Who watches the intellectual watchmen?
When it comes to historians, especially those purporting to tell the truth about the founding of America, the Civil War era, the Nobel Prize-winning economist James Buchanan, and the revered Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, it's Phil Magness of the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER).
Magness has a Ph.D. from George Mason University's school of public policy, and he's written and co-written books on what he calls "the moral mess of higher education," on Abraham Lincoln's plan for black resettlement after emancipation, and on inaccuracies in The 1619 Project.
He has emerged as that offering's most dogged critic, finding that the Pulitzer Prize–winning series, developed by Nikole Hannah-Jones, was quietly revised on the New York Times website after several prominent historians pointed out major errors in its analysis. Magness has also been a leading critic of Duke University historian Nancy MacLean, whose National Book Award-nominated Democracy in Chains attempted to brand the school choice movement as motivated by racism and white supremacy.
And he's a critic of Hans-Herman Hoppe, a professor emeritus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a distinguished senior fellow at the Mises Institute, who is increasingly influential within the Libertarian Party. "Hoppe has tried to invent this kind of carved-out counter-narrative while still claiming to be a representative of Mises that says we can use this propertian concept of the nation-state to exclude…immigrants from crossing the borders," says Magness. "He gets the complete inversion of Mises' thought."
In June, Magness wrote an article for Reason that inspired an ongoing plagiarism investigation at Princeton University of Kevin Kruse, a high-profile, very online professor of history. "This is a guy that would tweet 100 or 200 times a day," says Magness. "As soon as the word got out about plagiarism, he's dropped off the face of the earth." Indeed, Kruse's Twitter feed has stayed silent since June.
Reason's Nick Gillespie caught up with Magness at FreedomFest, the annual gathering in Las Vegas, to talk about intellectual accountability in academia, journalism, and the libertarian movement.
*Correction: The video introduction incorrectly states that Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains won the National Book Award. It was a finalist.
Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Regan Taylor and Adam Czarnecki. Camera by Door Greene.
Photo Credits: Acroterion, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Beowulf Sheehan/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Economic Policy Institute; CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Dreamstine; Fotostand / Freitag/picture alliance / Fotostand/Newscom; Gage Skidmore; James Cridland, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Richard B. Levine/Newscom; Slowking4, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons; Wittylama, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
Music Credits: "Divine Attraction," (Instrumental Version) by A Seal to See, via Artlist.