Palin and the Size of Government

This is speculative.

Through gritted teeth, a lot of unsympathetic observers noted that Palin was “effective” not not “substantive.” But what does that mean, exactly? “Substantive” evidently refers to a Clintonian laundry list — I will extirpate moral turpitude through the power of the V-chip; I will personally scrub every lump of coal of all carbon, leaving a non-existent “clean coal” orb (a favorite of both political parties, I should stress); I will lower taxes for all Americans except for a small number of Americans who will be attached to a revenue-generating hamster-wheel floating hundreds of miles above the Arctic Circle, where they will be fed nutrients through an IV drip and otherwise ignored (and don’t worry about that carried interest business, my bundlers, as Schumer’s got your back); etc.

But my sense is that Palin was making a case for self-reliance and for smaller government. Now, this is a bit rich coming from the governor of Alaska, with its generous transfers — but wait. Note that Alaska-style transfers take the form of negative income taxes and other fairly nonpaternalist measures. The idea is that the people spend their money best. To the extent publicly-owned resources generate revenue, the funds should go to people, not politicians. This is a notion that’s been championed by a number of development economists who fret over the dangers of “the resource curse” — the danger that a large pot of resource revenue become an attractive target for kleptocrats, hence Alaska’s notoriously corrupt political culture.

So unfortunately I don’t think the socialist Alaska attack has a lot of legs. But it was certainly worth a shot.

So yes, if “substance” means, “I promise — vaguely — to wean you off of the hydrocarbon economy because America used to launch ICBMs at the Moon with dudes strapped to them,” then Palin’s speech wasn’t very substantive.

Sorry guys, I’m having a bit of fun here.