The Libertarian Case for Palin

The Libertarian Case for Palin

By David Harsanyi - September 2, 2008

The potential political consequences of Sarah Palin have been chewed over from every imaginable angle.

Though there is plenty to ponder, one thing is certain: libertarian-inclined voters should be encouraged. No, I'm not suggesting that your little Molly will be bringing home "The Road to Serfdom" from her (distinctly non-public) elementary school. But in contrast to any national candidate in recent memory, Palin is the one that exudes the economic and cultural sensibilities of a geniune Western-style libertarian.

Now, Palin's lack of experience has been framed as an impenetrable negative. One wire story helpfully noted that Palin had never ever appeared on "Meet the Press." Shocking! But as Barack Obama often notes, it's not about experience, it's about judgment. And Palin's penchant for reform-minded conservatism is certainly at odds with the racket Washington Republicans have offered up the past 8 years.

Palin, for example, vetoed 300 pork projects in Alaska in her first year in office. She made a habit of knocking out big-government Republicans in her brief political career. For this, the 44-year-old mother of five enjoys a sterling approval rating in a state with arguably the nation's most libertarian-minded populace.

When it comes to healthcare, Palin says she wants to "allow free-market competition and reduce onerous government regulation." These days, any mention of the "free market" that's not framed as a crass pejorative is a sign of progress.

Culturally, there is little for the Heartland to dislike. By now, you've probably seen picture or two of Palin sporting a rifle. Apparently, she's left carcasses strewn across the Alaskan wilderness. In some places -- areas where the nation is growing -- owning a gun is not yet a sin. And unlike Obama, Palin seems to believe that the Second Amendment means the exact same thing in rural Alaska as it does in the streets of Chicago.

Yes, Palin is without argument a staunch social conservative. She is fervently opposed to abortion - even in cases of rape and incest, which will raise eyebrows, but is certainly more philosophically consistent than the namby pambyism of your average politician. The choice issue, after all, is complicated, even for many libertarians. And, as I was recently reminded, Ron Paul, the Libertarian champion of the 21st century, also opposes abortion.

Even when advocating for "moral" issues, Palin's approach is a soft sell. Palin does not support gay marriage (neither does Obama, it should be noted). Yet, in 2006, Palin's first veto as Governor was a bill that sought to block state employee benefits and health insurance for same-sex couples.

We cannot bore into Palin's soul to see her true feelings about gay couples, but, at the time, she noted that signing "this bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office" because it was unconstitutional. For most libertarians, the thought of politician following any constitution, rather than their own predilections, morality or the "common good," is a nice change of pace.

On the counterproductive War on Drugs, Palin is no warrior. Her Republican opponent in 2006 primary, incumbent Republican governor Frank Murkowski, made recriminalizing the possession of small amounts of pot a priority. Palin, though she does not support legalization, believes enforcement should not be a high priority.

"I can't claim a Bill Clinton and say that I never inhaled," Palin once said. This sort of honesty is a welcome change from the standard hand-wringing about marijuana's supposed disastrous consequences.

On education, Palin supports school-choice programs. There have already been smears that she backed "creationist" teaching in "public" schools, when in fact, Palin's comment regarding intelligent design should hold some appeal to libertarians. Even if you find the idea inane, in essence, Palin pushed the idea that parents, rather than the state, should decide what children are learning.

When asked about this commotion, Palin said, "I won't have religion as a litmus test, or anybody's personal opinion on evolution or creationism." If lockstep left-wing union-run school boards in urban districts would follow this sound advice on ideological litmus tests, our educational system would be a lot more productive.

Then there is a question of authenticity. And it matters. Those who will do anything for power, will say anything and support any position that is convenient. From John McCain to Joe Biden to Obama, one gets the sense that political office is their life's work. All of them have made attempts to create the perception that, hey, they're ordinary Americans just like you. Palin won't have to work at genuineness. With Palin, you get the impression she can take politics or leave it. Her life certainly hasn't been saturated with policy, favor trading and back scratching.

Of course, Washington has a mysterious power to turn perfectly reasonable, wholesome, well-meaning human beings into equivocating crooked gasbags. But, from the little we know about Palin, such a transformation doesn't seem likely. And for libertarians - in the broadest sense of the small "l" word -- she's the best candidate they can expect.


David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.

David Harsanyi

Author Archive

Follow Real Clear Politics

Latest On Twitter