siblings were schooled by the state, as were and are Sarah’s kids.
It likely never occurred to the Palins to do otherwise, even though in Idaho and Alaska, home and independent schooling is very popular. In fact, Alaska is the best state in the nation for home schooling. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) reports:
There is no government oversight of home education in Alaska. This means that there is no prescribed curriculum, no state testing or other evaluations, no minimum number of days of instruction, and no teacher qualifications. Parents are not even required to notify state officials that they intend to homeschool their children.
But Alaska is a state where there may be too few people for the central state to worry about educating, when in fact it already controls so many of them. In terms of U.S. military spending, since World War II, Alaska has been a major recipient of defense spending and construction. In terms of federal real estate, Alaska is nearly 70% federal property. Only Nevada has a greater percentage of federally owned land, at close to 85%.
I lived in Alaska between 1983 and 1986, courtesy of my military assignment. We loved the place, and bought into the idea that people could live as they pleased in the last frontier. But that was more an ideal than a reality. Most high-paying jobs there were state or federal, and private companies were often dependent on state and federal subsidies for health, education, natural resources or at the time, construction and maintenance of the Alaska pipeline. Among military transplants from the lower 48, there was a sense that if you or your spouse didn’t have a government subsidized job or a retirement check — you might be living at a subsistence level in a place that is cold and dark for half the year. By subsisting, I mean living without the comfort and consumptive variety that most Americans take for granted. By subsisting, I mean a decrease in the overall economic benefit that comes from specialization and trade, due primarily to a geographic scarcity of non-government employed people actually producing useful things.
This is Alaska — a state of contradictions, a place where a vision of lovely freedom is contrasted by the reality of high per capita government activity and employment. So when liberty lovers watch Sarah Palin, and are inspired by some of the things she says, we must recognize how she was made.
The chatter this weekend relates to something Sarah said on FoxNews. As Gomer Pyle would say, "Surprise, surprise, surprise."
It’s more war.
In figuring out how Obama could be a better, more popular President, Palin suggested, "[He could decide] to declare war on Iran or …to come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do.”
Some will say she’s ignorant, others that she is genius. Certainly, the Christian right and the Israel lobby together demand that statements like this be made early and often, and it is they who help make $500 a plate dinner speeches possible. But I think that the problem with Sarah is simply that she just hasn’t thought enough about the state, how it lives (parasitically) and why it survives (redistribution and fear). Growing up as a member of the great publicly employed in Alaska is probably the worst way to critically understand the welfare and warfare state; no matter how bad they are, you always love your Mommy and your Daddy.
She learned that freedom looks like government protecting you. She learned that liberty means doing what is good for the state. As a Republican (in Alaska, there are mostly libertarians, independents and Republicans, and she gravitated to the most statist option), she likes the idea of small government and non-interference. But as a child of the warfare-welfare state, she will build bridges to nowhere at home, and repeatedly blow them up overseas, without a hint of irony.
Sarah Palin has said publicly that she loves to read C.S. Lewis. Lewis, a believer, posited the state and the individual through a lens of Christianity. He wrote,
"…Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false. . . . And immortality makes this other difference, which, by the by, has a connection with the difference between totalitarianism and democracy. If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilisation, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual. But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of the state or civilisation, compared with his, is only a moment.
~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Sarah Palin is still learning, like all of us, and there is hope. But if she wants more war, while certainly not very Christian of her or even necessary, she should look for opportunities closer to home.
LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosts the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here.