Current Events, Book/Article Reviews

Did Buchanan Really Think That African-Americans Had No Desire For Freedom? Another Major Distortion from Nancy MacLean.

On July 19th The Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece giving Nancy MacLean the opportunity to respond to her critics. (Unfortunately, she didn’t take the opportunity to respond to any of the substantive criticisms that Democracy in Chains has been subject to, here, here, here, here, here, here, and in many, many, many, more places, but let that pass.) One of MacLean’s defenders, John Jackson, in the comments section claimed that James Buchanan “questioned that African Americans were even fit for self-governance”.  In support of this he quoted MacLean: “The thirst for freedom, and responsibility, is perhaps not nearly so universal as so many post-Enlightenment philosophers have assumed” (Democracy in Chains, p. 35).

Jackson’s understanding of MacLean’s view here is correct: She offers this (mis)quotation from Buchanan to support her implication that Buchanan believed that  “the black community” after emancipation lacked any real desire for “freedom, and responsibility” and that this resulted in their being unable successfully to govern themselves.  If that was Buchanan’s view, MacLean would be right to say that on his issue he was “breathtakingly ignorant,” “blind,” and “insulting” (Democracy in Chains, p.35).

But this isn’t Buchanan’s view at all–and MacLean surely knows this.

Before moving to Buchanan, here’s MacLean in full:

“Indeed, rather than sympathize with the plight of black Americans, Buchanan later argued that the failure of the black community to thrive after emancipation was not the result of the barriers put in their way, but rather proof that “the thirst for freedom, and responsibility, is perhaps not nearly so universal as so many post-Enlightenment philosophers have assumed”. It was a breathtakingly ignorant claim, a sign of a willful failure to see what his paradigm would not allow him to. Both Koch and Buchanan would make similarly blind and insulting claims about others who did not do well in the labor market these men chose to believe was free and fair” (Democracy in Chains).

I’m focus here on Buchanan, since MacLean provides no support for her claims about Charles Koch’s views.

So what did Buchanan really say? Well, to begin, MacLean misquotes him; he actually wrote “The thirst or desire for freedom, and responsibility, is perhaps not nearly so universal as so many post-Enlightenment philosophers have assumed.” (“Afraid to be Free: Dependency as Desideratum,” Public Choice 124 (2005), 24.) But that’s a minor point. What’s really worrying is that MacLean takes this quotation grotesquely out of context.

Here’s Buchanan in full:

“Persons who are afraid to take on independent responsibility that necessarily goes with liberty demand that the state fill the parental role in their lives. They want to be told what to do and when to do it; they seek order rather than uncertainty, and order comes at an opportunity cost they seem willing to bear. The thirst or desire for freedom, and responsibility, is perhaps not nearly so universal as so many post-Enlightenment philosophers have assumed. What share of persons in varying degrees of bondage, from slavery to ordinary wage salary contracts, really want to be free, with the accompanying responsibility for their own choices? The disastrous failure of “forty acres and a mule” was followed by the lapse into renewed dependency status for emancipated former slaves in the American south. And the surprising strength of Communist parties in the politics of post-Cold War central and eastern Europe attests to the thirst on the part of many persons ‘to be controlled’.”

Read in context it’s clear that Buchanan is not questioning (as Jackson has been led to believe by MacLean) whether African Americans as a group are especially unfit for self-governance. Instead, he’s claiming that most people simply in virtue of being human would prefer not to be fully free, but to have some person or entity (e.g., the state) exercise control over them. The historical accuracy of the claims that he makes about emancipated slaves are, of course, open to challenge. (Although note that these claims are compatible with Buchanan’s accepting that former slaves faced widespread and significant oppression and that this led to their “renewed dependency”.) But to wrest this sentence from its context and use it to imply that Buchanan believed that African Americans were especially unfit to govern themselves is a complete distortion of his view.

I’ll conclude by noting that MacLean isn’t just doing a disservice to Buchanan here. She’s doing a serious disservice both to her readers who (like John Jackson) will be misled by her and also–and most importantly–to African-Americans in general. It’s no secret that the more sophisticated racists often justify their views by appealing to intellectual authorities. To imply falsely that Buchanan (an immensely distinguished Nobel Prizewinner) believed that African-Americans were unfit for self-governance not only does a disservice to Buchanan, but plays directly into the hands of those racists. And that’s appalling.







  • Sean II

    “To imply falsely that Buchanan (an immensely distinguished Nobel Prizewinner) believed that African-Americans were unfit for self-governance not only does a disservice to Buchanan, but plays directly into the hands of those racists…”

    Didn’t Watson have one of those prizes too?

    • You’re incorrigible, Sean.

      • Sean II

        I had to. That bit about the Nobel was just too reminiscient of a clueless prig in a detective story insisting that so-and-so can’t possibly be the killer because he’s a member of the Carlton Club or something. I could not let it go.

        • James Taylor

          I’m afraid that your comments show that you misunderstood what I wrote.

          • Sean II

            Not in the least, my good fellow.

            You clearly meant one of two things:

            1) That Buchanan’s status as a distinguished Nobel prize winner makes the accusation of racism less likely to be true.

