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Jack Rakove Reviews Democracy in Chains

A noted historian looks at Nancy Maclean's work (and cites the VC).

Noted historian Jack Rakove of Stanford University reviews Nancy Maclean's Democracy in Chains in Critical Inquiry, and the Volokh Conspiracy makes a cameo appearance.

Here's a taste of the review:

Once MacLean forges the Koch-Buchanan connection, Democracy in Chainsbegins to read more like Ramparts-style journalism than academic history. . . .

MacLean's journalistic turn gives her book an admirable polemical vigor that makes it fun to read—especially for anyone who has never read Ayn Rand and is free from libertarian leanings or radical-right credentials. But as a serious intellectual history of public choice ideas or (more to the point) of Buchanan's own substantial oeuvre, Democracy in Chainsis disappointing. . . .

Nancy MacLean has been taking numerous hits ever since her book appeared in June. (Everyone knows how to google these responses, but one finder's clue would be to use "Volokh Conspiracy Nancy MacLean.") Serious charges about her misuse of sources have already been made, which I will not discuss because they lie beyond my scholarly competence and knowledge. At some point there should be a thorough scholarly review of these points, and one suspects that MacLean will have to make a more concerted effort to justify her argument than she has yet provided. Any reader of Democracy in Chains must keep these concerns in mind. Yet her questions remain important and well worth pondering. . . .

As longtime VC readers know, there is a standing offer to post any response Maclean cares to offer to her critics. I made this offer well over a year ago (when this blog was still hosted at the Washington Post) and it still stands. To date, neither Maclean nor her publisher has offered any reply (and I made efforts to contact both directly), nor have etierh offered a substnative response elsewhere. Perhaps that failure to address serious charges of false and misleading claims and misuse of sources is itself worth pondering.

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  • Allutz||

    Prof. Adler doesn't know that unsolicited challenges like these are just like catcalling.

  • PublicNameNotInUse||

    All forms of peer review are necessary. Unless, of course, they conflict with your prejudices.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    A blog that counts Prof. Gail "Officially Non-Republican" Heriot among its participants faulting anyone for failing to "address serious charges of false and misleading claims?"

    That's like a blog that claims to champion free expression -- and incessantly faults libertarian-liberal schools for ostensible shortcomings with respect to censorship -- banning a commenter for making fun of conservatives.

    Artie Ray Lee Wayne Jim-Bob sends his regards, by the way.

  • bernard11||

    Yes. The Champions of Free Expression have no problem with Trump calling the press "the enemy of the people," or with the fact that nearly a quarter of Republicans agree that "President Trump should close down mainstream news outlets, like CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times."

    More interesting results at the link.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "Some of the limits of public support for freedom of the press are made stark with a quarter of Americans (26%) saying they agree "the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior,""

    I suppose a lot hinges on the definition of "bad behavior". I suppose if the New York Times engaged in a conspiracy to bomb Manhattan it might be justified. Criminal conspiracy is criminal conspiracy even if engaged in by a newspaper.

    I'm not going to say this is good, but I AM going to remind you that a few years ago almost every Democratic Senator voted for a proposed constitutional amendment to gut the 1st amendment.

    Sadly, it is only to be expected that Republicans will become less concerned with press freedom once the press decide to become an unpaid PR firm for the Democratic party. I'm not saying it's justified, but it IS human nature.

  • bernard11||

    What Amendment was that?

  • Sarcastr0||

    He's trying to equate Citizens United with censoring newspapers.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Of course I am: The proposed amendment would have denied 1st amendment rights to corporations. Guess what every newspaper is? Yup, that's right: A corporation.

    SECTION 1.To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.

    SECTION 2.Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.

    SECTION 3.Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press."

    Either section 3 of this amendment is a nullity, or sections 1 and 2 are. Because, how do you freely publish a paper when the government can regulate your spending money to do it?

    The problem here is that you want the Citizens United and NRA's of the world silenced, but not the "newspapers", when there is no constitutionally relevant difference between them. They're both exercising freedom of the press, they're both corporations.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Or, you know, sections 1 and 2 apply to campaign finance payments, and not to publishing newspapers.

