Libertarianism and McCain-Palin:

Ilya asks whether Palin has libertarian tendencies. What strikes me about McCain-Palin is that this is the first all-Western ticket in history. I'm not sure how to say this exactly, except that the vibe you get from them is a distinctive vibe. Just Clinton-Gore in 1992 had a sort of "Southern" vibe. And the western vibe doesn't feel like the Texas vibe (thank goodness), which is something still distinctive unto itself. In terms of personal style, for instance, George W. Bush and Anne Richards were very similar characters despite their ideological differences.

What is the "western" vibe? This is purely subjective, but to me it is the feeling of no-nonsense, self-reliant, egalitarian, outsiderism, sort of Barry Goldwater-ish. Is it libertarian? Not exactly, but it does have that sort of feeling to it, to me at least. It feels like Goldwaterism. And I think this trickles through to the worldview of the candidates and then to policy. It seems pretty clear to me (especially after last night) that John McCain sees himself as Gary Cooper riding into to town to single-handedly clean-up corruption and gun down the rascals.

Palin has a female version of this feel to me. I saw one similar point by Chris Matthews talking about Palin--he observed that although women are going to like Palin "men will like them too." Why? Because she likes men, and peole like those who like them. What does he mean? I think it is related to this. She has a sense of independence. But also, she obviously likes sports (and was a sportscaster), her speech suggests that she likes cracking jokes and being sarcastic but in a non-mean-spirited way (contra some of Jim's observations--her cracks come across as locker room "razzing" to me). This has a western tinge to me as well.

The only caveat to this is that McCain's westernism is tempered by his military background. And frankly, this is what concerns me most about him--his mind seems like a command-and-control, top-down worldview. To put the matter more elliptically to many but more accurately to my thinking, I think he simply does not understand or trust the idea of spontaneous order. In his worldview, things happen (good or bad) because somebody makes them happen. This is not a worldview that is conducive to understanding spontaneous order. That's a statist streak in him that offsets some of his westernism.

What I think bothers some people about this western vibe is that the self-reliance and independence sometimes comes off looking like a loose cannon or shoot-from-the-hip cowboyism. That's the rap that people tried to lay on Goldwater (successfully) and Reagan (less successfully).

I've lived all over the country, so maybe I'm just more attuned to this sort of local culture feeling, but that's the vibe I get from McCain-Palin.


A commenter submits Eisenhower-Nixon as an "All-Western" ticket preceding McCain-Palin (Kansas-California). I have no comment on their vibe as I was negative 14 years old when they were elected, so I'll defer to others about whether they had a western "vibe."