Public Choice

Just How Much Did Nancy MacLean Get Wrong?

Despite being a finalist for the National Book Awards, Democracy in Chains is fatally flawed history.


Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains, an error-filled screed against Nobel Prize–winning economist James Buchanan, is one of five finalists for a National Book Award.

Is that honor deserved? It is worth considering, as the award's nominators did not, that nearly every reviewer with actual independent knowledge about her book's topics has pointed out a startling range of errors of citation, interpretation, narrative, and fact. (This includes my own review in the October Reason, in which I demonstrate that a central element of her historical narrative—that in the 1990s Buchanan's ideas became the secret influence behind the political machine run by billionaire Charles Koch—is based on an absurd and unsupportable reading of the only textual evidence she offers.) MacLean still refuses to engage any of her critics on points of substance.

Economic historian Phil Magness, currently teaching at Berry College, has been one of MacLean's most diligent critics. In his review of her book for Modern Age, Magness explains that MacLean

unambiguously presents the servicing of segregationist politicians as the raison d'être for the TJC's [Thomas Jefferson Center, which Buchanan ran] activities at the University of Virginia. She depicts Buchanan as having "taken his cues from [Virginia senator and leading segregationist] Harry Byrd and Jack Kilpatrick," the segregationist editor of the Richmond News-Leader.

In that review and in a series of highly detailed posts on his blog, Magness has delved deeply into that portion of MacLean's book, and especially into her attempts to link the segregationist cause to the work Buchanan and collaborator G. Warren Nutter did pushing for school vouchers in post-Brown Virginia. As Magness notes, MacLean has a pattern of suggesting things she knows she can't prove:

MacLean generally stops short of linking Buchanan and Byrd outright, and does so by necessity. There is no evidence the two ever crossed paths in any substantive way. So instead of calling Buchanan a segregationist, she simply contends that he utilized the opportunity of segregation to advance a libertarian school voucher agenda at the expense of black students. To get to Byrd, she advances historically unsupported claims of a connection between Buchanan and Byrd-allied newspaper editor James J. Kilpatrick. But even more so, she relies on Buchanan's own presumed silence on segregation to "read between the lines" of his voucher advocacy and discern a motive that is not evident from any straightforward reading.

While taking MacLean's arguments apart, Magness turned up a good deal of evidence that she either missed or ignored:

• As early as 1948, Buchanan was writing (as an economic analyst, not as a full-throated moralist) that racial segregation is an "inefficient" system that requires "improvement." As Magness summarized, Buchanan's analysis held that "forcing states with segregation to bear the costs of this inefficiency themselves could become an effective fiscal mechanism to incentivize integration."

• The TJC hosted in 1958, and published in 1960, an explicitly anti-segregation talk by one of Buchanan's mentors, Frank Knight. (Among other things, Knight said that "Equality before the law means that there is equal opportunity for everyone to find or make his own place in society. This ideal was dishonored in the breach rather than honored in the observance for some time into the age of liberalism, notably by this country in the matter of racial discrimination.") As Magness explains, "Buchanan hosted Knight for these explicitly anti-segregationist remarks in the spring of 1958, which was also the high water mark of Sen. Harry Flood Byrd Sr.'s 'massive resistance' fight against Brown v. Board. If…Buchanan, Nutter, and the TJC were trying to service the segregationist political establishment of Virginia, as has been charged, then playing host to Knight's anti-discriminatory lecture and later publishing it makes for a very odd strategy of communication."

• Despite MacLean's insinuation that Buchanan's pro-voucher position was objectively pro-segregation, more than a few Virginia segregationists passionately believed the exact opposite and argued as much the same year that Buchanan and Nutter wrote their paper.

• Archival evidence shows that Kilpatrick was not aware in advance of the Buchanan/Nutter paper; there is no sign that he was working with them in any way. Buchanan and Nutter published the newspaper version of their article not in Kilpatrick's militantly segregationist Richmond News-Leader but in the rival Richmond Times-Dispatch, whose editor had in Magness' words "adopted a moderate stance on school desegregation that favored limited and gradual introduction of black students into white-majority schools."