    Is there going to be some tricky line-drawing? Yes. But that's not comparable to baying for Trump to shut down the New York Times because you don't care for their reporting.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    It doesn't say "campaign finance payments", it says "to influence elections". Every editorial endorsement is, I assume, made to that end. The New York Times is no less trying to influence elections than Citizens United was, and they both spend money doing it.

    The newspapers of the era when the 1st amendment was adopted were nakedly nothing more than efforts to influence elections. They didn't even pretend otherwise. Today they pretend; That justifies taking freedom away from the outlets that are still honest about it?

    You're taking the very core of political speech, the effort to influence elections, and declaring it specially unprotected. It is EXACTLY the same as baying to shut down the New York Times because you don't like their reporting.

  • bernard11||

    Sorry Brett, but this topic is a red herring. It has zero to do with my comment above.

    I criticized VC'ers, and other right-wing self-proclaimed defenders of freedom of expression for their silence about Trump's attacks on the media, and the views of press freedom held by a large plurality of Republicans.

    What does Citizens United have to do with that?


    1. I have been clear in comments here that I think Citizens United was correctly decided as to the actual case. I object to its extension to large public corporations, for reasons having to do with agency and corporate governance. Many here disagree but most of their arguments are based on unrealistic and inaccurate views of corporations and investments and disclosure. I even think that if such corporations want to put out newspapers or TV shows endorsing candidates they should be able to do so.

    2. The amendment specifies "reasonable" limits. That's vague, but whatever the cost of printing a few editorials is, it would surely be covered under that.

    3. Any time a court does something that you think violates the Constitution you jump up and down claiming that the right way to change the Constitution is to pass an amendment. Well, that's what people here are trying to do. Pass an amendment in response to a court decision they disagree with. So what's wrong with that?

    (I actually don't care for this particular wording, but I do think campaign finance is a swamp that ought to be addressed.)

  • Sarcastr0||

    I mean, the amount you have to write to get from here to there shows how weak the paralell is - unless you read a lot into this Amendment, AND make some additional suppositions about implemntation AND our judiciary, no one against Citizens United is talking about shutting down newspapers except for in your own imagination.

    You are complaining that the lines are too vague and hard to define. Courts have proven pretty good at navigating when two principles are in tension like they are explicetly in that Amendment. Do you think it's impossible to distinguish between newspapers and making a donation to someone's SuperPAC/direct mailers calling one candidate the devil??

    You seem to realize the newspaper path isn't a slam dunk, because by the end you've switched from 'anti CU means anti newspapers' to arguing in the alternative that actually it's more a paralell to newspapers - that regulating people in the coroporate form's ability to influence elections is about like shutting down the NYT.

    In the end, that ridiculous attempt at a paralell that you started on is where you end up - that regulating coporate campaign finance donations is about like shutting down media you don't like.
    But in the end everyone can see that one's centrality to a free society is arguable and the other ain't. Hence all your words.

  • Sarcastr0||

    BTW, you were a little cagey about your thoughts on shutting down the NYT and CNN...I just want to get you on the record - you don't think that'd be a good or Constitutional thing to do, do you?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Above 2:30PM comment withdrawn in view of below.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I think it would not be a good or Constitutional thing to do unless they were shown to be guilty of the sort of crimes that would result in any corporation being shut down. No corporation is immune to being shut down for SOME reason, but they're all immune to being shut down for exercising freedom of the press.

    The key point here is that freedom of the press is everybody's freedom to use the printing press; The Constitution's "press" is an instrumentality, not an institution. That being the case, there's no constitutional basis for distinguishing this corporation that publishes from that corporation that publishes. Even if one of them styles themselves "the press", and the other does not, or maybe the government just disputes that title.

    The purpose of that amendment I quoted above was, expressly, to strip the 1st amendment's protection from Citizens United. Since there are no constitutionally relevant differences between a corporation like Citizens United, and a corporation like the New York Times, it stripped both or neither of protection.

