Monday, April 16, 2018

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

The New York Times
by Nancy MacLean

Earlier this year, when the Republican pollster Glen Bolger sat down with Donald Trump voters who had previously voted for Barack Obama, one Wisconsinite summed up his reason for favoring Trump this time around: “I think they all lie, but Trump was more — is more obvious.” This statement presents quite a puzzle. Why would any voter think that being a known liar is an asset?

Insight into this conundrum comes from an unlikely source, the life’s work of the economist James McGill Buchanan — who happens to be the subject of a new book, “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America,” by the historian Nancy MacLean. Buchanan, who was born in 1919 and died in 2013, advanced the field of public choice economics into politics, arguing that all interest groups push for their own agenda rather than the public good. According to this view, governing institutions cannot be trusted, which is why governing should be left to the market.

In the United States, promising and then delivering services and protections for the majority of voters provides a path for politicians to be popularly elected. Buchanan was concerned that this would lead to overinvestment in public services, as the majority would be all too willing to tax the wealthy minority to support these programs. So Buchanan came to a radical conclusion: Majority rule was an economic problem. “Despotism,” he declared in his 1975 book “The Limits of Liberty,” “may be the only organizational alternative to the political structure that we observe.” Continue reading at The New York Times

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