An explosive exposé of the man and the ideas behind the well-heeled right's relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatise public education, and curb democratic majority rule.
Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over US government is a secretive political establishment with deep and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. This book names its true architect — Nobel Prize–winning political economist James McGill Buchanan — and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.??
In a brilliant, engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how these ideas were forged in a last-gasp attempt to preserve the white elite's power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. By recasting the era's legal and social-movement successes, Buchanan developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the majority's ability to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.?? Corporate donors and their right-wing foundations were eager to support Buchanan's work in teaching others how to divide America into ‘makers’ and ‘takers'. And when a multibillionaire on a messianic mission, Charles Koch, discovered Buchanan, he created a vast, relentless, and multi-armed machine to carry out Buchanan's strategy.
Based on ten years of research, this revelatory work tells a chilling story of right-wing academics and big money run amok, and is a call to arms to protect the achievements of twentieth-century American self-government.
About the Author
Nancy MacLean is the award-winning author of Behind the Mask of Chivalry (a New York Times ‘noteworthy’ book of the year) and Freedom is Not Enough, which was called by the Chicago Tribune ‘contemporary history at its best.’ The William Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, she lives in Durham, North Carolina.
'It’s happening: the subversion of our democratic system from within. How did the political right do it? Nancy MacLean tells the long-overlooked story of the political economist who developed the playbook for the Koch brothers. James McGill Buchanan merged states rights’ thinking with free market principles and helped to fashion the inherently elitist ideology of today’s Republican Party. Professor MacLean’s meticulous research and shrewd insights make this a must-read for all who believe in government ‘by the people.'
- Nancy Isenberg, author of White Trash: the 400-year untold history of class in America
'How did we get to where we are today? How did corporations come to possess "rights?" How did democracy come to be defined as selfish individualism? Or money as free speech? Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains provides the answers. It is essential reading in order to understand the ideas that billionaires use to justify their control of our political institutions. I can’t imagine a more timely or urgent book.'
- Greg Grandin, author of Fordlandia (finalist for the Pulitzer Prize) and The Empire of Necessity (winner of the Bancroft Prize)