    Of course, politicians aiming to strip the NYT of 1st amendment protection aren't going to come out and SAY that's what they're doing. But the censor's impulse does not distinguish between targets, it is motivated by the speech, not who uttered it.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    The Constitution's "press" is an instrumentality, not an institution.

    Keep repeating that. Volokh says it too, so it must be so, right? But, sorry, no. That is mistaken. Just wrong.

    The Constitution's press was explicitly the institutional press of the time. No fair reading of the historical record to the contrary is possible. That's why Volokh's elaborate, many-cited argument was almost bereft of any references to the founders themselves. If he had referenced them, and used not only their own statements, but also their extensive personal histories of involvement with, and strategic deployment of, the institutional press while organizing the founding of the nation, Volokh would have had to abandon his argument.

    What I don't understand is why Volokh joins hands with politics-of-resentment types in trying to strip the institutional press of constitutional protections which have served well both national political insight, and speech freedom generally. One possibility is that Volokh has no notion what an institutional press does that is any different than what an internet keyboard jockey does. And thus insists both classes must be protected alike.

    Volokh is almost right. Problem is, his argument strives to level the cases by stripping from the institutional press any right to do things which others do not do, and cannot do. That would deprive the nation of many of the benefits of institutional press freedom.

  • D-Pizzle||

    "The Constitution's press was explicitly the institutional press of the time. No fair reading of the historical record to the contrary is possible."

    Even if your contention is correct (which it is not, as there were other types of "press" other than the newspapers of the time, such as pamphleteers, to whom "the press" provision clearly, by a proper reading of the historical record, applied) that the freedom of speech is applied to communications made by all other entities other than what we now consider to be commercial news organizations; by the rules of statutory construction, the Constitution does not place the freedom of one over the freedom of the other. That speech and press are separated by a comma, rather than a semicolon, means that freedom of the press was placed on exactly the same footing as freedom of speech, not above it.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "He's trying to equate Citizens United with censoring newspapers."

    And everybody knows Citizens United is about censoring films, not newspapers.

  • bernard11||

    the press decide to become an unpaid PR firm for the Democratic party.

    IOW, you don't like the facts (some of) the press reports. You prefer the lies coming from Trump and Fox News.

  • NToJ||

    23% of Republicans would not have even required "bad behavior" and would not have limited to presidential power. Instead they affirmatively said President Trump should close down mainstream news outlets like CNN, WaPo, NYT.

  • bernard11||

    "Some of the limits of public support for freedom of the press are made stark with a quarter of Americans (26%) saying they agree "the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior,""

    I suppose a lot hinges on the definition of "bad behavior". I suppose if the New York Times engaged in a conspiracy to bomb Manhattan it might be justified. Criminal conspiracy is criminal conspiracy even if engaged in by a newspaper.

    A few things you overlook here:

    1. It's 26% of the general public, but 43% of Republicans.

    2. The President does not have the power to punish criminal activity. No matter what the NYT, or its owners or editors, does the President can't, and should not be able to, shut them down on his own. Let's have investigations, trials, penalties prescribed by law, etc.

    3. That is an utterly ridiculous interpretation by you. I doubt that anyone would place that interpretation on "bad behavior." Certainly Trumpists think the media are guilty of it by not reporting as Trump would like. Your interpretation your basis for being uncertain Obama was actually born in Hawaii - a desperate attempt to find some justification for something you want to believe, but know is nonsense. Can you say "dissonance reduction?"

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I was trying to be absurd, pointing out the only sort of circumstances when shutting down a news outlet might be justified.

    I'm not trying to justify attacks on freedom of speech, freedom of the press. I'm actually quite disappointed in those poll results, for all that I can understand the psychological causation behind them. I'd prefer that my chosen political allies be more principled.

