"The Sound of Silence. A Review Essay of Nancy Maclean's Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America"
This is a devastating review of Nancy MacLean's much-discussed "expose" of James Buchanan, the Kochs, and their corruption of modern American politics. As I write it is forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Literature. The JEL is one of the top journals in economics and it is a journal of the American Economic Association, the leading professional organization for American economists. One would hope that such a review in such an authoritative source would stop, or at least inhibit, Lefties from gleefully citing it.
Based on experience I very much doubt it will. But we'll see.
Here's an excerpt from the review:
This essay aims to carefully evaluate MacLean’s account. We will develop three main claims. One, as we argue in section 2, MacLean fails to demonstrate convincingly how Buchanan was the central character and mastermind of the grand scheme to revamp democracy and government intervention. Second, MacLean’s account is marred by many misunderstandings about public choice theory. Thus, in section 3, we argue that her historical analysis and theoretical criticisms about public choice generally miss the mark, in particular because MacLean fails to understand the specifics of constitutional political economy, as well as its relationship to the economic analysis of politics. Third, in the midst of abundant archival material, her historical (and biographical) narrative is at best sketchy, and shows significant flawed arguments, misplaced citations, and dubious conjectures. Sections 4, 5, and 6 address different points of MacLean’s narrative in detail, from her analysis of the origins of Buchanan’s thought to her depiction of his involvement with the administration of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Indeed, MacLean tends to over-interpret certain aspects in Buchanan’s life or thought and to overlook others that are nonetheless important. This is the case with ethics, which Buchanan always included when analyzing of how markets work, as we show in section 7.
Other than that, how was the book, Mrs. Lincoln?
(This review is just one of many critical reviews. For example, Mike Munger's review is instructive and also fun to read.)