Democracy, Current Events

A Devastating Review of Nancy MacLean’s Book on the Klan

Good fortune has brought me a review of Nancy MacLean’s 1994 book on the KKK. If you think Mike Munger’s review of the new book was devastating, this is worse. And the author of the review has no Koch connections whatsoever. Plus, do the quotations below from the reviewer sound familiar?

“Leaving Athens behind, MacLean roams the country picking out statements that fit her case that the Klan was radical and violent. if someone connected with the Klan claimed to be a devotee of the Constitution and only against lawbreakers, particularly those associated with Demon Rum, MacLean doesn’t believe him, does not bother to examine his motives or statements, and does not herself set forth any rule of interpretation that enables one to determine when Klansmen were speaking from the heart and when they were dissimulating. Perhaps all of their Main Street platitudes were self-conscious lies, but on what basis can we conclude that?…

Her argument is circular and ahistorical. It is circular because a lack of evidence is said to be proof of the Klan’s power to suppress it, and that alleged power is then hold to imply that there must have been much more violence than there is evidence to support.”

I have tried hard to treat her as a serious scholar who went off the rails with the Buchanan book, but now we seem to have a pattern here: cherry-picking evidence, circular reasoning, ascribing conspiratorial power to organizations when she lacks supporting evidence, and a refusal to grant any legitimacy to her sources’ own words. It’s the same pattern we see in Democracy in Chains

And this reviewer, again, has no taint of Koch, yet found all the same sorts of problems.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Published on:
Author: Steve Horwitz
  • Bantem Draper

    so what you are saying is that the klan wasn’t radical and violent?

    • stevenjohnson2

      Yes. Horwitz himself quotes Kousser’s objection that MacLean had no justification for not taking KKK members disavowals of violence and racist motives seriously when they spouted standard conservativism (Kousser does somehow assume they were different.). Here’s another: “Even the vast majority of the lynchings, beating and floggings that did occur cannot be conclusively connected to the Klan.” And here’s another: “By the 1920s, lynching was a national scandal, and the NAACP and the northern or big-city southern newspaper reporters investigated it often. No doubt much violence in the 1920s was hidden—but compared to earlier times?” Kousser neglects to show the relevance of levels of violence in earlier times to MacLean, or for that matter to his review. The dude’s judgment is suspect, to say the least.

      Googling says he testified for plaintiffs in a lot of civil-rights cases. No doubt a conservative’s testimony would appeal to litigators. Kousser believes the Supreme Court is infested with post-modernist radicals too. Frankly, brief inspection suggests Kousser may just be another dingbat whose skill with footnotes and sounding reasonable while being nothing of the sort. Incidentally, googling found another Kousser review. Kousser wrote “Offering a tidy explanation for puzzling and significant regional and national trends, integrating politics knowledgeably and seamlessly into an essentially economic analysis, interpreting paternalism as an economically rational bargain, rather than a misty ideological-cultural construct, and avoiding mathematicized theory and statistical estimations, this short, provocative book should fit well into courses in economic history and American political development, and it deserves the attention of nonacademic readers interested in American history. But its omissions make its arguments less than wholly persuasive.” To say the least! But evidently this book’s authors had their hearts in the right (wing) place, stimulating Kousser’s admiration for worthwhile work.

      Also, only God knows why only Koch money is dirty. From “about us” at the Independent Review site: “Board of Directors

      Gilbert I. Collins
      Private Equity Manager

      John Hagel III
      Co-Chairman, Center for the Edge, Deloitte & Touche USA LLP

      Sally S. Harris
      Vice Chairman of the Board, Albert Schweitzer Fellowship

      Philip Hudner Esq.
      Retired Lawyer

      Gary G. Schlarbaum Ph.D., CFA
      Managing Director, Palliser Bay Investment Management

      Susan Solinsky
      Co-Founder, Vital Score

      W. Dieter Tede
      President, Audubon Cellars and Winery

      David J. Teece CNZM
      Chairman and Principal Executive Officer, Berkeley Research Group, LLC

      David J. Theroux
      Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer, Independent Institute

      Mary L. G. Theroux
      Former Chairman, Garvey International, Inc.

      In Memoriam Board of Directors

      Johan F. Blokker
      President and Chief Executive Officer, Luxcom, Inc.