    But, who's trying to rationalize attacks on freedom of the press here? Why, it's Sarcastro, not me. I'm not trying to find an excuse to limit freedom of the press to officially designated "newspapers", or rationalize that it's not censorship if you just regulate spending money. I'm not the one trying to distinguish one group of people engaged in publishing from another, to the detriment of the rights of one of those groups.

    Citizens United is just as much entitled to exercise freedom of the Press as the New York Times, and while that amendment the Senate Democrats voted for was facially aimed at the former, not the latter, both were within the blast radius.

    And not by any accident, either. Intentionally.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Dude, I'm not attacking newspapers. You're needing to go through quite a few hoops to go from regulating campaign financing to newspapers.

    Also, as bernard11 pointed out above, you're not actually arguing against his thesis with this CU distraction anyhow. (Though props for conceding that your side was also bad before pivoting to attacking the left)

  • Lee Moore||

    You're needing to go through quite a few hoops to go from regulating campaign financing to newspapers

    Except that he's not. The amendment permits Congress to prohibit spending "to influence elections" by any non natural persons. That would cover - if Congress chose - any coverage of any election or campaign, any candidate or potential candidate for election, any story likely to have a political impact, any court case on a politically controversial subject, exhortation to register or to vote.

    It might be that some news organisation might grow up whose apolitical bones were so widely accepted that the great part of the populace would accept that its editorial judgements were never intended "to influence elections." But as for the current lot, half the population thinks Fox is nothing but a GOP propaganda arm, and the other half think the same, mutatis mutandis, of the rest of the media. Well actually a bit more than half in both cases, as some folk think they're all propaganda shops.

  • Lee Moore||

    I might add that the amendment does not limit itself to expenditure devoted solely to inflencing elections. So pretty much your whole overhead base is exposed to Congressional regulation.

  • Rossami||

    On the contrary, he's not going through any hoops at all. It is an inevitable consequence of the exact wording of the proposed amendment. Your attempt to save the amendment, on the other hand, depends entirely on discretion and grace in deciding whose speech is "worthy" of protection and whose should be regulated.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    This is not about campaign financing!

    We're discussing "independent expenditures here.

    Characterizing attacks on independent expenditures, people paying to have their own speech heard, as just "campaign financing" regulations, is just a way of smuggling censorship of political speech in under the cover of regulating donations.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "Dude, I'm not attacking newspapers. You're needing to go through quite a few hoops to go from regulating campaign financing to newspapers."

    Yup. Kagan swore that the the government only wanted to censor pamphlets, not books or newspapers.

  • Sarcastr0||

    So if you're unwilling to make any kind of distinction, do you think ANY campaign finance laws are Constitutional, TiP?

  • Lee Moore||

    if you're unwilling to make any kind of distinction, do you think ANY campaign finance laws are Constitutional

    That's a legal question relying on a ton of encrusted precedent. The question we were discussing is whether the constitution, as duly amended, ought to make a distinction between political expenditure by non natural persons engaged in publishing businesses, and other non natural persons.

    I can see that if I favored a political party that had the overwhelming support of the current crop of non natural persons engaged in publishing businesses, I might be tempted to argue for such a distinction. But I would know that the argument was utterly self serving.

    If there are arguments for campaign finance regulation they boil down to (a) minimizing corruption and (b) preventing the rich and powerful having undue influence on elections.

    (a) requires nothing more complicated than disclosure.

    (b) is not served by allowing the rich and powerful to control publishing businesses while insisting that if the little people band together to make their views heard at election time, they're committing an offense.

    I should say that I do not regard (b) as a serious issue anyway, since there are plenty of billionaires willing to spend silly money to influence elections in all directions and even if one of them chose to spend a whole billion, he would have far less influence than a single TV network.

  • Sarcastr0||

    You're the first one to argue the policy merits; everyone else is arguing that there is no distinction constitutionally.

    I'll get more into it the next time this comes around, but your a) is not supported by modern events, and your b) ignores the forest for the trees.
    Plus, indicating that anyone that's for campaign finance reform is only doing so because newspapers are liberals is kinda ignoring the elephant on the other side of that argument.