• While MacLean's narrative suggests that Buchanan's advocacy of vouchers bears some moral blame for Prince Edward County's decision to essentially close its public school system for five years to avoid desegregation, Magness explains that for "most of the period of the Prince Edward school closure, students in the county were not actually using the state tuition grant program." Indeed, "From August 1961 until the reopening of the Prince Edward schools by Supreme Court ruling in 1964, Prince Edward County…had no access to the tuition grant program. Combined with the first year being funded through private contributions, the tuition grant program was only operational in Prince Edward County for one school year out of the five year closure period."

• In the mid-'60s, Buchanan's center brought in the anti-apartheid South African economist W.H. Hutt as a visiting professor. Hutt's presence on campus made the TJC "an active sponsor of scholarly work that sought to unite antiracist principles with the emerging field of public choice theory." As Magness explains, Hutt argued that "nondiscrimination was a necessary logical extension of Buchanan and [co-author Gordon] Tullock's argument. If the objective of a constitutional rule was to minimize the ability of a group to externalize the costs of its desired policy, it followed that the rule's primary function was to afford protection to political minorities and persons excluded from political participation."

• Perhaps most significantly, while some Virginians did indeed use the state's voucher-like tuition grants to go to private "segregation academies," there was also a substantial number of families who used them to move to integrated schools. The state's leading teachers union, the Virginia Education Association, reacted to this by reaching out to segregationists as allies against the grants. "[P]arents are using the grants to send their children to integrated schools," the union complained, "which the entire purpose of the legislation was to avoid." Meanwhile, a 1964 report from Buchanan's center on the grants did not at any point suggest that they should be used for segregation—and while generally using value-neutral statistical language, as was appropriate for the document's purpose, it implicitly critiqued those who insisted they not be used to attend integrated institutions.

If you're wondering how MacLean managed to put Buchanan in cahoots with Kilpatrick when it was Kilpatrick's competitor who published Buchanan's arguments, Magness has an amusing but credible theory: It may have stemmed from a typo. A 1998 essay by James Hershman (published in a collection called The Moderates' Dilemma) mistakenly states that the newspaper version of Buchanan and Nutter's paper appeared in Kilpatrick's paper. Hershman elsewhere and MacLean in her actual footnote do get the attribution correct. But Hershman's 1998 essay is, by MacLean's account, where she learned of the existence of James Buchanan for the very first time, and was essential in forming her views on him. Magness suggests that it shaped MacLean's whole project:

MacLean took the implications of that error and ran with them to fantastical lengths, writing Kilpatrick into the story as a crucial link between Buchanan and the segregationist Byrd machine. She devotes substantial attention to Kilpatrick in her text, making sure to highlight his pro-segregation writing and his interests in the political theories of John C. Calhoun. [MacLean's book dedicates its entire first chapter to linking Buchanan to Calhoun, even though Buchanan appears never to have written about Calhoun or to have cited him as an influence.] She also wildly speculates that Nutter and Buchanan were coordinating their paper's release behind the scenes with Kilpatrick and attempts to divine commonalities between it and editorials that Kilpatrick wrote for the News-Leader.

There's one more twist though. At some point while writing her book, MacLean apparently realized that the Nutter-Buchanan article actually appeared in the Times-Dispatch and properly cited it to the correct newspaper. Despite catching this citation error though, she retained the purported link between Buchanan and Kilpatrick anyway. She wrote her entire chapter as if the Hershman error from 1998 was accurate and presented Buchanan as an ally of the "massive resisters" even though she had no evidence for that claim.

MacLean never even bothered to investigate the article's actual route to publication through [Virginius] Dabney [editor of the Times-Dispatch]. But Dabney, who won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for editorializing against poll taxes and bus segregation in Richmond, does not allow the same salacious charges and insinuations that MacLean extracts from Kilpatrick. MacLean therefore retained an erroneous historical interpretation premised on Hershman's switching of the papers, even though she had sufficient information to correct that error.

MacLean, her publisher, and the National Book Award committee should all pay heed to the above. So far, they have not.