      John S. Fay
      President, Piney Woods Corporation

      Ellen Mayo Hill
      Businesswoman and Philanthropist

      A. Neil McLeod
      Founding President, Liberty Fund, Inc.

      James P. Miscoll
      Vice Chairman, Bank of America

      Willard A. Speakman
      President and Chief Executive Officer, Speakman Company

      Perhaps I misread things when I think being asked to provide a review by a journal is a strong indicator of mutual support. If this is true, then this may be of interest:

      “In Memoriam Research Fellows

      Gary M. Anderson
      Professor of Economics, California State University, Northridge

      Stephen P. Dresch
      Former Dean, Michigan Technological University’s School of Business and Engineering Administration

      Antony G. N. Flew
      Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Reading, England

      Elizabeth Fox-Genovese
      Late Eleanore Raoul Professor of Humanities, Emory University

      Bruce L. Gardner
      Late Professor of Agriculture and Resource Economics, University of Maryland

      Ronald Hamowy
      Emeritus Professor of History, University of Alberta, Canada

      Jack Hirshleifer
      Professor of Economics, University of California, Los Angeles

      M. Bruce Johnson
      Founding Research Director, Independent Institute; Professor of Economics, University of California, Santa Barbara

      David L. Kaserman
      late Torchmark Professor of Economics, Auburn University

      Jacqueline R. Kasun
      Emeritus Professor of Economics, Humboldt State University

      Don B. Kates Jr.
      Research Fellow, Independent Institute

      Robert E. Keleher
      Chief Macroeconomist, Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Congress

      Cotton M. Lindsay
      Professor of Economics, Clemson University

      Tibor R. Machan
      Professor of Philosophy, Chapman University

      William F. Marina
      late Professor Emeritus in History at Florida Atlantic University

      Paul W. McCracken
      Edmund Ezra Day Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Business Administration, Economics, and Public Policy, University of Michigan; former Chairman, President’s Council of Economic Advisors

      William C. Mitchell
      Emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of Oregon

      Herbert Mohring
      Professor of Economics, University of Minnesota

      William A. Niskanen
      Chairman Emeritus and Distinguished Senior Economist, Cato Institute; former Acting Chairman, President’s Council of Economics Advisers

      Carl A. Pescosolido, Jr.
      President, Sequoia Enterprises

      Ralph Raico
      Professor Emeritus of History, State University of New York, Buffalo

      William Ratliff
      Research Fellow and Curator of the Americas Collection at the Hoover Institution

      Murray N. Rothbard
      S. J. Hall Distinguished Professor of Economics, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

      Simon Rottenberg
      Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Massachusetts

      Charles K. Rowley
      Professor of Economics at George Mason University; Director of the Program in Economics, Politics and the Law, James M. Buchanan Center for Political Economy; and General Director of The Locke Institute

      Larry J. Sechrest
      Professor of Economics, Sul Ross State University

      Frederick Seitz
      President Emeritus of Rockefeller University and former President of the National Academy of Science

      Bernard H. Siegan
      Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of San Diego

      Julian L. Simon
      Professor of Business Administration, University of Maryland

      Robert D. Tollison
      J. Wilson Newman Professor of Economics and BB&T Senior Fellow at Clemson University

      Gordon Tullock
      University Professor of Law and Economics and Distinguished Research Fellow, George Mason University

      John T. Wenders
      Professor of Economics, University of Idaho

      Aaron B. Wildavsky
      Class of 1940 Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley”

      No doubt the OP still believes it impossible that private money could provide a market for suitable scholarship, and fund the claque that acclaims its profundity. I would suggest that the history of medieval theology and philosophy suggest otherwise.

      • russnelson

        You went full ad-hominem. Never go full ad-hominem.

        • stevenjohnson2

          So, you really think the idea the Supreme Court is full of unreconstructed radicals infected with post-modernist ideology really is just common sense? Always good to start the day with a laugh, thanks.

      • ViperRum

        Stevejohnson2….is that you Nancy?

        • stevenjohnson2

          So, you agree ideas like, southern paternalism was an economically rational bargain (meaning both parties benefited more than they would have without the bargain…else the phrase “economically rational” doesn’t really mean anything besides “their motives were sincerely benevolent,) are stimulating ideas to be welcomed and tested. But MacLean’s book on the KKK is enraging and an insult to scholarship because she maliciously assumes that the KKK’s affirmations of good things should have been taken seriously.

          Libertarians are extraordinary minds.

    • Jeff R.

      If you read the whole thing, you’ll find out the answer.

  • Sean II

    Fascinating that the way to make a splash in 1994 was by explaining racism as a mere ornament on the superstructure, then boldly excavating the base to find out it’s really just about sex and class.

    Today it’s the other way around.

  • A. Alexander Minsky

    In fairness to Nancy McLean, studying White nationalism in general, and the Klan in particular is not without potential dangers and pitfalls. In the 1980’s, a budding young scholar named Evelyn Rich decided to write her doctoral dissertation on the KKK. In the course of her research, Rich met, fell in love with, and married the “White advocate” Jared Taylor.

    • Sean II

      This is one of those things I thought must be a pure invention of spy novelists: “agent sent to infiltrate or interrogate enemy falls in love, turns coat”.

      But nope, turns out that trope became a trope because it actually happens. Crazy.

