If there is one single book you should read in the run-up to the 2020 elections, it’s probably Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains.
Be prepared to be very, very angry, because MacLean, an historian and the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, documents the history, philosophy and details of the uber-wealthy, white plan to take over America. To permanently change our government to an oligarchy.
It’s an extraordinary claim. As the late Carl Sagan wrote, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Prof. MacLean delivers that extraordinary proof.
As MacLean carefully documents, the right-wing effort can be traced back to historical figures like John C. Calhoun, to Jim Crow and the segregationist South, but most of all to a relatively obscure economist and political scientist named James M. Buchanan. Deeply and profoundly racist, he led the movement to privatize Virginia’s schools to avoid desegregation. He zealously worked to destroy public education in the Commonwealth to preserve segregation.
But more than that, in echoes of Senator John C. Calhoun, he was utterly opposed to taxation – the “theft of property” – for the purposes of government. Buchanan became the intellectual underpinning of the capitalist radical far right. Phrases like “makers” and “takers,” and “rent seeking behavior” trace to Buchanan. He might have been just another libertarian nut job, if he hadn’t attracted the attention of Charles Koch, the elder Koch brother, who saw in Buchanan’s ideas the path to Koch’s vision for America.
Buchanan, who died in 2013, moved 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 Buchanan’s view, as a consequence governing institutions cannot be trusted, and therefore all governing should be left to the market.
Charles Koch and other ultra-wealthy individuals took that concept, the theories of James Buchanan and created what amounts to a fifth column in the United States. Contributions to elect Congress members? The money flowed like water. Co-opt the judiciary? A school for judges which has “educated” about two-thirds of the federal trial bench. Re-write statutes? ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Koch brothers-funded training ground and conservative legislation authoring service. Charles Koch’s money funded the “George Mason University” school of economics, which amounted to a poltical think tank. The Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the institute for Humane Studies — all part of the Kochtopus, marketing the ideas of James Buchanan.
It probably doesn’t need to be said, but Charles Koch is utterly opposed to any effort to mitigate the impact of fossil fuels. It’s not a coincidence, says MacLean, that the Trump Administration is hell-bent on overturning every effort to avert the climate crisis.
It’s all happened under our noses, and it all traces to Buchanan’s utterly self-centered ideas, which happened to fit Charles Koch’s opinions.
The goal is nothing less than amending the U.S. Constitution to carve into legal bedrock the ultra-conservative ideas of Buchanan. The goal was implemented in Chile, where Buchanan helped the usurping dictator, Augusto Pinochet, to alter Chile’s constitution to make it nearly impossible to undo the dictatorial authority created. Pinochet may be gone, but it has proven nearly impossible to oust or even limit the power of his supporters.
Even Donna Arduin, the overpaid budgetary hatchet woman that Alaska Governor Dunleavy made his budget director, has strong ties to the Kochtopus. She’s a name partner in a consulting firm with supply-side economics guru Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore, President Trump’s withdrawn pick to sit on the Federal Reserve Board. Moore is a past president of the Clubfor Growth, another innocuously named part of the Kochtopus.
It gives WC pause to say this, but there really is a conspiracy, a fifth column, active and highly influential in the American political body whose goal is to rewrite the U.S. Constitution to favor the ultra rich. It’s a cadre using fantastic amounts of money — Dark Money, to borrow Jane Mayer’s term — to permanently change the rules to favor the rich to the exclusion of all others. In recent years, ALEC-backed legislators have introduced more than 180 bills to restrict who can vote and how. It’s a level of interferene with the right to vote unseen since the Jim Crow South.
Read this book. It’s extraordinary proof of an extraordinary claim: that the rich are out to buy America.