Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America

An explosive exposé of the right’s relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, and change the Constitution."Perhaps the best explanation to date of the roots of the political divide that threatens to irrevocably alter American government.”—Booklist (starred review)Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over our government...

Title:Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1101980966
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:400 pages

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America Reviews

  • Carla Bayha
    Apr 01, 2017

    Radical right, conservative Republican, Freedom Caucus, Libertarian--we need new names. These groups have nothing to do with Lincoln or Eisenhower. Charles Koch and his billionaire friends, and the politicians, judges, "think" tanks masquerading as non profits, and the law schools and university economic departments that they have bought, want to destroy our democracy and our safety nets in favor of free markets that are tilted in their favor. The end game is eliminating social security, medicar

    Radical right, conservative Republican, Freedom Caucus, Libertarian--we need new names. These groups have nothing to do with Lincoln or Eisenhower. Charles Koch and his billionaire friends, and the politicians, judges, "think" tanks masquerading as non profits, and the law schools and university economic departments that they have bought, want to destroy our democracy and our safety nets in favor of free markets that are tilted in their favor. The end game is eliminating social security, medicare and medicaid, unions, public transportation, public education, feminism (women have more "socialistic" tendencies) and the right to vote for the unpropertied. Their strategies include: surrogates who repeat known falsehoods until TV and Internet audiences forget if they are false or not (e.g. climate change is not caused by fossil fuels): creating false uncertainty about the viability of solvent social programs (e.g. Medicare, Affordable Health Care Act, public education) and pretending cutbacks are needed to "save" these programs; privatization of all state owned property and any safety net programs that they cannot just eliminate; control of state governments and gerrymandering to roll back voters rights protections and keep poorer people who don't "pay their way" out of the decision-making process; control of the judiciary at all levels. Or as their leading guru, James McGill Buchanan put it, not changing who rules but changing the rules. If you want to take a look at how well this will work for you, check out the economies of Chile and Russia--Buchanan and his followers advised both Pinochet and Yeltsin. This is a very disturbing book which deserves tremendous press coverage when it comes out. As a bookseller, I read an advance review copy. It kept me up at night.

  • Trish
    Jun 02, 2017

    Many publishers claim “explosive new content” for their nonfiction but in this case it is not hyperbole. This political history of the Radical Right is a worthy companion to Jane Mayer’s

    . It reveals what Mayer did not: what on earth were the Radical Rich thinking?

    This is the book we’ve been waiting for—a book which explains the philosophical underpinnings of the Radical Right and the scope and direction of their plan for political and economic control. For years I have struggled to un

    Many publishers claim “explosive new content” for their nonfiction but in this case it is not hyperbole. This political history of the Radical Right is a worthy companion to Jane Mayer’s

    . It reveals what Mayer did not: what on earth were the Radical Rich thinking?

    This is the book we’ve been waiting for—a book which explains the philosophical underpinnings of the Radical Right and the scope and direction of their plan for political and economic control. For years I have struggled to understand how they could imagine a small group of people should be more privileged than the majority, but now I get it. The Radical Right has divided human beings into makers and takers, “makers” being those who own the means of production (and pay taxes) and “takers” being those who do not. For some reason I still don’t understand, they have concluded that the superrich fit the first category and the bulk of the economy’s workers fit the second. Which, as we all know, is a logical fallacy in today’s America.

    Though sometimes it may appear the Radical Right are inarticulate because they never seem to explain what they are aiming at, they apparently wanted to keep their philosophy and intent quiet, to work in secrecy. This is because most people in our democracy would oppose their thinking. The Radical Rich freely acknowledge this. The Right believes that the majority in a democracy can coerce individuals to pay for things the minority do not want to pay for, like public schools, health care, welfare programs, jails, infrastructure. The Right believe they should be free to do as they choose, and services should be privatized. The market will take care of any climate change-related environmental controls that the majority might wish businesses to adopt. The Right’s view of an efficient business and political environment might look like the early 20th Century when oligarchs roamed the earth.