  • bernard11||

    I was trying to be absurd, pointing out the only sort of circumstances when shutting down a news outlet might be justified.

    Shutting down by who, Brett, and by what procedure?

    Part of my response was that even in the absurd case you posit the President shouldn't be able to shut down a paper. How do you envision a statute, which does not now exist, working?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    The President IS the executive branch, everybody in it besides him is exercising delegated authority. So if the executive branch is doing it, it's the President, if only indirectly.

    And there are plenty of laws that can authorize the President to shut down corporations. Leaving aside national security over-reaches, RICO would serve. Plenty of laws would suffice, given a good case that the law had been violated. My point was just that media corporations are just as subject to adverse legal and regulatory proceedings as any other corporation, just not on the basis of their publishing.

    I did, after all, suggest a scenario where a newspaper was engaged in a conspiracy to commit mass murder, as a situation under which one could be shut down.

    And I'm even setting aside abusive regulatory actions, like we saw with Operation Choke Point, or which Cuomo is currently using to force NY based corporations to deny the NRA financial services. Since I was only making a point about what's legal. Not what a criminal executive would be capable of.

  • bernard11||


    (a) requires nothing more complicated than disclosure.

    Not complicated, I agree, but nonetheless fiercely opposed by corporations and the SEC.

    As of today there are no meaningful disclosure requirements, and shareholder resolutions asking for disclosure of political contributions are usually vigorously opposed by corporate management.

  • Lee Moore||

    The fact that it's not complicated* to require disclosure of contributions by corporations, doesn't mean that it's in the interests of corporations to disclose - and not merely to conceal bribery. Who wants a band of smelly violent Antifa on their doorstep ? Who wants the IRS or the DoJ antitrust division the to be sicced on them by the side they don't support ?

    The question of whether corruption is a serious enough problem to need solving by mandated disclosure is a perfectly proper one for political discussion. But it's by no means a slam dunk either way.

    * though there are obviously some difficult areas of detail. Lobbying jobs or a seat on the board when you've left Congress. Book deals, speaking fees etc.

  • Jason NYC||

    You are ignorant. This blog has been consistently free speech, and has repeatedly called out President Trump on his behavior. The complaint here is that Nancy Maclean has been grossly negligent in getting her facts and citations right (often citing something that says the exact opposite of what she claims). Given your comment, it would appear that you suffer from a similar affliction.

  • Angammus||

    Maybe she'd take your offer more seriously if you bothered to try to get her name right, Prof. Alder.

  • PublicNameNotInUse||

    Or if her book were a scholarly work, as opposed to rabble rousing.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    In an unusual departure, a VC blogger cites an accomplished academic historian (Rakove) during discussion of an historical topic. In more-usual fashion, the citation is cherry picked to imply more support for the libertarian position than the cited review supplies. Use the link—Adler at least provided it, so credit there—and see what Rakove actually said in full context. Despite Rakove's cautions about methods, his review is not the evisceration of Democracy in Chains which libertarians would have preferred.

  • NToJ||

    It's truly a glowing review:

    Had MacLean prepared a better intellectual history, she would have done more, even by way of a survey, to convey the diversity and complexity of these approaches....

    Somehow the idea that they can be rooted in the academic writings of James Buchanan remains a curious and highly problematic explanation.

    It's not an evisceration because he doesn't attempt it:

    Serious charges about her misuse of sources have already been made, which I will not discuss because they lie beyond my scholarly competence and knowledge.

  • Sarcastr0||

    She has not conducted herself well in the partisan arena.

    But this frantic and tiresome full-court press from the Conspiracy is also not acquitting itself well.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    What's you're beef with the VC's response? Have they gotten any of their criticisms wrong, or do you think they should have simply written fewer posts critical of MacLean?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Some criticisms seem well placed; others have been overly pedantic, making mountains out of molehills. Others are inconsistent in the standards they apply. And some are just partisan barbs.

