Monday, June 19, 2017

New Attack on Libertarianism

A new book is out Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America  by Nancy MacLean.

A National Public Radio review of the book has been published under a title that makes a direct refrence to libertrainism, 'Democracy In Chains' Traces The Rise Of American Libertarianism.'

The primary theme of the book seems to be that the public choice theorist James Buchanan formed a secret cabal to take over the government.

From the book's blurb:
Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect—the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan—and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.

In a brilliant and engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how Buchanan forged his ideas about government in a last gasp attempt to preserve the white elite’s power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. In response to the widening of American democracy, he developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.
The NPR review was written by  Genevieve Valentine. She writes:
Buchanan headed a group of radical thinkers (he told his allies "conspiratorial secrecy is at all times essential"), who worked to centralize power in states like Virginia. They eschewed empirical research. They termed taxes "slavery." They tried repeatedly to strike down progressive action — school integration, Social Security — claiming it wasn't economically sound. And they had the patience and the money to weather failures in their quest to win.

As MacLean lays out in their own words, these men developed a strategy of misinformation and lying about outcomes until they had enough power that the public couldn't retaliate against policies libertarians knew were destructive.
I have ordered a copy of the book to see for myself what is claimed, but is should be noted that either MacLean or Valentine makes some questionable statements.

For one, Valentine writes:
Charles and his brother David Koch have been pushing the libertarian agenda for more than 20 years.
It is not clear if this is Valentine's view or that of  MacLean, but whosever view it is, it is off by a couple of decades.

Charles Koch was a key founder of the libertarian Cato Institute 4 decades ago.

David Koch, 37 years ago, was the 1980 candidate for Vice President of the United States on the Libertarian Party ticket.

Valentine  writes that the Kochs operated  "alongside players like Dick Armey and Tyler Cowen, there are cameos from Newt Gingrich, John Kasich, Mitt Romney, and Antonin Scalia."

If she thinks any of these people hold libertarian positions---or anything close to it, she has no idea what libertarianism.



  1. She's just another thief who's angry that some people refuse to be stolen from.

  2. She attacks libertarians politically, by straw man, but not philosophically. She says libertarians:

    1. Are just covering for white supremacy, and hold no legitimate positions.
    2. Know their positions are wrong, but cynically advance them for the purpose of a race war.

    If this is the extent of the left's critique of libertarianism, they're about to get a nasty surprise!

  3. Haha. Jim Buchanan must be rolling in his grave with laughter. His only forte into actual politics was his lobbying before Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. He was soooooo successful at lecturing Congress about fiscal rectitude

  4. How can we be losing to these morons?

  5. Good grief.

    She may as well have said "...because James Buchanan was based at University of Virginia and Virginia was in the Confederacy" then public choice must be racist. Or maybe because Buchanan's friends called him Jim then he must support Jim Crow.

    The best possible construction we can offer for her argument seems to be that because public choice theorists (who she plainly confuses with libertarians) advocate "limited democracy" - actually it's libertarians more than public choicers who favor limited government - then they are thus against "democracy" ...and this represents some disguised antipathy for African Americans (presumably other than Thomas Sowell) or 'minorities' in general.

    Yet - as the "Jim Crow" reference in Rowley and Schneider's "The Encyclopedia Of Public Choice" points out - "...the most egregious cases of majority tyranny in the last 100 years - Jim Crow in the South and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II - were instigated by representative government..."

    By her logic, we could equally claim that apparently as an advocates of 'unlimited democracy' - she is really using obviously irrational jibber jabber against James Buchanan to push her secret bigoted agenda to bring back Jim Crow, Japanese Internment - and presumably slavery.

  6. Maybe she should read Thomas C Leonard's "Illiberal Reformers" which looks at the progressives role in eugenics and state enforced discrimination (see review here - and maybe find out what actual libertarians think. Maybe start with Murray Rothbard's 1961 - "The Negro Revolution" (see here - or even Ayn Rand's 1963 "Racism" (see here - ). Even Milton Friedman in "Capitalism and Freedom" explicitly compared Jim Crow to Hitler's Nuremberg Laws.

    Good grief, again!