I am so far behind on CBR reviews! So, I’m gonna try and get back in the game with this book that I finished just after Christmas 2018.
I should probably say up front that if you aren’t into US politics, this probably isn’t for you. But, if you’d like a good historical view of the present-day GOP party and how we got here, well, dive into this one. You won’t be sorry.
Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean is an in-depth examination of the early right-wing Libertarian movement as proposed by James McGill Buchanan, an economist at the University of Virginia. His earliest forays into politics had him deeply involved in the movement to keep public schools segregated, by introducing the concept of school choice, rather than face accusations of racism inherent in their ideals.
While at the University of Chicago, he established his economic theory—it won a Nobel Prize btw—which enumerates the idea of “makers” versus “takers,” essentially saying that the “tyranny of the majority” would destroy the US economy and government out of self-interest, and insinuating that only educated, wealthy, white men have the intelligence to run a country. He believed that “majority rule was an economic problem.”
Buchanan caught the eye of the Koch brothers in the 80s, and they deftly used his theories to craft their own political aspirations for destroying big government in favour of Libertarian-leaning Capitalism, that is, government should favour corporate interests, and fund only federal defence spending and the military. Low, or no taxes, and no funding for public education, social security, welfare or healthcare is their mantra. Sound familiar?
McLean has been harassed quite a bit by the radical right over this book, which tells me she’s shown them for who they are. It’s an accessible and fascinating read, and puts a lot of framing around how we got to where we are now, and why, above all else, the GOP wants to stack the courts with Federalist Society-approved judges. They’ve been playing a long game. We’re fools to ignore it.