NEXT: Senate Panel Approves Domestic Spying Bill, Clinton Campaign Helped Fund 'Pee Dossier,' Major Fee Hike May Hit National Parks: A.M. Links

Public Choice James Buchanan Libertarian History/Philosophy Racism Education School Choice Virginia

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130 responses to “Just How Much Did Nancy MacLean Get Wrong?

  1. Just challenge her to a duel already.

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  2. MacLean still refuses to engage any of her critics on points of substance.

    And why should she? Her audience, leftists, consider ad hominems to be compelling arguments. No need to deal in silly shit like facts when personal attacks are so much more effective. Personal attacks, like references to the evil Koch brothers, achieve emotional responses, and that’s all any leftist needs to be convinced. It feels true so it is true. Facts? Nobody needs stupid facts. That’s how you make a reasoned argument. But as we all know, you can’t reason someone out of something they arrived at by emotion.

    1. MacLean is a crank. To refer to her without first prefixing ‘the notorious conspiracy crank’ is to participate in fakenews fraud.

      1. And what about Naomi (Klein)? Think national, act stupid.

    2. And that is essentially how it works. And if you don’t buy into that, you are either “unintelligent,” uncaring, crazy, racist, deplorable, and a host of other nasty characterizations that may be levied at will and without an iota of substantiation.

      1. The tone-deafness is strong in this one

    3. Her audience, leftists, consider ad hominems to be compelling arguments.

      Like you do here? And most everywhere?
      Left – Right = Zero

      1. Mary? Is that you?

        1. Worse, it’s Hihn.

      2. Bully!

        1. Bully!

          Like you did here? (smirk)

          1. Fuck off, Mike. Your act is tiresome in the extreme.

            1. You sound garbled. Release Drumpf’s cock, use some Lavoris and THEN speak, asshole!

      3. Five in this thread. So far.

        1. Dilly dilly!

  3. Despite being a finalist for the National Book Awards, Democracy in Chains is fatally flawed history.

    Despite eating 5 gallons of ice cream every day, I still can’t lose any weight.

    1. Or perhaps being “fatally flawed history” and being a successful book are unrelated. So you could switch your analogy to: “Despite the fact that I don’t like Cherry Garcia, Ben and Jerry’s continues to sell more of that ice cream than any other flavor”.

      In support of this idea I offer up Dan Brown, author of the worst book I ever read, yet a publicly acclaimed author.

      1. If Dan Brown wrote the worst book you have ever read, your must not read a great deal. Brown deals in mediocrity. His books are the modern equivalent of the Doc Savage pulps of the 1930’s. His writing is shallow, cliche-ridden, and silly, but it doesn’t achieve anything like real awfulness. Awfulness might be interesting.

        1. Yes. Dan Brown is pulp fiction. It has its virtues if you like that kind of stuff. But it isn’t really awful writing. Awful writing is David Foster Wallace. Infinite Jest is by many objective measures the most awful book ever published in America and maybe in the English Language as a whole.

          1. But it isn’t really awful writing. Awful writing is David Foster Wallace.

            His essays are excellent you fetid scalliwag.

            Infinite Jest is by many objective measures the most awful book ever published in America and maybe in the English Language as a whole.

            The people who pretend to have finished it seem to have enjoyed it.

            1. I had to look that up and it sounds like something I would go out of my way to avoid.

            2. He essays are just as awful. They are nothing but Wallace explaining how great he is and how horrible everyone else is or him presenting banalities as profound truth. I don’t see how anyone can read “A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again” and not think “what an asshole”. And is commencement speech his fans are always going on and on about is a few thousand words to make the single point that you don’t understand your own environment until you can see it from the outside. It is embarrassing that so many allegedly smart people find that speech profound when all it does is make a point that anyone over the age 12 who has taken a vacation should have figured out. I don’t understand how anyone who heard it didn’t burst out laughing. When I first read it I thought he was doing a satire of commencement speeches and their empty platitudes. Sadly, he seems to have been serious.

              And Infinite Jest is one of the few books I have ever started and didn’t finish. You stop reading that book not because it is difficult the way few people actually get through something like Ulysses. You stop reading that book because it is unbelievably boring and pointless. If someone set out to write the most tedious and pointless book possible, they would have a very hard time topping Infinite Jest.