    It sounds bizarre, I know. The Right knew we would react this way, which is why they have been unable to say what they were thinking straight out, but instead made common cause with the Republican Party, and the Religious Right, cannibalizing both and only leading those two groups to their own demise. An important piece of their thinking is that only the national government has enough clout to stop them from dominance, which is why they are so insistent on weakening the central government and passing “power” to individual states, which of course would diffuse power.

    Things are so much clearer to me now. When the Black Lives Matter movement said opposition to President Obama was about race, they were right. Opposition to Obama was ginned up by this group, who spread rumors and undermined his attempts to compromise by refusing cooperation. The genesis of the thinking in this far right group has its roots in slavery.

    The roots of Radical Rich thinking goes back to John C. Calhoun, slave holder intent upon “preserving liberty” [of the elite], and keeping the demands of the many off his “property.” Up until the 1960’s, the majority of wealth in this country was in the South, leftover generational wealth from slave-holding days now invested in tobacco, cotton, energy products like oil and coal, etc... MacLean calls it “race-based hyper-exploitative regional political economy…one based first on chattel slavery and later on disenfranchised low-wage labor, racial segregation, and a starved public sector.”

    It is fascinating to hear how Nancy MacLean, investigating a tangential issue to those she explores in this book, came upon the personal papers and writings of Nobel Prize winner James M. Buchanan (October 3, 1919 – January 9, 2013) at George Mason University in Virginia, which included private letters between Buchanan and Charles Koch. The letters illuminated the train of thought of both men, including their insistence that their thinking be kept secret lest people object to their belief that democracy would ruin capitalism and their right to rule. Eventually the two men diverged in thought and Koch sidelined Buchanan decisively.

    At last I can understand why the Republicans would put forth a health care plan that actually harmed people. It bothered me that I didn’t understand, but I do now. I wonder if in twenty years this book will be named as one of the critical works which broke the hold of the Radical Right by disseminating notice of their goals to a broad base of Americans. I struggled to understand why this group of individuals, which include Mike 
Pence, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Mitch McConnell, and a host of others, oppose government-subsidized affordable college education, corporate and personal taxes, environmental protections, and state-subsidized drug rehab programs. They actually believe the majority of the American people are stealing their wealth.

    Of course there is room in the world for people with fundamentally different ideas about what man is. But there may not be enough room for these thoughts together in one nation. They can go off to live by themselves if they wish, on an island somewhere outside a country founded on the principle of “by the people for the people.” But, you know, without our willing slavery, they are just old men stashing meaningless bits of paper. They can’t even eat without our labor. They can’t live in all the houses they own. They can’t get where they are going without us. They can’t even dress themselves without us. No, in order for them to win we must agree to be ruled by them, and we don’t.

    You will want to preorder this book and read it immediately. I understand now why there was no buzz about this. Remember when Jane Mayer was asked in an interview1 if she was afraid to criticize the secretive Koch brothers because they were so powerful? MacLean, I am quite sure, has to be extremely careful until this became public. The audio is excellent, read by Bernadette Dunn, produced by Penguin Audio. The audio file is about 11 hours, and it is completely enthralling. Now I can tell a conservative from someone indoctrinated by Koch. I can see the strategy.

    1Pamela Paul’s January 24, 2016 podcast for NYTimes Book Review

  • Pedro Jorge
    Jun 20, 2017

    Just don't trust this book...

    Here's Michael Munger's essay on this book:

    Here's Daniel Mitchell's very lucid review of the book:

    And here's another one, by David Henderson, showing the author's talent for character distortion:

    Also, David Gordon at the Mises Institute:

  • Abraham Arslan
    Jun 26, 2017

    A textbook case of intellectual dishonesty. MacLean has distorted arguments of J. Buchanan and Tyler Cowen. The mediocrity, carelessness and outright lies of MacLean has few parallels in Left. The oversimplification, distortion, and misrepresentation that is this book, demonstrates either the rapt stupidity or intentional malfeasance of the author.

    I would've rated this book negative if I could.

