What does America have that Asia doesn’t have? The answer is, Sarah Palin – not Sarah Palin the vice presidential candidate, but Sarah Palin the “hockey mom” turned small-town mayor and reforming Alaska governor. All the PhDs and MBAs in the world can’t make a capital market work, but ordinary people like Sarah Palin can. Laws depend on the will of the people to enforce them. It is the initiative of ordinary people that makes America’s political system the world’s most reliable.
America is the heir to a long tradition of Anglo-Saxon law that began with jury trial and the Magna Carta and continued through the English Revolution of the 17th century and the American Revolution of the 18th. Ordinary people like Palin are the bearers of this tradition.
Outside of the United States, the young governor of Alaska has become a figure of ridicule – someone who did not own a passport until last year and who quaintly believes that her state’s proximity to Russia gives her insights on foreign policy. How, my European friends ask, was it possible for such an an ignorant bumpkin to become a candidate for America’s second-highest office? They don’t understand America.
Provincial America depends on the initiative of ordinary people to get through the day. America has something like an Education Ministry, but it has little money to dispense. Americans pay for most of their school costs out of local taxes, and levy those taxes on themselves. In small towns, many public agencies, including fire protection and emergency medical assistance, depend almost entirely on volunteers. People who tax themselves, and give their own time and money for services on which communities depend, are not easily cowed by the federal government or by large corporations.
But I, the husband of a music teacher, found this to be especially charming and true:
“Hockey Moms,” to be sure, may not be the optimal promoters of America’s future. One for one, the “Piano Moms” of China are cleverer people and produce smarter offspring. China’s 30 million students of classical piano are one of the two great popular movements in the world today: the other is the House Church movement in Chinese Christianity. Children who play hockey will grow up to get coffee for children who study piano. As a pool of talent, nothing compares with the educated segment of the East Asian population that has embraced and mastered Western culture. Nonetheless, Asia still can’t invest its own money at home, and seems farther than ever from that objective.