              1. He essays are just as awful.

                They are not.

                They are nothing but Wallace explaining how great he is and how horrible everyone else is or him presenting banalities as profound truth. I don’t see how anyone can read “A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again” and not think “what an asshole”.

                Stop being so insecure.

                1. Wallace is a total asshole in that book. People like cruises. And have a good time on them. What did he do in that essay except for bitch and moan about how everyone around him enjoys things he doesn’t like? Nothing that I could see. It doesn’t take any skill or insight to write an essay explaining how you can’t stand something other people like. What takes skill is understanding something you don’t like but other people do. And Foster did none of that. And his commencement address might be the saddest piece of unintended satire ever written. He tries so hard in that address to be thoughtful and profound. You almost feel sorry for him.

          2. Dan Brown gets a pass on his awful, awful writing because he lacks pretension?

          3. I’ve seen Dan Brown books in the supermarket, but I just don’t find them appealing. And there are so many really good books to enjoy, why mess with the lower end if mediocrity.

    2. Obviously, you’re not eating enough ice cream. We should levy a tax on Weight Watchers entrees to finance more ice cream for you.

  4. It doesn’t matter if the author gets the facts straight. The story is still true. We all know this by now, don’t we?

    “and that even if the documents are false, the underlying story is true”

    1. She got the narrative correct, she just got a few facts wrong. It is cute that reason thinks the Progs who run the national book award care that this women’s book is a complete fraud. She got the narrative that everyone on the right is a racist, segregationist correct. We are talking about metatruths here Cyto.

  5. Hell hath no fury like a libertarian intellectual scorned.

  6. Despite being a finalist for the National Book Awards, Democracy in Chains is fatally flawed history.

    You know, there is a fiction categories to the National Book Awards…

  7. A liberal writer proves to be intellectually dishonest. The line forms to the left.

  8. Public choice theory is a racist plot designed to turn our democracy into a plutocracy. There should be no limits to democracy, especially super-majority requirements as dictated by a constitution of slaveholders.

    The worst amendments are:
    The 13th amendment
    The 15th amendment
    The 16th amendment
    The 17th amendment
    The 19th amendment
    The 21st amendment
    The 24th amendment
    The 26th amendment

    When will we finally realize that public choice theory is a lie, and get rid of this damn constitution?

    1. When?
      About the time they change your straitjacket.

    2. The 14th out does them all – it makes slaves of free men. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States [now a singular noun, formerly plural] and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the the United States [not united States] and of the State in which they reside.

      Combine this with the Buck Act in Title 5, and you’ve got universal federal jurisdiction.

      1. So US citizenship is slavery! Who knew?
        But how can one be a citizen of “the united states”, which has never existed as a nation?

  9. One thing is for sure; if this woman had written a truthful book about Buchanan, she wouldn’t be up for a national book award. Kind of tells all you need to know about the award.

    1. “tells all you need to know about the award.”

      Not to mention women!

    2. Another thing is for sure: you think Ann Coulter is a serious peddler of ideas.

      1. Tony 1
        Strawman 0

        1. I think Tony is highlighting the interesting contrast between these two women who write polemics from opposite sides of the political spectrum. One of them gets rewarded with a chair and tenure at a top tier university, and nominations for national book awards.

      2. Ann Coulter and Nancy Maclean are about equals in intellect and credibility., so is that what you’re getting at?

      3. Hmmm, No. What a stupid suggestion.
        Besides, she is a horse-faced bitch as well
        as an authoritarian asshole. My proggy friend
        thinks she is attractive. I almost barfed.

        1. Ugh. Had to look up her up, and I wouldn’t even with Tony’s dick.

  10. The question is, is this business as usual for the National Book Awards? Do they have a reputation left? The Pulitzers have been a laughingstock for decades. The Bancroft Prize gutted itself on the rusty sword of ARMING AMERICA. Literary awards have usually been more about fashion than real excellence. The Victorian era was littered with award and plaudit winning works that are dead and forgotten now.