  • Carl
    Jun 29, 2017

    Worst book I've read in ages. So completely filled with inaccuracies, misquotations and mischaracterizations that it can't possibly be accidental. Nothing but purposeful and untruthful character assassination.

  • Nathan Byrd
    Jun 27, 2017

    For those considering buying, take some time to read these critiques (as well as the author's response in the first one) before making that decision:

    [Edited to add]:

    For those who don't give credibility to any libertarian who objects, read this one first:

    It shouldn't matter who is giving a critique if the critique is valid, but for those who can't see it that way, this may help clarify what's going on.

    [/End of edit]

    Russ Roberts - Nancy MacLean Owes Tyler Co

    For those considering buying, take some time to read these critiques (as well as the author's response in the first one) before making that decision:

    [Edited to add]:

    For those who don't give credibility to any libertarian who objects, read this one first:

    It shouldn't matter who is giving a critique if the critique is valid, but for those who can't see it that way, this may help clarify what's going on.

    [/End of edit]

    Russ Roberts - Nancy MacLean Owes Tyler Cowen an Apology (author responds at bottom)

    David Henderson - Nancy MacLean's Distortion of James Buchanan's Statement

    Phillip W. Magness - How Nancy MacLean went whistlin’ Dixie

    Greg Weiner - Six Degrees of James Buchanan

  • Scot
    Jun 29, 2017

    This is the most enlightening political book I've read since The New Jim Crow. It's a great historical analysis of how we've reached the brink of embracing oligarchy.

  • Ryan Hazen
    Jul 04, 2017

    A general rule of thumb when dealing with political literature is that if the title contains words like evil, radical, destruction, stealth, or other emotionally charged language... than chances are you're reading clickbait that looks to make money by pandering to a certain group.

    Normally, these works are written (or ghost written) by pundits/commentators who are known for being partisan hacks that make a living by telling like minded individuals what to think and what to be outraged over. Basi

    A general rule of thumb when dealing with political literature is that if the title contains words like evil, radical, destruction, stealth, or other emotionally charged language... than chances are you're reading clickbait that looks to make money by pandering to a certain group.

    Normally, these works are written (or ghost written) by pundits/commentators who are known for being partisan hacks that make a living by telling like minded individuals what to think and what to be outraged over. Basically, the Al Frankens and Sean Hannities of the world. Yet, the fact that this book is written by someone whom many would consider to be an actual historian gives off the impression that this book is meant to be taken seriously.

    A good chunk of the book is spent trying to convince the reader that John C. Calhoun is somehow the inspiration for the modern day libertarian movement. For those familiar with the libertarian philosophy, this comes as a quite a surprise given how Calhoun didn't believe in individual rights for all and was not particularly fond of capitalism. Furthermore, quite literally no libertarians cite nor accept Calhoun as contributor to the movement. If you're going to look at early American, political thinkers that are cited as influencing the movement than Jefferson, Madison, and Coolidge would be some of the more logical choices.

    However, those individuals don't have the modern political baggage when associated with a movement, so Calhoun has been resurrected from dead as a libertarian. The "logic" then goes:

    1. Slavery is evil and racist.

    2. Calhoun believed in slavery.

    3. Ergo, Calhoun is an evil racist.

    4. Calhoun is a libertarian.

    5. Ergo, libertarians are evil racists.

    The real kicker here is that even if Calhoun was the original libertarian... than so what? The progressives of the 1900s were lead Wilson (an unapologetic racist), FDR (the guy who put Japanese people in internment camps), and a bunch of intellectuals who thought that eugenics was a good idea before Hitler took it too far. These are historical facts, but that doesn't mean that they are reflected in the modern day progressives.

    The rest of the book contains the usual diatribes and talking points about the Koch Brothers, free markets, and think tanks. They aren't really worth writing about given how there isn't a single original thought when covering them.

    As for recommendations, if you're the kind of person who posts on social media five times a day about how you're a member of the "resistance," than this book is for you. If you the kind of person who is curious about various philosophical views and prefers nuanced discussions over ideological hackery, than you will want to pass on this book.

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