    But yeah, my main issue is the amount of collective effort over time being spent here. I can't decide whether it's preaching to the choir or kicking somene when they're down, but either way it doesn't seem to me to be accomlishing anything for anyone.

    Of course, I get what I pay for.

  • MonitorsMost||

    I will second this from the non-politically connected libertarian side. One of the initial posts with a link to the review about taking quotes out of context seemed to be well-taken. I've also seen Professor MacLean on Bill Maher and concluded that she is a hyper-partisan bore. But even with no love lost, I'm perplexed by the amount of ink spilled her on her. Liberal professor writes biased biography that is critical of liberatarianism, news at 11:00. Who the hell cares?

  • Mr. Hook||

    Precisely. For people who ardently claim that they aren't beholden to the Kochs in any way and that their many, many, many, many posts (here and on other blogs and message board) aren't part of an organized counterattack against MacLean, their persistence and outrage suggests otherwise. It's a mediocre book but the attenton that people like Bernstein have paid has elevated its significance beyond its own merits. If anything, it pushes me in the direction that MacLean is on the right track.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Heck, I've got nothing against people writing biased books that are critical of libertarianism. I've got some in my library.

    I've got a serious problem with professional historians writing fraudulent books, period, full stop. That sort of thing needs to be curb stomped with hobnailed boots whenever it's encountered, lest it become the norm.

    And we know the historian profession won't spontaneously self-correct, they didn't pull Belesilles' award until the fuss became public outside their own community. It was already a known fraud when it got the award in the first place.

  • bernard11||

    And how do you fell about John "The dog ate my data" Lott?

  • Sarcastr0||

    If these Conspirators thought the book's issues rose to the point of fraudulent, I think they'd be doing more than carping on an Internet political forum. Because this is not hobnailed boots, it's more like nerf bats.

    This is a partisan fight, neither side has covered themselves in glory, you've picked the side you always pick, and I just hope everyone gets tired soon.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    This is a partisan fight

    Right vs. left, with libertarians caught in the crossfire.

  • David Bernstein||

    I'm happy to describe the book's basic thesis, which is that Buchanan, a Calhounite, was one of many libertarians exercised over the Supreme Court's ruling Brown, led him to invent public choice theory, which in turn, as perhaps the leading libertarian of the day, provided the Kochs with the "intellectual software" to try to dismantle democracy, as fraudulent. There is no evidence that Buchanan was exercised over Brown, negative evidence that he was influenced by Calhoun, negative evidence that either factor led him to public choice, negative evidence that he was particularly influential in libertarian circles, little to no evidence that Brown played any significant role in libertarian activism or thought, and little to no evidence that Buchanan had any special influence on the Kochs. Plus MacLean's understanding of democracy is incoherent, ultimately amounting to "if I like the outcome, it's democratic."

    That said, exactly what would you have us do? Others have published serious academic takedowns of the book. Phil Magness has compiled a list, with page numbers and sources, of dozens of errors in the book ranging from minor to very serious.

    So far, the response from the academic community has been to have Professor MacLean as a featured speaker at the most recent AAUP conference. It's not like there is some central Ministry of Historical Competence and Integrity we can appeal to.

  • Sarcastr0||

    exactly what would you have us do?

    Move on.
    At some point tilting at windmills loses it's utility and you just look Quixotic.

    It is indeed true that like most subcultures, academia is more inclusive than it should be. This is particularly sad given the rhetoric of academia and how that effect works to subvert it's own truth-seeking procesees.
    Luckily, in this case, there do seem to be a likemanded guy working within the system working to give your point of view it's proper shrift. The fact that there isn't instant satisfaction is how the system is designed, and not license to just continue to bang away for the sake of frustration or symbolism.

    To me, it looks like you are bringing a partisan/legal paradigm to an academic arena. Granted, this lady has already lost, and lost hard, on the partisan side of things. But your expectations are misaligned for engaging stuffy academics, and your continued prodding is no longer useful in either arena.