    1. The nonfiction winners tend to be pretty good. But a lot of horrible books get nominated.

      1. I mean a lot of horrible books are made finalists. They seem to give finalist awards out to awful books that fit the Prog narrative, but the really bad ones never actually win.…..Nonfiction

        There is a list of the nonfiction winners and as a whole, they are not bad.

    2. Ever since Huey Lewis and The News walked away with every music award one year, and was never seen again, I haven’t given a shit about any kind of entertainment related award.

      1. Hey, don’t rock the boat.

        1. Don’t tip the boat over.

      2. Ah, but Book Awards – especially nonfiction book awards – are supposed to be about literary or scholarly merit. Supposed. In point of fact they have always tended to be about some faction’s preferred narrative. It’s not as if the Progressive Left is doing anything new here. They’re getting a tad more blatant about it recently, probably because they feel their grip on the public mind slipping. The Victorian Moralists went through a similar phase.

    3. JR, by William Gaddis, won the national book award. It’s a comedy about an 11 year old who parleys worthless stock certificates into a vast empire. It’s very communistical, portraying our captains of industry in an unfavourable light.

      1. Susan Sontag won for fiction in 2000. Susan Sontag !!!

        1. I’m familiar with her nonfiction from the 1960s. Not too shabby, but if memory serves Roland Barthes was writing along similar lines earlier, and in Frinch, to boot.

          1. Would Frinch be the dialect of French that is ‘spoken’ by Parisian headwaiters? In fact, less spoken than projected through the upturned nose?

            Note; I can’t spell when I type, either. I wouldn’t have brought it up if the idea of the dialect had’t occurred to me…

      2. I’m partial to stories where wise, worldly children teach their clueless parents lessons and help them make sense of everything, especially… themselves.

        Gets me every time.

        1. +1 John Hughes film.

  11. Does she also slander Ron Paul for his role as the intellectual founder of the alt-right? Ron is one of my most frequent and popular guests. And I am proud to help spread his ongoing inspiration for the American Taliban. Fuck the Ninth Amendment, which was added only recently by a cabal with financing from George Soros, the Clinton Foundation and Rodney Dangerfield’s widow. Watch THAT conspiracy unfold on Infowars, starting Friday.

    1. When will Austin Petersen be on again?

      1. You do know that Alex Jones, isn’t the real Alex Jones, and is just a troll, right?

        1. You say that US citizenship is slavery and the United States is actually the united states ….


          But I’m the troll?

        2. We all know it’s Hihn,

      2. We’re working together right now on a strategy that would best propel to the nomination
        Tentatively in 2-4 weeks. Hope to coordinate timing with events elsewhere.

  12. Unfortunately a publication underwritten by the Koch brothers themselves has no credibility commenting on this book.

    1. Why seriously consider ideas, when we can just poison the well?

      That’s called efficient thinking.

      1. LIke I said up top, leftists don’t need stupid facts when emotional triggers like “Koch brothers” suffice.

      2. Because nobody has time to read everything ever written, and libertarians have no academic standards anyway?

        1. Whereas you have a Masters in Informal Fallacies, requiring us to take you completely seriously!

          1. If you don’t think that a publication funded by the Kochs commenting on a book critical of the Kochs presents a conflict, then you also have no academic standards.

            1. If you think it must be wrong because the Koch’s gave Reason money, then you have impeccable logic standards!

              1. Merely advocating skepticism.

                1. Vox made essentially the same criticisms of this book as this article.

                  But, why use google when we can just bitch about Dark Money? It’s really just that simplistic.

                2. Skepticism does not equate to dismissing an article out of hand based on its source. Pro-tip: Cornell offers a basic course in logic for free online.

                3. Tony|10.25.17 @ 12:10PM|#
                  “Merely advocating skepticism.”

                  You misspelled “imbecility”, asshole.

            2. So you’re saying we shouldn’t trust anything MacLean says about the Kochs because they fund a website that is critical of her, creating a conflict?

            3. What about a writer paid by a government grant to write a book libelling critics of the government? Because that’s Maclean.

              What about a news organization largely owned by a Mexican billionaire publishing articles critical of The Trump administration? I guess we can ignore anything from the NYT given it’s conflict interests.

