Nancy MacLean's Libertarian Conspiracy Theory [Podcast]

Reason editors discuss Democracy in Chains, the future of privacy, Freedom Fest, and Trump's pardoning power.


Duke University historian Nancy MacLean's new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America, combines conspiracy theories, accusations of racism, and dire warnings about a libertarian plot to create an American oligarchy. It's a historical story that's a "product of [MacLean's] imagination," with a reading of sources that's "hostile and tendentious to the point of pure error," as Reason's Brian Doherty put in a review we published last week.

In today's podcast, Doherty joins Nick Gillespie, Katherine Mangu-Ward, and Andrew Heaton to discuss how MacLean fundamentally misunderstands her subject matter; this year's Freedom Fest (an annual convention for libertarians in Las Vegas that just wrapped up); conservative-leaning libertarians vs. left-leaning libertarians; the constitutional ramifications of Donald Trump potentially pardoning himself; and whether or not we're living in the panopticon.

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  1. Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America, combines conspiracy theories, accusations of racism, and dire warnings about a libertarian plot to create an American oligarchy

    It's about time someone else finally opened their eyes.

    Your days are numbered now, libertarians.

    1. "a libertarian plot to create an American oligarchy"

      She is too late. We already have one.

  2. a libertarian plot to create an American oligarchy

    Right... Because when I think of libertarianism I think of oligarchy.

    1. I need to find the clip or transcript, but reportedly when she was talking about Tyler Cowen, she mentioned Marginal Revolution. She said the blog's name is a reference to how libertarians want to slowly chip away at democracy until we're in power

      This woman has a PhD and access to Google, and could not figure out what "marginal revolution" refers to. She is staggeringly stupid

      1. It's also possible that she knows exactly what it means, but as a bootlicking minion of the all-powerful state, she chooses to lie about it.


        1. She knows exactly what she's doing. She *had to* actually read Buchanan's and Cowen's (and others') actual sentences in order to eliminate inconvenient words and add a few ellipses in order to invert their meanings, to make them sound like Bond villains. She did this over and over and over again. No one "accidentally" misinterprets "I can't stand people who don't like Jews" as "I can't stand... Jews." That's deliberate. Maclean is a malicious liar.

  3. Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker.

  4. I wish the Kochtopus would push back as hard against the state as they do to some some commie professor's crappy book.

  5. I hope they all just bought one copy and are passing it it around the oligarchy circles. Because so far,
    It seems like libertarians are the only ones reading this book

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  7. Republic, Republic, REPUBLIC!
    Much more than just a Democracy.. We The People in our U.S. Constitution; the most basic fact of civics, that these united States of America are a republic, a form of government guaranteed by We The People to each of the States in Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution.
    I'm talking about most of our presidents, members of Congress, university professors, journalists and others who should know better. Like most adults trained in government schools, they believe that Abe Lincoln was our greatest president, a preposterous 'fact' of propaganda on which Washington D.C. has relied for 150 years. In this previous blog article, we offered six books and one website that put that destructive lie to rest once and for all.

  8. Transcripts would be really helpful and a huge time-saver.

  9. 1. There are plenty of libertarians who are racist. Go look at the Mises Institute.
    1a. Also, how many times have you heard libertarians complain about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, or the Voting Rights Act. But I guess that's not racism, right?
    2. The lived reality of libertarianism is that - and you can go back to the 1980s - is that by and large libertarians, while proclaiming a commitment to drug legalization, less war, and gay liberation and so forth, have sided with Republicans and, generally, very conservative Republicans. This isn't just Cold War era fusionism. It's been going on well past 1991. So you might forgive non-libertarians for questioning libertarian commitment to those principles.
    3. The Kochs (and other libertarian or libertarianish groups and individuals) are directly linked to the rise of the right wing / tea party of the Republican Party. So when the right wing actually succeeds and captures three branches of the government, it's not a surprise that people don't believe libertarians have any interest in alliance with progressives.
    4. Check out how most libertarians have responded to liberaltarianism and the Niskanen Center.
    5. Check out the personalities who staff so-described libertarian organizations and even the Koch Foundation.
    6. People want to complain that Maclean, a historian, doesn't really understand public choice. But right-wing Public Choice folks want to believe that their set of ideas exist beyond any historical context.

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