A nation of slaves
July 10, 2018 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Who's the man behind the curtain of the Capitalist Subjugation Machine? The ideas of obscure ultra-capitalist James McGill Buchanan are driving America's shift to cutting off and subjugating anyone who's not in the One Percent.
posted by Beethoven's Sith (17 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
The wikipedia article on Buchanan put Mclean's perspective into some greater context.
posted by Agent_X_ at 8:04 AM on July 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

posted by PhineasGage at 8:09 AM on July 10, 2018

It’s worth pointing out that Nancy Mclean’s book has been subject to a great deal of criticism. Some of this comes from libertarians, of course, who can be expected to defend their guy. But even some non-libertarians have argued that Mclean has let her scholerly standards slip.
posted by HoraceH at 8:12 AM on July 10, 2018 [6 favorites]

I think there are real questions about Buchanan (although he seemed a nice enough guy when I met him) but this stuff is just ridiculous.
posted by hawthorne at 9:21 AM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

MacLean observes that Buchanan saw society as a cutthroat realm of makers (entrepreneurs) constantly under siege by takers (everybody else) His own language was often more stark, warning the alleged “prey” of “parasites” and “predators” out to fleece them.

This is the kind of thing that puts me in a fever dream of kidnapping such a person and forcing them to watch as I burn all their wealth to the ground so it is nothing but ashes, then stare them wild eyed in the face explaining how I give no shits about their wealth, but rather the disreputable ideas which they spread to harm others because they are projecting their own fucked up view of the world as reality, and telling others their fucking fantasy is true.

I'd burn down the wealth of every single fucking fanatic like that, to prove it. Fucking burn everything they own down and salt the fucking earth where it stood.

How's that for romanticism, you evil fucking bastard?
posted by deadaluspark at 9:45 AM on July 10, 2018 [41 favorites]

This book frustrated me because it points out some important figures and currents, but ties them together in what I think are overreaches.
posted by Typhoon Jim at 10:20 AM on July 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Buchanan, in contrast, insisted that people were primarily driven by venal self-interest. Crediting people with altruism or a desire to serve others was “romantic” fantasy: politicians and government workers were out for themselves, and so, for that matter, were teachers, doctors, and civil rights activists.

I usually translate that sort of thing as "I myself am driven by venal self-interest, and am incapable of empathy or altruism, therefore everybody else must be too."
posted by curiousgene at 10:44 AM on July 10, 2018 [35 favorites]

Mclean had a lot to say about her critics not disclosing their relationships with some of Koch-funded think tanks. She's done a good job bringing awareness of Buchanan out into the open -- or rather, her publicist has done a damn good job. I think she's popped up in every left-leaning pod and publication that I subscribe to over the past few months: International Socialist Review, Dissent, The Nation and so forth.
posted by daHIFI at 11:49 AM on July 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

MacLean observes that the Virginia school, as Buchanan’s brand of economic and political thinking is known, is a kind of cousin to the better-known, market-oriented Chicago and Austrian schools....The Virginia school also differs from other economic schools in a marked reliance on abstract theory rather than mathematics or empirical evidence.

That doesn't really sound different than the Austrian School.
posted by kewb at 11:53 AM on July 10, 2018 [6 favorites]

There are two broad proto-ideological camps among Earthlings:
  1. One believes that the human tendency to create dominance hierarchies leads to social dysfunction, oppression, and suffering, that this tendency is largely artificial and culturally malleable, and that, therefore, a better world can be achieved by the creative, collaborative efforts of humanity.
  2. The other believes that dominance hierarchies are natural, unavoidable, and highly functional, that they arise legitimately according to individual skill and virtue, and that, therefore, thinking otherwise will lead to utter chaos and mysery.
I'm of the view that the bulk of post-agricultural human history has been a gigantic experiment testing the beliefs of group 2, the empirical results of which have been the prime motivation for the world view of group 1. Nevertheless, group 2 insists that we continue the experiment. It consistently and persistently sets about undermining every effort and every experiment of group 1, like a malicious 19th century wagon-builder setting out to prove that cars can't work by blocking the use of tires or paved roads. Their aim is to ensure that the adherents of group 2 can never be proven wrong and, hence, that they will never lose their hierarchical wealth and privilege. I realize that some in group 2 say something very similar, simply swapping the group membership of the wagon-maker: essentially, Buchanan, Friedman, Hayek et al. were celebrated group-2-ers who said precisely this. But I would humbly submit (or stubbornly insist) that an honest reading of the historical record doesn't support their version of the story.

I'm some sort of anti-capitalist (at least, as it is currently conceived), but, let's be honest, the problem predates the ruminations of political economists after Adam Smith. It's likely a deep feature of human (primate) social psychology and, so, is probably pan-historical. MacLean vs. Buchanan is merely the latest iteration of the debate. As usual, the adherents of group 2 come to the battle with far more resources and directed force.
posted by mondo dentro at 12:00 PM on July 10, 2018 [30 favorites]

HoraceH’s Vox article makes him seem like a callous practitioner of the dismal science, while the Institute for New Economic Thinking piece draws him as a brimstone-mouthed demon. That makes for a ripping read if ya wanna preach to the choir, but hands his defenders a way to dismiss valid criticism of his ideas… “oh it’s just rage porn”.

(He’s still a dreadful fellow)
posted by Haere at 12:04 PM on July 10, 2018

Mclean's book has been heavily criticized for, among other things, containing seemingly-intentional misquotations which invert the meaning from the original texts it claims to reference. I do not think that it is trustworthy, and I would suggest strongly that anyone consult other sources before breaking out the pitchforks with regard to Buchanan.

If you do not like Libertarian political philosophy that is certainly fine, but there are much bigger fish in that particular pond to fry than Buchanan. Creating some sort of conspiracy theory is unnecessary. The Koch family is right there if you are looking for villains; they're not even subtle.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:14 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Here are more reviews I've seen lately, from The Atlantic, The Nation, and Jacobin.
posted by daHIFI at 12:20 PM on July 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Koch, whose mission was to save capitalists like himself from democracy....

I need to remember this phrase.
posted by overhauser at 2:36 PM on July 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Previously: The philosophy behind the throne.
posted by adamvasco at 2:49 PM on July 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Broadly speaking left leaning historians have done a great job moving away from the idea that history always pivots around key individuals who determine our course. They realize you if something important happens it doesn't mean there was some dead white male responsible and insightful history means identifying which dead white male. Broadly speaking.

I'm middle aged and for my entire life the people who *appear* to be running the country--the rich and powerful--are the people who have been running the country.
posted by mark k at 9:20 PM on July 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

posted by Increase at 6:33 PM on July 11, 2018

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