              Seriously, grow a fucking brain. A conflict of interests doesn’t invalidate an argument. You’re suppose to be aware of such conflicts when reading, not dismiss what you’re reading out of hand because of it. And you thane the gall to insult other people’s intellectual standards?

    2. It has at least as much credibility as the house publications of the demented Left, such as the New York Times.

      C’mon, Tony, even YOU can do better than that.

    3. You could try reading some of the many factual critiques of the book all over the libertarian blogosphere.

      Here’s Mike Munger on the subject:…..sp?id=9115

      The goal, as MacLean tells it, was to begin a Fabian war to re-establish a repressive, plutocratic society ruled by oligarchs. MacLean has actually examined the founding documents, the letters in this exchange, and cites the shadowy academic as saying: “I can fight this [democracy] . . . I want to fight this.”

      In his proposal, the professor expands on the theme, which I quote directly from Democracy in Chains…: “Find the resources, he proposed to [the University President], for me to create a new center on the campus of the University . . . and I will use this center to create a new school of political economy and social philosophy.” Wow! That’s pretty big stuff.

      Except . . . there’s something odd. The italicized text above is written in the first person and is also italicized in the original setting. But, the italicized passage has no quote marks. It’s not footnoted.

      I was curious about that omission, so I tracked down the founding documents themselves…

      And it turns out that the reason there are no quote marks, and no footnotes, is that this exchange, and in particular the first-person italicized portion, never actually took place. It’s not a quote. No, seriously: It’s not a quote. It’s made up. Fabricated. Fictional.

      1. More:

        Duke professor Georg Vanberg on ‘Democracy in Chains’

        Professor MacLean wants to show that Buchanan’s ultimate motivation and aim was to undermine democratic institutions in an effort to preserve (or enhance) the power of a white, wealthy elite at the expenses of marginalized social groups.

        Such a portrayal represents a fundamental misunderstanding of Buchanan’s intellectual project and is inconsistent with the basic themes that were the foundation of his published work over more than 50 years. Professor MacLean is right that Buchanan advocated for “chains” on “democracy” in the sense that his academic work led him to the conclusion that unrestricted majority rule often constitutes an undesirable method of collective decision-making. This does not, however, imply that Buchanan was anti-democratic, or interested in preserving the power and status of traditional elites. Quite the contrary. The fact that Buchanan favored limits on majority rule originates directly from his deep commitment to democratic principles, including individual autonomy and equality.

      2. Look, the only things Tony reads are brunch menus. Get out of here with your large blocks of textual information, Hazel!

      3. Tony doesn’t read anything that might conflict with his opinions; the fact that it might so conflict with them means it must be wrong, and therefore isn’t worth reading.

        And yet, Tony is allowed to vote.

    4. What percent of their funding is from the Koch brothers? And since the Koch brothers are primarily concerned with freedom (and truth and justice) and also give a lot of money to the ACLU, does that also make the ACLU suspect?

    5. Especially Republicans pretending to be libertarians

  13. The idea that segregation was some kind of conservative plot is ludicrous. Segregation was unquestionably primarily a program of progressives, Democrats, and America’s academic elite, who justified it with the kind of urgency and survival arguments reminiscent of the ones made by climate change activists today. Segregation was scientism, not theocracy.

    1. Would you guys consider this interpretation of history better, worse, or the about the same as MacLean’s?

      After all, why would conservatives want to conserve a racist regime? They weren’t about that. It was about… I dunno, baking cookies and ironing in heels. The more conservative the household, the more black people it welcomed in. This is documented history.

      1. Rather than address public choice theory, let’s just bitch about racism! Nevemrind that majority rules thinking ensconced racism into law! That’s the spirit!

        1. Liberals are better at knowing when democracy works best and when it must be checked in favor of minority rights. Conservatives don’t care about either. Because they’re just so right. Look at the president they chose. What could be more evidence of the One True political philosophy than that wombat-headed grapefruit?

          1. I get it: let’s concede public choice theory and go back to bitching about Trump. Because this book is really awesome, and we just don’t get enough Trump Trump!

