January 9, 2020
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
― The Great Gatsby
October 6, 2018
“Democracy isn’t just messy — it’s dirty. And getting dirtier.”
And it’s been hard pressed to figure out why. Why is this happening?
To better understand the U.S.’s continuing corrupt and eroding political infrastructure, this book by Duke University history professor Nancy MacLean. The Chicago Tribune calls MacLean’s research, “contemporary history at its best.” It is clear insight to help navigate the current political climate and post Brett Kavanaugh confirmation. MacLean gives us a roadmap and answer to, How did this happen?”
Without Buchanan’s ideas and Koch’s money, the libertarian right would not have succeeded in its stealth takeover of the Republican Party as a delivery mechanism. Now, with Mike Pence as Vice President, the cause has a longtime loyalist in the White House, not to mention a phalanx of Republicans in the House, the Senate, a majority of state governments, and the courts, all carrying out the plan. That plan includes harsher laws to undermine unions, privatizing everything from schools to health care and Social Security, and keeping as many of us as possible from voting. Based on ten years of unique research, Democracy in Chains tells a chilling story of right-wing academics and big money run amok. This revelatory work of scholarship is also a call to arms to protect the achievements of twentieth-century American self-government.
An explosive exposé of the right’s relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, stop action on climate change, and alter the Constitution.
Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect—the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan—and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.
In a brilliant and engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how Buchanan forged his ideas about government in a last gasp attempt to preserve the white elite’s power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. In response to the widening of American democracy, he developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.
“[A] vibrant intellectual history of the radical right.”—The Atlantic
“This sixty-year campaign to make libertarianism mainstream and eventually take the government itself is at the heart of Democracy in Chains. . . . If you’re worried about what all this means for America’s future, you should be.”—NPR
*Winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award
*Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
*Finalist for the National Book Award
*The Nation‘s “Most Valuable Book”
The following article, written by Lynn Parramore, gives an overview of MacLean’s research. It was published by the Institute of New Economic Thinking.
Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America
By Lynn Parramore
MAY 30, 2018
|HISTORY OF ECONOMIC THOUGHT |INSTITUTIONS, POLICY & POLITICS
“Nobel laureate James Buchanan is the intellectual linchpin of the Koch-funded attack on democratic institutions, argues Duke historian Nancy MacLean
Ask people to name the key minds that have shaped America’s burst of radical right-wing attacks on working conditions, consumer rights and public services, and they will typically mention figures like free market-champion Milton Friedman, libertarian guru Ayn Rand, and laissez-faire economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.
James McGill Buchanan is a name you will rarely hear unless you’ve taken several classes in economics. And if the Tennessee-born Nobel laureate were alive today, it would suit him just fine that most well-informed journalists, liberal politicians, and even many economics students have little understanding of his work.
The reason? Duke historian Nancy MacLean contends that his philosophy is so stark that even young libertarian acolytes are only introduced to it after they have accepted the relatively sunny perspective of Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that correctly). If Americans really knew what Buchanan thought and promoted, and how destructively his vision is manifesting under their noses, it would dawn on them how close the country is to a transformation most would not even want to imagine, much less accept.”
[full article: https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/meet-the-economist-behind-the-one-percents-stealth-takeover-of-america#disqus_thread
Another perspective on constitutional rot and political polarization, read Jack, M. Balkin’s,”Constitutional Rot Reaches the Supreme Court”, published Oct. 6th, 2018.
“The fight over the Kavanaugh appointment exemplifies our country’s advanced case of constitutional rot. The rot has been growing for some time, and has now reached the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court is unlikely to save us from decay. We will have to do that ourselves.
As I have argued in this lecture, our country has gone through cycles of constitutional rot and renewal throughout its history. We are at (what we can only hope is) the most extreme point in a cycle of constitutional rot. Unfortunately, we are also at the high point of a cycle of party polarization. And, to make matters worse, we are also at the end of the debilitated Reagan regime, with a new political regime yet to be born. The endings of political regimes are highly confusing periods regardless; extreme party polarization and advanced constitutional rot make our current period even more difficult.
A few week’s back I gave a Constitution Day lecture at Drake Law School. The question I asked was this: How does the cycle of constitutional rot affect the Supreme Court and the federal courts? Can courts help us come out of constitutional rot? Does judicial review help counteract the slide into political corruption, or the accelerating loss of democracy and republicanism?
The answer, sadly, is no. In times of severe constitutional rot, coupled with high party polarization, courts are not the solution. They are part of the problem. Courts will not drag us out of a period of constitutional rot; they will either do little to help or actively make things worse. Moreover, as we have seen, the courts are a special prize in these periods, and politicians are likely to engage in ever more outrageous hardball tactics to entrench their power in the judiciary.
Consider the last two periods of pronounced constitutional rot in American history: the years just before the Civil War, dominated by the Slave Power, and the Gilded Age, dominated by what Teddy Roosevelt called “the malefactors of great wealth.” In neither age was the U.S. Supreme Court the great protector of democracy and republicanism. Quite the contrary, the Supreme Court behaved very badly during both periods, and produced Dred Scott in the first period, and Plessy, Pollock, Lochner and Coppage in the second. The corruption of an age rubs off on the courts of that age. In a period of constitutional rot, the Supreme Court will be sullied as well.
Right now we are in an especially corrupt moment and the courts are unlikely to help extricate us. They may even make things worse in the short run. And they are likely to be compromised and tainted by the corruption that surrounds them. But that does not make me a Thayerian or a Holmesian. One should be guided by the nature of the times. Rather than oppose judicial review per se, one should simply not expect too much from courts, and endeavor to keep them from doing too much harm. Things will eventually change. In the meantime, it is best not to look to an institution that cannot and will not help the country”
The lesson of history seems clear enough: During a period of advanced constitutional rot and high political polarization the federal courts are unlikely to be an instrument of constitutional renewal. Renewal will have to come from political mobilization instead.
[full lecture: https://balkin.blogspot.com/2018/10/constitutional-rot-reaches-supreme-court.html?m=1
Doom is inevitable.
Gloom is optional.
Gloom has no positive effects on ameliorating doom.
Doom happens. Gloom is a choice.
G’morning to you
& the stories that define you,
The ones that make you go,
“That’s when I realized…”
To the dustbin with the stories that diminish you.
Give prominent shelf space to the stories that fortify you.
Prominent self-space to the best in you.