            2) That the offense of falsely accusing someone of racism is aggravated when the victim is a distinguished Nobel prize winner.

            Probably you meant 2). But both are silly. Buchanan’s guilt or innocence in this matter has naught to do with his prize. And MacLean’s smear campaign would be just as wrong if directed against any other innocent man.

          • James Taylor

            I meant neither. Please read the sentence that precedes the one you quote.

          • Sean II

            You’re right. I see it now.

            Although I think it’s equally silly to imagine there’s any danger MacLean’s smear will turn James Buchanan – that wild eyed charismatic with the household name – into some sort of racist recruitment tool.

            How were you imaging that conversation?

            Guy 1: “I’m really on the fence about whether to become a racist.”

            Guy 2: “Dude, get ready to join the decideds. Have you heard of James Buchanan?”

            Guy 1: “No, which of his works should I read?”

            Guy 2: “None. The only right way to encounter his magnificent hate force is by reading the work of his nemisis, left-wing historian Nancy MacLean”

            Guy 1: “Holy shit. This changes everything. Hope those SJWs like losing.”

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            I think Mr. Taylor’s point was that folks already convinced of racism would appeal to Buchanan as an “intellectual authority”. That said, I tend to agree with you. I doubt that “Democracy in Chains” will be selling briskly at next weekend’s American Renaissance Conference.

          • Sean II

            That’s was his point, which means I really did misread him before, but man what a weird point to be making.

            I guess the MacLean hate fest must be starving for material if we’re down to “her book will only embolden the racists she claims to despise by supplying that which they most crave: another Nobel laureate to cite in their bibliographies of evil.”

            But that there’s a much bigger problem behind that.

            Many of the people who now defend Buchanan cannot provide a definition of “racist” that would actually exclude him.

            We’re talking here about a white male born in Tennessee 100 years ago. I calculate a probability rounding to zero he would pass 2017’s idea of the racist witch test.

            I mean, what would happen if we dug up a reanimated Jim Buchanan zombie and made him start answering questions about, take your pick: border walls, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s books, Black Lives Matter, the Jungle at Calais, the Confederate monument debate, group differences in test scores, affirmative action, etc.

            Does anyone seriously believe his answers would pass muster? Does anyone doubt that he would give up a Kinsley gaffe of the sort that gets you labeled a bigot nowadays?

            Right, so why is everyone feel so confident in declaring Buchanan was NOT a racist? He almost certainly was one by present-day standards.

          • James Taylor

            Actually, my point was that Maclean has–again!–misused quotations to make a non-existent case. The point that this misuse could be drawn upon by racists was secondary. The hint that this might be so can be found in the fact that the secondary point comes at the end.

          • Sean II

            Look, I gave you a raw deal with my first two replies and I admit that.

            But a side point you made is still a point you made, and on that score I stand by my criticism: Buchanan is not about to become a rallying point for racists, and whatever else Nancy Mac is guilty of, let’s no go blaming her for shit that’s never gonna happen.

          • James Taylor

            Perhaps you could re-read my last paragraph, as your “criticism” doesn’t address it at all.

          • Sean II

            No. When you were right, I admitted it. You’re not now.

            But at some point you ought to be asking yourself why so many people “misread” your last paragraph in the exact same way.

            You seem to be saying “racists like to cite scholarly authorities, Buchanan is a scholarly authority, therefore calling him a racist plays into racsist hands”.

            If you’re not saying, then cut the crap and explain what you are saying.

            Even I would have stopped being coy by now.

          • James Taylor

            You seem unable to distinguish between “Claiming X will help Y do P if Y chooses” and “Claiming X will necessarily lead Y to do P”.

            i am asking myself why i bother responding to you, since I’ve never once seen you write anything useful. Munger’s Angry Squirrel invoked!

          • You seem to be ignoring Sean’s point, James. On one level, I can understand why: Sean has brought up a new point that is only tangentially related to a secondary point of yours. It is understandable why you wouldn’t necessarily want to wade into that. But given that you are replying to him, you should at least acknowledge the point he’s making, even if you’re not going to offer a rejoinder of any kind.

          • Sean II

            Let me add by way of explanation: I chose to answer a secondary point because I agreed with the main one.

            It’s just that “MacLean Doctors Spin” is not really news after three week of fake quote corpses being recovered from her crawl space.

            And let’s face it: Taylor’s argument in that last paragraph – “MacLean is the one helping racists!” – was comically weak. If I hadn’t noticed that, someone else surely would have.

            But by all means let’s get away from side issues and focus on some bigger, harder questions.

            I’m especially interested in these two:

            1) Where was this army of gallant defenders the last 100 times some nice guy got smeared as a racist on little or no evidence?

            2) How do these heroes expect to fight the next battle (or even win this one) if they can’t supply any definition of racism, much less any definition different from that used by the social justice left?

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Maybe James Taylor should stick to singing “Fire and Rain”.

          • Sean II

            This James is so vain Carly Simon’s song would have been about him.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            This article wasn’t exactly “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of”.