            1. Are you suggesting I concede public choice theory? I find it incredibly boring.

              1. I think that democracy is the ultimate pillar upon which society should be based. However, the theory of public choices is boring.

                That’s how you know I’m a serious thought person.

                1. Bastiat in 1850:

                  “Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain ? and since labor is pain in itself ? it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.
                  When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor.
                  It is evident, then, that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.
                  But, generally, the law is made by one man or one class of men. And since law cannot operate without the sanction and support of a dominating force, this force must be entrusted to those who make the laws.
                  This fact, combined with the fatal tendency that exists in the heart of man to satisfy his wants with the least possible effort, explains the almost universal perversion of the law. Thus it is easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of injustice. It is easy to understand why the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds.

              2. Tony, I don’t think you even know what public choice theory is.

              3. The fact that you keep going on irrelevant tangent suggests you concede it.

                And you ignore it because you find it boring. And yet you accuse all of us of being anti-intellectual.

          2. Tony, Liberals – at least as the term has been used in the 20th and 21st Centuries – have only been for equality and/or minority rights when doing so would gain them power…which they promptly abused to keep everyone equally oppressed and minorities firmly in their places. Which isn’t to say that Conservatives have been consistently a lot better. It’s just that when your leading lights are swine like Woodrow Wilson and FDR it’s kind of hard for your political enemies to be worse for minorities.

          3. Let’s all be a little bit more clear here…. who do you think is included in the definitions of “liberal” and “conservative”, for one thing?
            Secondly, the “liberals know best” attitude doesn’t really comport well with their record on economic issues, at least not if you’re including the sort of people who wave the communist manifesto around at Occupy rallies under the heading “liberal”. Or the anti-globalization movement, for that matter. Progressives (assuming that’s what you mean by liberal) general attitude is that “democracy” should rule economic activity, a policy which has a shit track record historically.

          4. Classical liberalism is libertarianism. American “liberalism” is a mis-mash
            of liberal and authoritarian ideals. American “liberals” at least used to be
            in favor of free speech, but now progressives and leftists want to restrict
            free speech, which is a hallmark of fascism and communism. Conservatism
            is also a mis-mash.

          5. Tony|10.25.17 @ 11:51AM|#
            “Liberals are better at knowing when democracy works best and when it must be checked in favor of minority rights”

            Assholes like you post lies.

      2. Early progressives were documented to have advocated eugenics, to lobby for and enact explicitly racist laws, and elect explicitly racist politicians. Conservatives tended to be aghast at this expansion of government scope.

        Granted, early progressives were not the touchy feely progressives of today. You can thank liberals for that. Without the classic liberal ideals of individualism, progressives would still be obsessed with literally re-engineering the human race. While conservatives have been all over the board over the decades, they at least hold to a Burkean ideal that rejects slavery and institutionalized bigotry.

        1. Everyone was racist in 1910. Anyone who was extremely ahead of his time I would not describe as a conservative, like obviously. It took the Nazis to convince progressives and many others that eugenics was a bad idea. Now today we have a conservative movement that thinks the Nazis themselves were probably onto something.

          1. So black people should be grateful that progressives went from eugenics to racially targeted socialism, creating the incredibly predictable outcome of economic stagnation, destruction of their culture, and destruction of their family unit?

            1. Yes. And fearful that conservatives (or Republicans) want to bring back Nazis and the Jim Crow era.

          2. Everyone has an excuse to be racist in 1910!

            No one as an excuse to be racist the 1960!

      3. Right on, Tony! After all, it was noted alt-right arch-conservative Woodrow Wilson who re-segregated the Army while he was president! And it was none other than Republican darling FDR who rounded up people of a certain race and put them into concentration camps.

        1. You said that in public?


            1. You said THAT in public?
              Any thoughts on racism in the 1300s?
              Umm, who do TODAY’S white supremacists support?

              Right – Left = Zero

        2. But it was Republican Drumpf who in 2017 (check your calendar) found some very fine men among the neo-Nazis

      4. Ely, Common, Ross, Galton, etc. , most of the prominent intellectual founders of the Progressive movement, in addition to being into eugenics, enthusiastically supported racial discrimination in order ‘optimize’ the racial characteristics of the country. Sorry the truth hurts.

