Democracy in Chains


51U+dO7eJML._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_A few months ago, Donna suggested I read “Democracy in Chains” by Nancy MacLean, which turned out to be the best nonfiction I read all summer and a wonderful recommendation. It is an important and timely book to read especially when democracy is so blatantly under siege. MacLean chronicles the devolution of the Republican Party and its transformation from a conservative to a destructive force. The extreme right wing has been trying to usurp the party for decades and as documented in Mayer’s brilliant “Dark Money,” they have made amazing and terrifying progress toward achieving their goal of dismantling the state. Mayer does such a wonderful job of chronicling how the Koch brothers and fellow plutocrats use dark money to manipulate our institutions and attack democracy. MacLean fills in the background and provides an account of the intellectual history behind the Koch brothers actions.

Enter James Buchanan. This Nobel Prize winning economist did not trust democratic government as he worried popularly elected politicians would feel pressure to support social services safety nets for which the wealthy would be forced to pay though taxation. Buchanan devised economic arguments to protect the wealthy from the will of the people, even going so far as to push for despotism. He knew voters supported these programs, thus fighting them would have to be done surreptitiously. His goal was to reshape how people saw government and to create a powerful right wing movement. He understood the need to infiltrate universities — to educate a new conservative army that could go on to undermine legal, political, media, educational institutions. To do this, he needed funding and this is where the Koch brothers (and cronies) come into the story, playing the long game to destroy democracy, spending millions to demolish our institutions while distracting the public from rising economic inequality. We are nearing Halloween, and this is the perfect literary accompaniment to the season.

Nicole Charbonnet


One Response to “Democracy in Chains”

  1. I also read it and it’s frightening but explains a lot about what’s occurring today.

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