Books,  Stateside,  Vote 2008

Tracing Sarah Palin’s socialist roots

It’s no secret that as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin practiced real (as opposed to rhetorical) socialism. While accusing Barack Obama of running to be “redistributionist in chief” during last year’s campaign, John McCain conveniently overlooked the fact his running mate was the most redistributionist governor in the nation.

As Alaskan Elstun Lauesen wrote in The Anchorage Daily News last year:

Sarah Palin just presided a huge redistribution of wealth when she signed an energy “rebate” of $1,200 for every man, woman and child in Alaska. The money for that wealth redistribution comes from our collective wealth, which we have thanks to our state constitution. Article VIII, Section 2 holds that the resource of the state will be utilized, developed and conserved for the “… maximum benefit of its people.” This precept of public management of benefit is precisely what makes Alaska today one of a handful of states that enjoys a budget surplus while other states are struggling with deficits. The framers of our constitution wisely didn’t want state resources to be privatized, as they are in Texas, for example, where the people of that state are separated from their wealth by billionaires. Thanks to the framers of our state’s constitution, our collective ownership of state resources guarantees low taxes and high revenues, not to mention a Permanent Fund dividend program, another socialist scheme that gave each Alaskan over $2,000 this year.

Alaskans like to boast that they are different, that they “don’t give a damn how they do it in the lower 48.” Ironically, Sarah Palin and her handlers and many of her fans here in Alaska don’t understand how different we Alaskans really are.

Truth be told, when Gov. Palin redistributes the wealth held in common by the people of Alaska, she is fulfilling the socialist dream of many of Alaska’s pioneers.

Lauesen, who writes positively about Alaska’s socialist history, called Palin “a pretty good socialist governor.”

And while Palin would surely object to the label of “socialist,” she enthusiastically supports the Alaskan people’s collective ownership of the state’s natural resources– a form of, well, you know…

Philip Gourevitch of The New Yorker spoke with Palin last year about the State of Alaska’s terms for negotiating the construction of a natural gas pipeline:

“We’re not just gonna concede to three big oil companies of this monopoly—Exxon, B.P., ConocoPhillips—and beg them to do this for Alaska,” Palin told me last month in Juneau. “We’re gonna say, ‘O.K., this is so economic that we don’t have to incentivize you to build this. In fact, this has got to be a mutually beneficial partnership here as we build it. We’re gonna lay out Alaska’s must-haves. Parameters are gonna be set, rules are gonna be laid out, a law will encompass what it is that Alaska needs to protect our sovereignty, to insure it’s jobs first for Alaskans, and in-state use of gas’ ”—her list went on. In the past, she said, “Alaska was conceding too much, and chipping away at our sovereignty. And Alaska—we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” And she said, “Our state constitution—it lays it out for me, how I’m to conduct business with resource development here as the state C.E.O. It’s to maximize benefits for Alaskans, not an individual company, not some multinational somewhere, but for Alaskans.”

Which sounds to me like she’s making the suspiciously leftwing argument that what’s good for business is not necessarily good for ordinary folks– putting people before profits, you might say.

(While I was highly critical of Palin during the campaign, I quite admired this aspect of her governorship. She got far less credit for it than she deserved.)

So how did Palin develop her collectivist, redistributionist outlook? Early leaks about her new blockbuster memoir “Going Rogue: An American Life” perhaps provide a clue. She writes that growing up, she was a voracious reader. And among her favorites were George Orwell’s “Animal Farm ” and John Steinbeck’s “The Pearl.”

Now of course “Animal Farm” is a great anti-Stalinist fable. But it should be remembered that the democratic socialist Orwell presents a sympathetic portrayal of democratic collectivization on the farm before the brutal Stalin figure Napoleon takes over.

Steinbeck never described himself as a socialist, although he is most famous for a novel with a strong leftwing viewpoint: “The Grapes of Wrath.” “The Pearl” has a similar sympathetic take on the struggles of poor people, dealing with the poisonous effects of poverty and greed in a Mexican village. Among other things, the story features a wealthy doctor who refuses to treat a child with a scorpion bite because his parents can’t afford the fee.

That is to say, not exactly “The Fountainhead” or “Atlas Shrugged.” We can only speculate on the impact of the Orwell and Steinbeck books on the young Sarah Palin. Perhaps there are other clues in “Going Rogue.” I can’t wait to find out.