          • Sean II

            And I can definitively think of somebody who does it better.

          • Peter from Oz

            There is no way to put the genie back into the bottle. The only retort to a charge of ‘racism’ is: “So what? Shall we get back to the main issue?”
            Charges of racism, sexism, homophobia and all the other thought crimes invented by the left are just deflectors designed to avoid real debate and take the moral high ground. We must refuse to cede that ground to the sods.
            Sinistra delenda est

          • James Taylor

            My response is above. He has simply misunderstood (again) what I wrote. I see little point in responding to a criticism of a claim I didn’t make.

          • Sean II

            That’s your clarification? Adding the word “may” in place of “will”?

            Sorry, that’s not substantial and no one who wasn’t looking to would get tripped up on it.

          • James Taylor

            There’s a substantial difference between possibility and necessity. I honestly don’t see why you don’t realize this.

          • Sean II

            Not in this context, dude.

            When one party to an argument is saying “X definitely will NOT happen”, it doesn’t matter if the other is saying “X will” or “X might”.

            The first party’s statement is equally a negation of both.

            In this case your proposition was silly enough that might is scarcely better than will.

            Consider: if I say “the Montreal Expos might win the Super Bowl next year”, and you counter “No they won’t, being as they’re not a football team and no longer in existence”.

            Does it matter if I then protest “I said MIGHT, not WILL, sir”?

            Clearly not.

          • James Taylor

            Please read Hume.

          • Sean II

            It sucks watching you bang head-to-wall when there’s an open door right in front of you.

            All you have to say is this:

            “Yeah, okay. I was reaching a bit there. Buchanan is not really gonna turn up on any racist’s list of intellectual heroes just because some hacky character assassin put a bunch of words in his mouth. It’s enough to say MacLean wronged Buchanan, her readers, and her profession, without trying to shoehorn in the claim that she gives aid and comfort to racists. Point withdrawn.”

            Simple enough, and yet it seems you’d rather swallow your tongue…

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            If you’ve never seen Sean write anything useful, I feel confident in saying that you probably haven’t read very many of his posts. Sean’s contributions on this site almost invariably force folks to rub the sleep out of their eyes and look at a subject anew.

            Hey, I feel your pain. I’ve told Sean in a previous post that I would never write an article for BHL because I’m not courageous enough to be the target for one of his withering critiques.

          • James Taylor

            I’ve read what he has to say on my posts–not useful. As I note in response to every one of his posts on this topic he simply hasn’t understood what’s been written. The same’s been true for posts on other issues, which is why he’s the only commentator who routinely leads to the invocation Munger’s Angry Squirrel.

            No pain at all, except for the exasperation of someone who realizes that he or she has “that student” in his or her PHL101 class. And anyone who’s taught PHL101 (or, indeed, I suspect, any other 101 class that requires careful analysis) knows just what I mean!

          • Sean II

            Interesting response from Taylor below.

            At this point several people have endorsed my original comments (the ones I admit were mistaken). Which means those people came away from his last paragraph with the same impression I initially did. This strongly suggests it was either murky enough or bizarre enough that many (maybe even most) people who read it struggle to believe it means what it evidently does.

            Now two people other than me have directly challenged Taylor to answer the issues I raised after re-reading.

            A lot of men at this point would check the mirror, and say “Oh shit, is it me?” (Rather like I did, in this very thread!)

            But Taylor doesn’t do that at all. Instead he comes back with a fresh claim of being misunderstood, but won’t explain how to me or anyone else. At the same time he throws down a little smoke screen of insults, and calls forth the tree rodent of evasion or whatever it’s called.

            Then, for the capper, he reveals in what narrow terms he sees the whole episode: he the wise teacher, I the disruptive student so deep in Dunning-Kruger type ignorance he can’t be talked off his nonsense, etc.

            And yet who here can better face the classic question: “Under what circumstances would you change your mind?”

            For me those circumstances are simple: say something that makes sense explaining or defending that last paragraph, and I’ll tip my hat.

          • Sean II

            “Sean’s contributions on this site almost invariably force folks to rub the sleep out of their eyes and look at a subject anew.”

            Thanks for that. Exactly what I’m going for. Unfortunately it’s also a reliable source of friction between me and main authors. Often they’ll present an argument in the form customary to their trade: tidy, bite-sized, framed in the language of one’s home discipline, a nice piece of homework of the sort that gets rewarded inside the guild. And usually those arguments are quite good when judged against guild standards. I follow this blog for a reason.

            But the same arguments don’t always fare so well judged against reality. Good homework is not necessarily good philosophy. And so my typical schtick is to broaden the discussion, take it away from the little mote, expose the big beam no one seemed to be noticing, etc. Usually the beam in question is being ignored for one or more in a familiar set of reasons: people are afraid to talk about it, or they don’t know how due to some narrowness in their own education, or the thing is of such a nature that it can’t be made tidy and so might spoil an otherwise clean piece of work, etc.