        1. Nice rant. But despite your rage (and ignorance), eugenics was a well-accepted theory, taught at hundreds of colleges and universities, until the Nazis applied it to killing Jews. Educate yourself,

      5. Hmm, well for many years, the south was controlled by the Democrats politically – you know during the years of Reconstruction through Jim Crow. And the south had a large percentage of African Americans and there was a system in place to keep them in their place. So, why would they want to conserve a racist regime? Well, because it was their culture and it accrued advantages to them. The more democratic the household, the more black people were kept under their heel. This is REAL documented history. I am the first to agree that Conservatism is a flawed philosophy as it is all over the place. But, democrats, progressives, and leftists all have a lot of flawed ideas as well and a lot of blood on their hands.

        1. Left – Right = Zero

          1. You sure are fond of that imbecilic, self-aggrandizing equation. But consider that left = -10 and right = +10, and the answer is zero. Despite your idiotic sophistry, left does not equal right.

            1. You sure are fond of that imbecilic, self-aggrandizing equation

              You also don’t know what it means.

              But consider that left = -10 and right = +10, and the answer is zero

              PRECISELY. It’s true at ANY number one selects. Ask any 12-year-old
              Now the hard part ….

              Despite your idiotic sophistry, left does not equal right.

              Tell us again who’s self-aggrandizing.

              It does not say or imply they are equal to each other. Only that neither is WORTH more than the other. Ii’s been a libertarian conviction for nearly a half-century.

              Did your parents raise you to talk like that?

  14. This is the age where only the narrative matters. If the narrative fits your political ideology, it must be true. MacLean may be profiting off this attitude, but she is hardly alone in living it. Facebook runs on it. Both the Left and the Right live it. If the meme fits the narrative then the meme is factual evidence.

    The only thing that makes MacLean any different is that she had a slightly more literate audience, and audience that might actually make it past the jacket blurb.

    1. You live in a echo chamber!

      No, you live in an echo chamber!

      No you!

      No you!

  15. Hey!

    She did say ‘read between the lines’. That has to count for something no? What has intellectualism (and the world! Damn you Trump!) come to if we can’t accept ‘reading the between the lines’ as scholarly methods?

  16. MacLean is petitioning to become the next Naomi Klein, and her generally shoddy research and claims of a conspiracy against her are all part of the marketing strategy. She’s sort of like Trump in that way – All my critics are out to get me! Fake news! Even while she’s repeatedly caught telling blatant lies in her book. (There are numerous documented examples where she selectively quotes half a sentance out of context in a way that implies the exact opposite meaning from the full sentance).

  17. MacLean, her publisher, and the National Book Award committee should all pay heed to the above. So far, they have not.

    But they FEEL that Buchanan (and anyone else right of Stalin) are all racisty racists. And isn’t that what’s really important? The FEELZ?

  18. And pretty much what I’m getting from this review is “we didn’t intend that to happen but now that it did, there’s nothing we can do to correct it”.
    Meanwhile, it is so gratifying to see this comment section is no better in intellectual heft as your average “news site” which allows anyone to post anonymously, since why would anyone want to be responsible for the vile crap they post. To think I almost buy an issue of Reason every time I go to the bookstore.

    1. You’re here, amirite? Dumb fuck…..

      1. Typical “response” from someone who openly celebrates feeding people into a wood chipper for not sharing your views. Not everyone shares your authoritarian compulsion toward the intolerance of a closed mind.

        Can you assert your masculinity only by insulting and attacking people, from the safety of a computer?

  19. Why exactly would a lying left-wing propagandist bother to have a debate with anyone who can call her out on her bullshit? She has nothing to gain by doing so.


    1. It’s tribal. Same as the ones on the right. Bellowing blowhards
      Left – Right = Zero

      1. David Nolan = Zero, all right.

  20. This sounds a lot like how the Hugos became a sad joke.

  21. Why not give MacLean a Nobel Peace Prize or a Pulitzer? It’s as meaningful as any other award offered by the Left Wing.

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