Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Welfare State of Alaska

A letter in this week's issue of the Economist dovetails nicely with my thinking about Sarah Palin's experience as mayor of Wasilla. The letter:

SIR – Alaska is very different from the rest of the United States, and this difference affects the fitness of Mrs Palin to be vice-president. Fundamentally, Alaska is a pre-modern welfare state, where the economy is almost purely extractive (with the exception of defense and tourism). If you don’t kill it, dig it or cut it down you don’t get it. From that perspective “bridges to nowhere” are simply further extractions, or tokens for transfer payments from the rest of us, as are the annual payments to residents from North Slope oil revenues.

Not surprisingly Alaska is largely an innovation-free zone. It is also the only world that Mrs Palin has known. Along with her chronological and career inexperience this background renders her unprepared to lead the country.

Michael Golay
Professor of nuclear science and engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

[When Golay says that Alaska is "the only world that Mrs. Palin has known" he is, of course, leaving out the six-or-so years that Palin spent getting her BA at four different colleges in Hawaii and Idaho]

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