June 13, 2018

UPDATE ON THE BIGGEST ACADEMIC SCANDAL OF THE YEAR: Duke University History Professor Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains has received a tremendous amount of fawning attention from the left, including some of her fellow historians. She was even selected to be the plenary speaker at this year’s American Association of University Professors conference.

The book posits that the late Nobel-winning prize economist James Buchanan, resentful of the Supreme Court’s racially egalitarian jurisprudence in Brown v. Board of Education, invented public choice economics as a means of undermining American democracy. Charles Koch later stumbled upon Buchanan’s work, and used it to mastermind his own well-funded assault on everything good liberals hold dear.

The book is wrong in its general thesis, and in almost all of its particulars, as various reviewers and bloggers, myself included, have pointed out in excruciating detail. When asked about allegations of error and misrepresentation, instead of responding substantively MacLean has claimed that her critics haven’t read the book, and accused her critics of being part of a Koch-funded conspiracy to undermine the book’s “revelations.”

Until now, it’s been difficult to point the curious and non-closed-minded to a single source that summarizes the range of mistakes and fabrications in the book. Fortunately, Phil Magness has posted a spreadsheet listing these, the relevant page numbers, the sources that demonstrate the relevant problems, and a somewhat subjective ranking of the importance of each error to the book’s overall credibility. Historians and others who continue to defend MacLean will show themselves to either lack an interest in truth, or to be incapable of seeing it. Here’s one hint for her fans: whether a statement in a book is true or false has nothing to do with the identity of the individual who has alleged falsity.