            As a regular reader you’ve seen this many times. Some post brings up the migrant crisis, and makes an economic argument about it. That argument has a hidden premise: that human capital is malleable, and on a population level interchangeable. I dispute this premise – which really is key to the whole argument – but I do so with a counter argument that involves decidedly non-economic terms, like say “cousin marriage”. Naturally this irritates the shit out of the author, who may know next to nothing about cousin marriage and its effects, and who therefore finds the objection confusing (if not indeed morally distasteful).

            As far as he’s concerned, we’re supposed to be playing soccer and I just pulled out a baseball bat in response to what he felt was a nice clean kick. No fair.

            So I can see how someone might find this annoying, and I have no counter for that except one: an understanding of cousin marriage really does improve the accuracy of the picture, when we’re talking about what will happen – economically and otherwise – when a bunch of highly consanguineous people moves to a place where outbreeding has been carefully practiced for 1,000 years. The things I bring up are relevant, and whether or not they prove decisive, it’s probably a bad idea to consider such important questions without at least knowing they exist. A proponent of education should know the case for heritability of IQ. A person who thinks ending the drug war will balance our prisons should know what the crime stats actually predict, what a life course persistent offender is, etc. And so on through a long list of issues where people might say of me: “Ugh, here comes Sean again what that”.

            Another good example happens to be very recent: the conceptual penis hoax.

            It seemed then and still does seem obvious to me (and many others) that the best intellectual value to be had from the moment was a broad debate on the state of academia. What is really going in the fields those pranksters were trying to satirize? How can there be entire departments devoted to studying gender whose premises are so at odds with the basic facts of biology? If the hoax itself was a failure, why don’t we just cut out the middleman and take a look at what actually gets published in gender studies?

            But, to a different set of people, it seemed equally obvious that discussion should be narrowed down to: how good was the journal, was the paper initially rejected, what status do the authors enjoy in their profession, etc?

            For my life I can’t figure out why anyone would care about that crap, when we have so many bigger and more interesting fish to fry.

          • I’m not sure what the tipping point was, but today it’s striking how different this blog and its cousins are from the way they were even a few short years back. Years ago, we were arguing real issues: The great recession & monetary policy, war & military interventionism, health care policy, and even open borders. It feels as though the authors pretty much ran out of steam with respect to arguing for actual policy changes, and now we get these tertiary questions of interest only to insiders of academia.

            At the same time, as evidenced by Taylor’s reaction here, the authors often argue as if the stakes are higher, as if the question of whether James Buchanan really was a racist is altogether more important than the question of how many Syrian children we’ll bomb today. It is thoroughly bizarre. Imagine what one’s daily life has to be like, that after taking a moment to crack your knuckles and ask yourself, “What libertarian issue will I write about today?” the answer you come up with not how deep the deep state goes, but what is the right way to respond to something that happened in an academic journal that even the authors of don’t read regularly.

            And Sean, your playfully prompting us to think about something – anything – more interesting than which page of Nancy MacLean’s latest book is the sourest evinces a level of vitriol that is frankly laughable when put in perspective.

            It’s weird, but it’s sad. It feels like everyone just sort of gave up on the tough issues because they couldn’t be persuasive enough so… well… here’s my latest piece at the Niskanen Center, about whether the capabilities approach can be applied to neo-Nussbaumian liberal hierarchitarianism…

          • Sean II

            Always worth mentioning in this context: the true appeal of BHL when it started was maturity of method.

            “Here’s a place to talk liberty without the simplistic purity tests which elsewhere mark the beginning, middle, and end of every libertarian argument.”

            To put it more viscerally: I fled here because I got sick of arguing with the kind of people who think a statist is anyone who drinks municipal tap water and hasn’t converted 100% of their transactions to bitcoin.

            And you’re right. I too miss the broader set of issues debated then. Especially the arguments about what different libertarian policies would really mean for the poor, what sort of compromises with intervention might make sense, when to play for second best solutions, how to think like a Hayekian instead of a burn it all down revolutionary lunatic, etc.

            For what it’s worth, this why open borders became such a flogging horse for me: I saw people who I know from other contexts to be capable of sober empirically minded gradualism suddenly turn coat and say: “on this single issue, I demand we punch a one-way ticket into unknown territory on the strength of nothing but first principles, and by the way I insist anyone who hesitates is both a statist and a racist!”

            Not every open border advocate is like that, of course, but that side of the argument is dominated by people who are.

            One sure sign of corruption: we hardly ever hear from people in the middle anymore, those who are pro-immigration by default but who stop well short of literal open borders, or who feel there are some cultural and political pre-conditions we should tackle first in the order of operations, before taking a big risk like that.

            Instead we just get more purity tests, and if you get tired of those, you can escape into arguing about the number of lies that can dance on a Nancy MacLean pinhead.

          • King Goat

            “how deep the deep state goes”

            Oh, Jesus Christ.

