Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hugo Chavez with Lipstick

Photo by Flickr user Christina007, used under a Creative Commons license.

I'm trying to figure out how Sarah Palin's approach to redistributing oil wealth differs from the approach Hugo Chavez has taken in Venezuela. Here's Palin's philosophy on this, according to an Alaskan reader of Andrew Sullivan:
If you want to dig more deeply into Sarah Palin's economic theory -- or lack thereof -- I think you will find that while she espouses the free market, she has adopted a quasi-socialist and populist belief in the commons. One of her champions is former Gov. Walter Hickel, who has argued that commonly owned resources should be developed for the maximum benefit of the people -- and that this system of economic organization represents a new paradigm for states and nations. ...

In Alaska's case, that means no individual ownership of mineral rights, which has led to the idea that government surpluses should be distributed to "the people" as direct handouts. Hence the recent $1,200 "energy dividend" given to all Alaskans. It has also resulted in the Permanent Fund Dividend, the direct payout to Alaskans every year from what was originally conceived as a rainy day account set aside for when Alaska's oil wealth runs out.
I'll grant there's one real difference between Palin's policy and "twenty-first-century socialism" as practiced by Chavez. While he has invested petrodollars in education and programs to combat poverty, Palin put the money directly into people's pockets.

But it's still redistribution. It's still extracting money from corporations and transferring wealth to citizens. It's still a universe removed from the rampant free markets that right-wing Republicans normally espouse. I personally think redistribution is important in a just society; I'm just pointing out that on this point, Palin is out of step with her party. She's closer to Hugo Chavez than to Grover Norquist.

Palin is also not so dissimilar to Chavez in her approach to governance. They're both self-styled reformers with a my-way-or-the-highway attitude. They both seem allergic to scrutiny and criticism. They both claim transparency while achieving just the opposite. They both consolidate their party by intimidating their opponents.

So why is only Chavez accused of being an anti-democratic communist? Granted, Palin's a lot prettier than him. But here you see him embracing a fashion point that Palin has long known: Holding a small child as an accessary can really soften that autocratic look.

Photo posted on Flickr by Presidencia de la Republica del Ecuador, used under a Creative Commons license.

Now Chavez just needs to learn how to pick a flattering shade of lipstick.

No comments: