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The "Mayor Palin" Program: Sarah Palin's Golden Opportunity to Change the Country

Gary North
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Sept. 17, 2011

To exercise authority effectively, you must first serve honorably. This is basic to every hierarchy: military, corporate, and professional.

Authority need not involve the exercise of power. It need not involve giving orders. It can mean rule by example. Rule by example survives the grave. This is why it offers greater potential for social transformation. How much institutional power did Jesus have? Or Buddha?

If Sarah Palin wants to lead, she must follow. Follow what? The rules. Which rules? The ones she has formally consented to.


She must first deal institutionally with the public accusations against her characer. She is the target of a hatchet job book and a hatchet job documentary. Both have been dismissed by liberals as third rate:

The book says she had sex with a sports star when she was single. Liberals don't criticize people for that sort of thing, especially since he is black. It says that she has had martial problems. Liberals don't criticize politicians for that. It says she snorted cocaine. Same story.

In other words, the book has gotten publicity for her in a way that tends to create liberal sympathy. Their position is "private behavior and public policies are separate issues. Leave private sexual morality out of the discussion of public policies."

So, are the conservatives upset? Not really. The book is not well documented. The stories of adultery and drugs are rumors. So, she probably will be able to dodge the bullets, which may be blanks.

She still has a problem if she wants to lead. She has been associated with two theologically conservative congregations. Neither of them tolerates sexual impropriety.

So, whether the mainstream media give her a free pass, and the conservative support base does, too, she has to deal publicly with these stories in the context of her present church membership. She does not get a free pass from God.

Modern church discipline is lax. This is one reason why church influence is minimal. The membership system is not sufficiently self-regulating.

Still, she needs to come clean or prove that all of the accusations are wrong. Government must begin with self-government. This is the traditional conservative political view, the libertarian view, and the Christian view. In the context of church membership, to come clean means public confession of sin for publicly exposed sins.

This position goes back to the early Protestant Reformers, who rejected private confessionals. Sanctions had to be public.


If she gets this dealt with, she can then go on to stage two. I call this the "Mayor Palin" program.

She uses her mailing list and her bus tour to focus her followers' interest on local politics. She creates a DVD/workbook on how to win local political campaigns. She creates a website to promote this. She shifts her focus from national politics to local politics. I have written about this personal strategy before.

If she were to do this, she would pre-empt the field. Nobody really cares about local politics. Nobody cares about what I called the dogcatcher strategy back in 2000.

Yet the importance of local politics will increase over the next two decades. As the welfare states of the industrial West finally borrow their way into bankruptcy, local politics will become far more important comparatively. When Washington's checks bounce -- or don't buy much -- the crucial functions of civil government will be performed mainly by local civil governments. A great decentralization will take place.

For those who think this is impossible, I recommend the final chapter of Jacques Barzun's Extraordinary book, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life: 1500 to the Present (Harper/Collins, 2000): "Demotic Life and Times." It is about 30 pages long. If that seems like too much to read, then read only pages 776-81. There, you will learn two crucial facts: (1) the nation-state is increasingly unable to deal with crime, which is its crucial function, and (2) the social security programs will go bankrupt. (Note: Barzun write this book as the culmination of an extraordinary career in which he wrote dozens of books, beginning in 1927. He was born in 1907. He is still alive.)

I also recommend the final chapter of Martin van Creveld's book, published the year before Barzun's, The Rise and Decline of the State (Cambridge University Press, 1999). He is a military historian, but this book goes far beyond the range of military history. He made the same points that Barzun raised. If you do not have easy access to his book, this will serve as a substitute. In 2000, he gave a lecture to the Mises Institute on his book's basic points. This is from the conclusion of that lecture.

As private security or insecurity increase, borders become more permeable, the welfare state retreats, and large scale war between powerful states has all but ended loyalty to them has also entered a decline; the days when a General Leslie Groves could use patriotism to make the directors of Dupont LTD. approve the greatest investment their company had ever made without even knowing what it was all about are definitely over. Half a century after the end of World War II, and in places as far apart as the US, Europe and Japan, so little inclined are people to trust the state or risk their lives for it that even the death of a few soldiers is likely to result in an outcry and lead to campaigns being abandoned. In all these countries more and more the media tend to present the state as corrupt, inefficient and wasteful; not so much an aid to justice and social peace, as an obstacle on the way to obtaining them.

He describes the loss of legitimacy for the nation-state, which was also Barzun's point. What are the practical implications? These:

First, the decline in public security. It goes without saying that, in virtually all cases and at almost any cost, internal peace is good whereas violence is bad. In some places the decline of the state may mean freedom from arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and execution. In many other places, however, the result will be just the opposite as non-governmental organizations seek to fill the void, achieve their own ends, and, either as a condition for achieving them or as a by-product of doing so, fill their own pockets. For the members of those organizations the changes may be all good; for the rest of us, definitely bad. I do not see that being stopped, or searched, or arrested, or imprisoned, or executed, by the employees of a private organization is superior to being subjected to the same indignities at the hand of the state's own servants. This is true even if the private "security personnel" wear uniforms, even if they have badges, and even if they disguise their power behind a carefully studied courtesy. If anything, to the contrary.

Second, globalization. Some people like globalization, others hate it. . . . By permitting people to communicate and trade on a planetary scale, it should enable those who know how to take advantage of it to make entirely unprecedented gain in terms of both freedom and prosperity. Having grown up in a country which, though never anywhere near totalitarian, used to put considerable restrictions on the availability of information I can testify to the positive impact of globalization on freedom in particular. If CNN, BBC World Service, and their like did not exist they would have to be invented. . . .

Third, the retreat of the welfare state. Clearly, in any society there are and always will be those who are unable or less able to look after themselves--whether because they are sick, or have met with an accident, or because, as children, they have grown up dependent on people who were sick or have met with accidents or not sufficiently well to do to provide them with an education. Clearly in any society it is necessary that some kind of safety-net be spread for those who, through no fault of their own, are put in a position where they can not or can no longer cope. The retreat of the welfare state, which in most places is well under way, will almost certainly result in the growing importance of private welfare and charity on the one hand and of the family on the other. To the heads of those organizations it may bring power and prosperity; to the recipients of charity and welfare, a switch from some forms of dependence to others. In so far as the recipients of welfare are always likely to outnumber those who dispense it, I do not see that there will be either great progress or a retreat.

All of this points to a transfer of authority and legitimacy to local civil governments and local voluntary associations.

This is the great entrepreneurial opportunity; to "buy low" and "sell high." This opportunity is being ignored. There is no organization that has staked out local government as the battle zone of the 21st century.

Sarah Palin could do this. All she needs to do is use her own experience as the model: her successful campaign to be elected Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. She announces: "Go and do thou likewise." Then she shows people how.

I have registered this URL: If she wants it for the purpose of creating a site that teaches people how to get elected locally, I'll give it to her as my donation to the cause.

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