          • King Goat

            James, you have to love it. First, our resident racialist-in-chief does *exactly* what you’re talking about (name dropping famous intellectual that they consider an ally): in wrongly (as even he later conceded) thinking you were saying that no Nobel prize winner would endorse such cheap racism he name drops Watson (see, Nobel prize winners do endorse racism!). He get’s his usual dittoheads’ upvotes in his followup on the point (which, as he concedes he misunderstood, is doubling down on being wrong). Then after you call him out for misunderstanding, and he concedes, in true reload-don’t-retreat fashion he goes on a tangent, with pretty much the same dittoheads upvoting it! Later he actually invokes the argument ‘hey, two other people here see it the way I do, that you persist to not do so is a character flaw.’

            For whatever reason, your site, which is clearly intended to reach out from libertarianism to the left, has become a squatter’s paradise for racialists and/or the kind of Vulcan useful idiots they love to play. Usually when people come to a site where they consistently disagree with the site to comment about their disagreement, it’s called trolling. But what about when the trolls decide to just live under your bridge?

          • Theresa Klein

            This is one of those cases where I start to wonder if Sean is a left-wing sock-puppet designed to “expose” racism in the libertarian movement by cleverly arguing for a pro-racialist position on a libertarian website. This would not be inconsistent with keeping a number of other socks around to upvote his comments. Except that his owner seems to have changed recently, because he’s gotten a lot stupider lately. He can’t even pass a Libertarian Turing Test.

          • Sean II

            Problem for that theory: it would mean the blog had hardly any legitimate readers.

          • Theresa Klein

            It’s a rarefied atmosphere. Not very many people have doctorates in moral philosophy.

          • Sean II

            Not many, but still far too many.

            It’s a side effect of higher ed subsidies that some people now get jobs professing philosophy who should, under an honest market, be teaching high school English.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Of course by “present day standards” such leftist icons as Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas would also be considered racist. To say nothing of Jack London, Margaret Sanger, and Karl Marx himself (read some of the correspondence between Marx and his friend/benefactor Engels on matters racial. Politically correct it wasn’t).

          • ViperRum

            Or John Maynard Keynes, Richard Ely, and John R. Commons who MacLean points to approvingly. All three were disgusting bigots. In fact for Ely the minimum wage was a eugenics policy. The roots of the minimum wage is in eugenics…why does MacLean point to such people with despicable views?

            See how easy it is to do this? And I have the benefit of not having to mangle quotes, use non-existent evidence, etc. All of the disgusting views of Progressives and Progressive economists are well established by Thomas Leonard in his research. I believe it was Ely who ascribed almost mystical powers to Asians and their ability to subsist on a handful of rice vs. the white man’s need for meat. I believe it was also Ely who favored letting Asians starve to death in the name of racial purity. John R. Commons, who was at the same university that MacLean got here Phd from, was an apologist for slavery.

            Of course saying anyone working in Keynsian economics is therefore a racist would be stupid. Why are we even considering if Buchanan was a racist when we have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to support this aside from mis/mangled quotes and made up connections.

            Seriously Sean II you come off as such a tool.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            There are many terms I might choose to use when it comes to describing Sean ll. “Tool” is not among them.

          • ViperRum

            Well, as a recent new comer I see him beavering away at try to make Buchanan out to be a racist. There is no evidence of this. Of course absence of evidence is not proof of absence, but Jesus Christ nobody runs around trying to link Keynesian theories to Keynes bigotry. Nobody tries to taint that school of thought with racist roots. Similarly with the minimum wage. Nobody paints current proponents of the minimum wage as having Richard Ely or John R. Commons as their “lodestar”. Yet there IS a clear connection. Most supporters of the minimum wage are Progressives. Ely and Commons were Progressives. The difference is we exercise the concept of charity and give them the benefit of the doubt that their motivations have evolved and become more equitable and decent…even though support the same damn policy.

          • Sean II

            First of all, I seldom beaver away.

            Second and more importantly, you got the wrong guy in a big way.

            I’m not trying to get Buchanan convicted of racism. I’m trying to smoke out the hypocrisy in many who defend him against that charge without offering resistance to the definition creep that is rapidly making racists of us all.

          • Peter from Oz

            Methinks that you would be good at what my wife and I call the bigot game. If we ever get into a conversation with an earnest lefty we take it in turns to point out why the lefty’s every statement is racist, transphobic, homophobic, sexist, islamophobic etc. It’s wonderful seeing such people hoist on their own petard.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Niemoller couldn’t have put it better.

          • Luke Reeshus

            Well, as a recent new comer I see him beavering away at try to make Buchanan out to be a racist.

            And as a longtime lurker I have to say: boy, do you have some previous threads to peruse…

          • King Goat

            viper, have you ever heard of or read the any of the works of Gabriel Kolko?

            The left has been really, really, critical of the ‘Progressive Movement’ circa 1890-New Deal.

          • Sean II

            “Why are we even considering if Buchanan was a racist when we have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to support this?”

            Where and when do you live to expect so innocently that charges of racism should require evidence?

          • Sean II

            You don’t even have to go back that far.

            My favorite recent example is the purge of Bill Clinton. He could have helped Hillary win in key states like Michigan and Virginia, but instead her campaign ended up suicidally disowning him in punishment for his racial thoughtcrimes – one present, two past.

            Past offense #1 was welfare reform.

            Past offense #2 was acting as president to curb the violence which, between 1964 and his first term, killed over half a million Americans and poisoned huge swaths of urban living space in the world greatest superpower as surely as a barrage of neutron bombs might have done.

            The new offense was admitting, in public, that black crime is still far and away the biggest threat to black lives.

            These things are unforgivable. Only ignorant hicks use code words like “welfare” and “crime”. So of course Bill had to go – this man who up until five minutes ago was a beloved hero of everyone on the left, and of black Americans especially.

          • King Goat

            “My favorite recent example is the purge of Bill Clinton. He could have helped Hillary win in key states like Michigan and Virginia, but instead her campaign ended up suicidally disowning him”

            Er, first, Hillary won Virginia (primary and general election).

            Secondly, here’s how Bill was ‘buried:’

            He spent Monday Nov. 7th campaigning for Hillary in NC. He then went to a rally in Philly with Hillary that night.
            Sunday the 6th campaigning for Hillary in Michigan.
            Saturday the 5th, hitting stops in FL for Hillary.
            Friday, the 4th, several speeches in Colorado.

            Buried, dudes. Totes.


          • Sean II

            You’re right about Virginia. I forgot that particular result. Should have said Pennsylvania.

          • King Goat

            And you’ve never heard the common trope “even left wing so-and-so concludes” from those on the right (and vice versa)? They don’t have to buy so-and-so’s book to find their work very useful.

      • A. Alexander Minsky

        And we should be thankful for that. This comment thread would be rather dull without Sean ll’s searing and at times withering critiques.

  • brandonberg

    Found another one, ironically offered by Andy Seal in his defense of MacLean:

    “The freest countries have not generally been democratic,” Cowen noted, with Chile being “the most successful” in securing freedom (defined not as most of us would, as personal freedom, but as supplying the greatest economic liberty).

    Original document here (PDF).

    In the original document, the full sentence is, “In Asia, the freest countries have not generally been democratic,” and very explicitly refers to Hong Kong and to a lesser extent Singapore, not to Chile.

    The unedited sentence introducing the section on Chile is, “If we examine non-communist autocracies, the reforms of Pinochet’s Chile were probably the most successful.” The most successful at what is not stated explicitly, but judging from the context, it’s likely that he means the most successful at instituting market reforms. He also mentions that Chile has successfully transitioned from autocracy to democracy, which he may or may not have intended “most successful” to refer to. Note that this follows a lengthy discussion of successful reforms under a democratic government in New Zealand.

    MacLean’s editing gives the impression that the part about the freest countries [in Asia] generally not being democratic refers to Chile, and that Cowen regards Chile as being the most successful country in “securing freedom,” full stop. These are her words, not his.

    It find it amusing that even the brief passage Seal offers in attempting to defend MacLean contains a MacLeanism. Such is the quality of her scholarship that apparently even passages selected at random have a high probability of revealing yet another act of scholarly misconduct.

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  • stevenjohnson2

    In the full context here, Buchanan turns the savage terrorism of the KKK and similar organizations and racist pogroms into the freedmen’s “lapse into renewed dependency.” It was of course the slavers who were dependent upon the slaves. This is not getting the history wrong, this is full-blown racist mythology. Protest votes against the drop in living standards promoted by capitalist restoration for the majority of people was not a declaration of the desire to be controlled either. That’s just sleazy red-baiting you’d expect from an especially stupid reactionary. Coupling freedom and “responsibility” while leaving the readers’ prejudices to decide who is responsible is not, no matter what the OP says, a critique aimed at humanity. It is at best a critique aimed at the lower orders. Buchanan’s racist myths made it clear who he deemed part of the lower orders. It is crazy to think you defend Buchanan by claiming in effect, no, he despised most of humanity.

    The smoking gun here reveals the thorough dishonesty of the claque defending Buchanan.

    • James Taylor

      Have you read “Afraid to be Free: Dependency as Desideratum,” Public Choice 124 (2005)?

      • stevenjohnson2

        MacLean said Buchanan’s views on the capacity and desire of African-Americans to be free were horribly ignorant and reactionary, and she gave a quote. You gave a fuller quote that proves Buchanan believed slaves to be dependent upon master, rather than the other way round. Buchanan was indeed horribly ignorant and reactionary. Except you relied on the claque accepting that your selection miraculously proved the opposite of what it actually showed.

        Now, you want to move the goalposts and pretend the whole context is the whole paper. For obvious reason I suspect if I analyzed the entire paper you’d insist on the context of his whole career…and the intellectual milieu and its changes over the last fifty years or so. Your opinion that the “historical accuracy” of Buchanan’s claims about emancipated slaves is absurdly irrelevant: Buchanan doesn’t even characterize slavery correctly.

        And, by the way, the notion that Buchanan can define expecting government services as dependency without actually justifying this, is true intellectual insularity. His entire world view apparently hinged on ignoring much of the planet, its people and any previous knowledge and philosophy, without daring to examine it.

        • James Taylor

          “You gave a fuller quote that proves Buchanan believed slaves to be dependent upon master, rather than the other way round.” Actually, that’s not at all what the quotation from B. shows. Perhaps you could re-read it?

          • King Goat

            James, I nearly always enjoy your posts here. And I have to say, from much of what of what I’ve read of MacLean’s book I have to say I don’t think much of it. However, this particular ‘refutation’ of it actually gave me the most pause re: Buchanan. I read the quote you provided in full as follows: when Reconstruction efforts failed, there was a lapse into dependency by the former slaves.

            That’s a very historically obtuse comment, so much so that, yeah, it makes one think it’s morally *obtuse* at best. Certainly Buchanan knew, or should have known, about the Black Codes, KKK, etc., that went on in Reconstruction. It’s like saying ‘a generation after the 15th Amendment, a remarkably few blacks in the South voted, showing the general disinterestedness people have in self-government.’

        • James Taylor

          “His entire world view apparently hinged on ignoring much of the planet, its people and any previous knowledge and philosophy, without daring to examine it.”

          On what basis do you make this claim? How much B. have you read?

        • Wait a minute. It’s fair game for MacLean to use isolated Buchanan quotes divorced from context to show that Buchanan’s views fit within a broader context of a racist, anti-democratic agenda… but insisting on maintaining the full context of his body of work to rebut those claims is “moving the goalposts?”

          You can’t be serious. You’ve given your whole game away.

          • stevenjohnson2

            The full context of the body of Buchanan’s work includes the real world, which means white flight is entirely relevant to his “work” on education. The full context of the body of Buchanan’s work includes actual numbers for his graphs.

            So yeah, suddenly deciding the full context is more than the actual, literal context, that you can suddenly talk about the need to read the whole paper to comment, or as you are now insisting is proper, his entire oeuvre…which I don’t have in my possession, nor do I have access to, nor am I necessarily going to live long enough to finish…so, yeah, that’s moving the goalposts.

            You are falsifying the context here by the way. People have not been claiming that MacLean is too one sided, or that interpretations have been uncharitable. They’re claiming that she’s a liar, she’s wholly malicious and they’ve been claiming they’ve got the documentary proof. I’ve been looking at their so called proofs. They aren’t proofs of their claims. They’re lying about that. And the malice is clear. The only thing left is their motives.

          • Good job missing my point.

            MacLean is making a claim about his entire body of work and how it sits in the context of racism. To do this, she provides isolated quotes taken out of that context. Then Taylor et al try to put the context back in and you cry foul. Your complaint is untenable.

          • James Taylor

            Your last paragraph is simply false, if you’re referring to me.

  • jolenestc

    Lol, “and so, dear reader, in conclusion, James Buchanan did not explicitly say what I say John Jackson said Nancy Malean said James Buchanan said.”

    • James Taylor

      The post was directed at Maclean. Perhaps you should read it again?

      • jolenestc

        In fact I have read it a number of times, and I don’t think so.

        “Read in context it’s clear that Buchanan is not questioning (as Jackson has been led to believe by Maclean) whether African Americans as a group are especially unfit for self-governance.”

        So, “read in context,” Taylor’s reading of Jackson’s interpretation of Maclean’s interpretation of what Buchanan might or might not have been questioning is or is not an accurate depiction.

        Note, for instance: the word “unfit” doesn’t appear anywhere in Maclean’s book. That’s Jackson. Certainly the phrase “particularly unfit” doesn’t. I’m fairly certain that’s Taylor, although I haven’t tracked down Jackson’s original comment.

        So if part of the argument is–as it has been, for example, in the discussion of the partial Cowen quote–that only full quotes, and not restated paraphrases, are admissible as interpretations of positions, I’m not sure what this post is accomplishing.

        • James Taylor

          It accomplishes what it set out to do; to show that Maclean selectively quotes others and then frames the quotations in such a way to imply that the person she quotes holds a view he or she does not. The example here is used to show that Maclean implies that Buchanan believed that AA persons were peculiar in their lack of a desire for freedom and responsibility. But Buchanan did not say that. Jackson is referred to as an example of someone who defends Maclean and has been misled by her.

          • jolenestc

            I get it that you think you’ve done this. Restating that you think you’ve done this isn’t a response. But maybe I’m missing something; I’m willing to admit that I’m wrong and that you’ve accomplished your criticism of Maclean here. Can you point to the moment in the passage from Maclean that you think is parsable/interpretable/restatable/paraphrasable as “particularly unfit”?

            And then I’ll stop, because we’re arguing about an entry in a comment thread to a blog post and it’s not worth either of our energy.

          • Theresa Klein

            Saying that people in general may not be as thirsty for freedom and responsibility as many philosophers suppose is vastly different from saying that African Americans are not as thirsty for freedom and responsibility as other people. Presumably you are not too stupid to see the difference. Buchanen is making a statement about humanity in general, and MacLean is twisting it to imply that Buchanen is talking about African Americans relative to whites.