  • David Bernstein||

    Ah, but she hasn't lost. She's being treated as a guru on the "popular" left, is giving academic presentations before adoring audiences, is being given honors and awards by the likes of the AAUP, and is starting to get cited in legitimate academic literature by folks who assume that a book by a prominent historian is presumptively accurate. Now I admit that any objective observer who has followed this controversy would think she's lost, given that her book's accuracy has been taken apart and she has had no substantive response, but the real world of academia and politics 2018 isn't nearly as interested in objectivity as one would hope.

  • David Nieporent||

    Who the hell cares?

    You should demand your money back from Prof. Volokh.

  • MonitorsMost||

    Nope. I love this site, there is truly nothing else like it out there. But I'm not a sycophant either. And if the site is going to allow commentary from readers, I'm going to provide it.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Too much of the VC criticism has been in the form, "Our ideology is right as a matter of fact. She doesn't agree with our ideology, therefore she is wrong on the facts."

    Plus, nothing in the VC criticism convinced me that any of the VC critics actually gave the book a thorough reading, with attention as well to the notes. Either that, or some of the criticisms are deliberately ignoring stuff MacLean seems to have proved from sources, including from Buchanan's own papers.

    As previously, I join others in deploring the unconventional approach to citation MacClean used in the book, and also caution that key assertions are at best ambiguously supported in some instances—but not in every instance.

  • David Bernstein||

    If you are still here Stephen, I challenge you to present any example of this from any of us: "Our ideology is right as a matter of fact. She doesn't agree with our ideology, therefore she is wrong on the facts."

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "especially for anyone who has never read Ayn Rand and is free from libertarian leanings or radical-right credentials."

    Reminds me of Knoll's Law of Media Accuracy: "Everything you read in the newspapers is absolutely true — except for the rare story of which you happen to have firsthand knowledge."

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Who needs mainstream newspapers when we have Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, Trump administration mouthpieces, and polemical right-wing blogs?

  • PublicNameNotInUse||

    Or MSNBC. Or Nancy McLean. Or Slate. Or Rolling Stone. Or you. But don't worry. Being unafraid to be an overtly unthinking bigot puts you in the mainstream and will serve you well. Assuming your main goal in life is to please the masses who repeat the same talking points.

  • Mr. Hook||

    "Perhaps that failure to address serious charges of false and misleading claims and misuse of sources is itself worth pondering."

    Perhaps. Or perhaps the reputation of VC members amongst non-libertarian scholars isn't sufficient to merit serious response. All kinds of stuff to ponder!

  • PublicNameNotInUse||

    Which still wouldn't be a cogent argument even if the peer review criticism only came from this source.

  • ||

    Yet her questions remain important and well worth pondering

    "Did you beat your wife?"

  • PublicNameNotInUse||

    "and one suspects that MacLean will have to make a more concerted effort to justify her argument"

    Only if one suspected that Maclean was interested in justifying her argument. Or indeed, sees it as such as opposed to nothing more than rabble rousing.

  • Sarcastr0||

    I do love the old "engage me, or else I'll assume you're arguing in bad faith!!" Internet classic.

  • gormadoc||

    Her first response was to claim that she was the target of a new Koch conspiracy. It's not really an assumption of bad faith when the immediate response was to double down on the old claims without any evidence and start claiming victimhood without evidence.

    You wouldn't give Alex Jones as much benefit of the doubt as you give MacLean.

  • Sarcastr0||

    She's certainly not well equipped for partisan battle, that's for sure.

    I'm not sure her failure in that arena means she's lying (or reckless about the truth) in her book, though.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Granted, we can't rule out that she's delusional.

  • David Bernstein||

    Actually, the normal way things work in academia is, in fact, that if other scholars have questioned the reliability/validity/sourcing/credibility of your work, you respond by rebutting their claims, not by making up a conspiracy theory about how "Koch operatives" are coordinating an attack on your work, a conspiracy you later acknowledge you made up.

  • Bill_Drissel||

    > nor have etierh offered a substnative response elsewhere.

    I strongly recommend you use a spell checker.
    Bill Drissel
    Frisco, TX


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