Sarah Palin: a candidate for libertarians?

After decades of being forced to choose between voting for the lesser of two evils or wasting our votes on someone whose chance of winning was considerably less than that of the proverbial snowball in Hell, we libertarians — at long last — may have found in former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin a Presidential candidate who is both acceptable and electable.

Now, to all you PDS*-sufferers out there: before you go jumping down to the Comments section to tell me how stupid and unlibertarian I am for even suggesting this, you had better hear me out. The first thing you should notice is that I used the word “may”. There are a few caveats, and I will get to them shortly.

Earlier today Palin gave her long-awaited speech to a group of investors, analysts, bankers and fund-managers attending a Hong Kong conference sponsored by CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets (the “CLSA” stands for “Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia”). By all accounts — even The New York Times‘ — her speech was a huge hit. And, according to people in attendance, she clearly knew what she was talking about.

“A number of people who heard the speech in a packed hotel ballroom, which was closed to the media, said Mrs. Palin spoke from notes for 90 minutes and that she was articulate, well-prepared and even compelling,” said the Times report.

“She didn’t sound at all like a far-right-wing conservative,”, Doug A. Coulter of LGT Capital Partners told the Times. “She seemed to be positioning herself as a libertarian or a small-c conservative.”

Especially interesting for libertarians is her analysis of how we got into our current financial crisis. No transcript of the speech was available, but The Wall Street Journal transcribed part of it from a tape-recording made by one of the attendees:

Lack of government wasn’t the problem, government policies were the problem. The marketplace didn’t fail. It became exactly as common sense would expect it to. The government ordered the loosening of lending standards. The Federal Reserve kept interest rates low. The government forced lending institutions to give loans to people who, as I say, couldn’t afford them. Speculators spotted new investment vehicles, jumped on board and rating agencies underestimated risks. So many to be blamed on so many different levels, but the fact remains that these people were responding to a market situation created by government policies that ran contrary to common sense.

Ron Paul could not have said it better.

Palin’s speech was intended to give investors in Asian markets an insight into the views of “someone from Main Street, U.S.A.”, as she put it, and dealt mostly with Federal bailouts and ballooning budget deficits.

Of course, one speech does not a President — or a libertarian — make. However, there are a number of compelling reasons why libertarians should seriously consider her as a candidate:

  • She resonates with Middle Americans. I have talked about this in the past. Libertarian candidates have never done very well with the Republican “base”, the so-called “values voters” who often decide who gets the GOP Presidential nomination and who are essential to the election of the Republican Presidential candidate. Palin does.
  • She is libertarian on the issues that matter most. She is for smaller government, less regulation and lower taxes. Furthermore, she was governor of a state that, in matters of taxation, comes closest to the Libertarian ideal. Alaska has no income or sales taxes, relying instead on taxes on land and resource extraction — in effect, a Georgist tax regime.
  • People pay attention to what she says. Last month, with just two words — “death panels” — on her Facebook page, Palin changed the terms of the debate on health care reform. She did this even though the establishment media, which apparently never bothered to read her original post (which was about rationing, not end-of-life counseling), misreported what she said. If the Federal takeover of health care is defeated, she will deserve a large share of the credit.
  • Palin is a true “Teflon candidate”. No matter how much mud the media slings at her, none of it sticks. In fact, with each attack she just becomes stronger. I cannot recall a candidate in my lifetime — not even Ronald Reagan — of which this could be said.
  • Ron Paul is not available. His views have been more consistently libertarian than Palin’s, but he will be 77 years old on January 20, 2013. Furthermore, although his knowledge of the issues is stronger, he lacks Palin’s charisma and political instincts.

I’m not the only one who sees Sarah Palin as a worthy successor to Ron Paul. The Wall Street Journal, in the report referenced above, noticed the similarities in their views. Bernie Quigley, writing in The Hill‘s Pundit’s Blog, says, “Sarah Palin and Ron Paul bear kinship.”. And two years ago, a poster to The Daily Paul website said Palin would make a good running mate for Dr. Paul.

To be sure, these views apparently aren’t shared by The Man Himself. In an interview in July on, Dr. Paul dismissed Palin supporters as “more establishment, conventional country-club type of Republicans”, and faulted her for not talking about things like the Federal Reserve. Recall what I said above about Dr. Paul’s political instincts. I know some “establishment, conventional, country-club type” Republicans, and they are most definitely not Sarah Palin’s base. And she is talking about the Fed.

Nevertheless, there are a few caveats to consider before we go rushing out to draft Sarah Palin for President:

  • She’s a little too close to the neocons. Midway through the Times article, we learn that she was accompanied to Hong Kong by Randy Scheunemann, a foreign policy advisor to John McCain and advisor to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Scheunemann was also president of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, an organization that beat the drums for the Iraq invasion. Palin’s pre-McCain-campaign views on Iraq were not very clear, although I got the impression she was harboring some doubts. I worry that she might be taken over and “managed” by neocons, like she was during the campaign.
  • I’m not sure of her views on civil liberties. She’s very strong on the Second Amendment, but, although I like Palin and defended her during the campaign, I have to admit to cringing a little when she uttered phrases about “terrorists” and accused Democrats of wanting to “raise the white flag of surrender”. I would like to know how she feels about the Patriot Act, the War on Drugs and other assaults on civil liberties.
  • Palin may not want to be President. I’ll go farther than that and say I don’t think she does. (In fact, I said as much back in July, when she announced her resignation as governor of Alaska.) She has not been acting like a Presidential candidate. She has limited her speaking engagements mostly to groups supporting causes dear to her heart — pro-life, Second Amendment, special needs children — and has stayed away from events that are considered de rigueur for aspiring Republican Presidential candidates, like the recent Values Voters Summit in Washington.

Some might consider husband Todd’s past membership in the Alaskan Independence Party to be a negative. To me, that’s a point in her favor. It would be a negative only with respect to her ability to win the Republican nomination or the general election.

Weighing all the relevant factors — including the inability of libertarians to agree on an effective political strategy (which should be evident to anyone who regularly reads Nolan Chart) — Sarah Palin is looking pretty good. She’s certainly got the right idea about the economy. As for the rest, we’ll just have to see.

* PDS — Palin Derangement Syndrome

From Nolan Chart.