          • jolenestc

            Again I would ask: where in the passage of *Maclean’s* — not Jackson’s take on it, not Taylor’s take on Jackson’s take. So from the following:

            “Indeed, rather than sympathize with the plight of black Americans, Buchanan later argued that the failure of the black community to thrive after emancipation was not the result of the barriers put in their way, but rather proof that “the thirst for freedom, and responsibility, is perhaps not nearly so universal as so many post-Enlightenment philosophers have assumed”. It was a breathtakingly ignorant claim, a sign of a willful failure to see what his paradigm would not allow him to. Both Koch and Buchanan would make similarly blind and insulting claims about others who did not do well in the labor market these men chose to believe was free and fair.”

            Where is anything in here that says Buchanan found African Americans “especially unfit” for self-governance? She doesn’t say he singled out black people, just that he saw them as an example of a wider observation. An observation, she claims, that Koch and Buchanan “would make…about others.” “About others” implying that she didn’t think he made an “especial” case for African Americans. So she agrees with you that Buchanan was talking about people in general.

            If I’m wrong, please point out the place where she–again, not Jackson–twists it. I mean, rather than presuming that I’m not too stupid to see the difference.

          • Theresa Klein

            Omitting the part of quote in which he mentions the appeal of communism in Europe conveys the impression that he’s talking about black people in particular and not just using them as an example of a broader human failing.

          • jolenestc

            So let me get this straight. Because Buchanan said “The thirst or desire for freedom, and responsibility, is perhaps not nearly so universal as so many post-Enlightenment philosophers have assumed,” and then used the experience of reconstruction African Americans as an demonstrating case, where Maclean wrote that Buchanan used the experience of reconstruction African Americans as a demonstrating case that “the thirst for freedom, and responsibility, is perhaps not nearly so universal as so many post-Enlightenment philosophers have assumed,” is somehow making it seem that he only meant black people because she didn’t also include his reference to Communism? That instead she wrote that he “would make similarly blind and insulting claims about others” seems to acknowledge that he didn’t think of black people as somehow especially or particularly “unfit,” but that they were but one example of many. So there is nothing in what she actually wrote, short of grasping at the wispiest of straws, that supports this interpretation.

  • Mark Brady

    James may have read the book, but it doesn’t seem that he has read the title page. The author is Nancy MacLean (with an upper case “L”).

    • James Taylor

      Thank you–I’ve corrected this! (Not a phrase we’re likely to hear from MacLean, I suspect…!)

      • Mark Brady

        A witty response such as we might expect from a graduate of Scotland’s oldest university.

        • James Taylor

          An Oxonian would have just pointed and grunted!

          • Mark Brady

            But his pointing and grunting would have been in Latin.

          • Peter from Oz

            Esse quam videri

  • Theresa Klein

    Apparently Sean’s disappointed that Buchanen ISN’T a racist. Come on people, we’re supposed to be jumping on board proclaiming that yes, actually he is, and that’s a good thing!

    • Sean II

      That’s pretty funny, actually.

      Totally inaccurate, but funny.

    • I don’t mean this in any kind of jerky way, so please don’t get me wrong, but you’ve misspelled “Buchanan” every time you’ve used it under this post. I went back across a few previous BHL comments threads and confirmed that you spelled it correctly elsewhere.

      Is this some new autocorrect thing happening to you? On my phone, I somehow accidentally fat-fingered the word “and” and it came out looking like “Abd.” So now every time I use Swype to type “and,” I get “Abd” and it looks like I’m drunk. I don’t know how to get rid of “Abd” at this point, and it’s really starting to frustrate me.

      • Sean II

        ABD = army battle dressing. Your phone is trying to tell you it’s hurt and bleeding power.

        • In my head, I pronounce it like “abbed,” which is doubly infuriating because it has the tendency to remind me of this:

          And before you know it, the damn thing’s stuck in my head all day.

          • Sean II

            Man, late 60s CGI was surprisingly lifelike.

      • Theresa Klein

        Possibly. I sometimes use my phone to comment, and misspelling Buchanan is pretty easy to miss.

  • Chris Mason

    Professor Taylor, something that I’m curious about, John Jackson stated in a comment somewhere that MacLean was quoting from the first draft of Buchanan’s Afraid to be Free rather than the published version. He stated this in order to defend the claim that MacLean didn’t misquote Buchanan. I’m trying to find the first draft online, but I couldn’t find it.

    • James Taylor

      Yes, she said in the endnote that she was quoting from the first draft, and then immediately afterwards stated (incorrectly) that this draft was later published as “Afraid to be Free: Dependency as Desideratum,” Public Choice 120, 3 (September 2004).

      Three points are worth noting here:

      1) It is standard practice to refer to a person’s published views, as these are understood to be the views that he or she stands by. Even if MacLean’s quotation of Buchanan’s first draft is correct, and if he did not mention other persons besides the former slaves, this tells us nothing about his considered opinion.

      2) If one refers to a draft, and if this draft changes before the published version, it is standard practice both to note this, and include in the bibliography references to BOTH drafts separately. MacLean doesn’t do either of these. This is why I took her to mean that he first draft was the published draft–which is what she herself writes.

      3) MacLean’s reference to ‘Afraid to be Free” is (of course!) wrong. It appeared in Public Choice 124, 1-2 (July 2005) . She does, however, get the citation right in the bibliography.