      • A. Alexander Minsky

        In fairness to Jared Taylor, he is about as well mannered and charming a “White advocate” as one is likely to meet. What woman could resist being wined, dined, and educated in the nuances of group IQ differentials?

        • Sean II

          That’s what got me into the game.

          First time I saw someone explain the surprising right-tail effects that follow from a one standard deviation difference in two overlapping normal distributions, I thought: “That guy must get so many girls.”

  • Ledora Hubbard

    OMG I just got through covering this topic in my graduate Georgia History class, the text of which was somewhat revisionist with it’s emphasis on the black and female experience in Georgia and the New South. The woman is an absolute idiot. Of the wave of lynchings through the state during the Progressive Era, out of over 460 only two were found motivated by attacks on women. The majority were just outright attacks by mobs with no confessed affiliations.

    If anything, the blacks had more to fear from the Democrats and Jim Crow than the Klan. Not saying there weren’t elements, but there is more than enough historical evidence already to demonstrate she’s some kind of historical SJW who wants to paint all elements of a group with the same brush (profiling?) and vilify the entirety.

    Did she write this as a scholarly piece or something you’d buy at a Books-A-Million?

  • Pingback: Nancy MacLean's Sloppy 'Scholarship' - Cafe Hayek()

  • Theresa Klein

    On some level I worry that continuing to discuss Nancy Maclean and her attempt to capitalize on the market in popular fiction built by Naomi Klein is just serving to draw a larger audience to her ridiculous book.

    • A. Alexander Minsky

      You are probably quite right. Given the plethora of negative reviews that have appeared on some of my favorite sites, I almost feel an obligation to slog my way through MacLean’s tome.

      • Sean II

        Sorry, mis-posted something here meant for elsewhere.

    • Sean II

      Serious question: why do think MacLean’s book is ridiculous?

      Elsewhere you’ve argued that the liberty movement is linked to racism, or at least far too tolerant of it, presently and historically.

      You’ve also argued this is the main reason why so few minorities express interest in libertarian ideas – i.e. they see the racism associated with the movement, and reject it whole on that grounds.

      These things are close enough to MacLean’s thesis I don’t see how you can possibly call it ridiculous.

      Indeed, you’ve specifically talked about how racists are always lurking around the movement, and how they occasionally crawl “out of the woodwork”.

      In that sense, isn’t MacLean book just a well-warranted termite inspection?

      • Theresa Klein

        There are unfortunate connections between the libertarian movement and some far right racist elements, but they do NOT come via the economists or public choice theorists, or the Koch foundation, or the intellectual think tanks and institutes of the movement.

        They come from Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard’s efforts to engage the far right politically in the libertarian movement, for political reasons. People trying to advance the libertarian movement politically have, in the past, tried to engage racist elements in a cynical strategy to win votes and support from them.

        In other words, the intellectual foundations of the movement are not born out of some sort of secret attempt to maintain white power. Rather the connection was created after the fact by certain political leaders who mistakenly thought that appealing to racists was a useful strategy.

        • Sean II

          Okay, but that only gets you to “MacLean’s book is mistargeted”.

          You said it was ridiculous – as in, utterly without merit, absurd enough to be funny, etc.

          But surely it’s not ridiculous to go looking for racists in a place where they’ve previously been known to hide. You find a few old nazis living on the lam in Brazil, you don’t stop looking. You look even harder. You look there, you look in similar places, you look all around the neighborhood in Uruguay, Argentina, etc.

          Well, guess what: Jim Crow voters DID flee to the right. People HAVE found old racists hiding out in the Austrian School of Economics.

          It’s not weird for someone to think they might be hiding in Public Choice as well. Certainly far from ridiculous.

          After all, why would people like Rothbard and Rockwell even consider such a race-pandering strategy, if they didn’t have cause to think that racists make good recruits for libertarianism, and that libertarians would be willing to make common cause with racists.

          • Rob Gressis

            I think you’re reaching, Sean II.

            Klein’s position is that there are connections between the paleolibertarians and racists. She doesn’t think there are connections between, um, mesolibertarians and racists. So if a book argued:

            ARGUMENT A
            1. There are connections between paleolibertarians and racists;
            2. Mesolibertarianism and paleolibertarianism are both kinds of libertarianism;
            3. Therefore, there are connections between mesolibertarians and racism,

            That would be invalid and silly. But the book is even worse than that. It goes like this:

            ARGUMENT B
            1. I think Buchanan is a racist.
            2. There is no evidence that Buchanan is a racist.
            3. Given 1 and 2, it follows that the problem is even worse than I feared.
            4. Therefore, Buchanan is a mega-racist.
            5. Also, fuck the haters

            I don’t see why, for a second, someone who took Klein’s position would have to find argument A anything less than ridiculous, much less argument B.

          • Theresa Klein

            I’d put it something like this:

            1. Oh look, there are some libertarians who seem strangely sympathetic to racism.
            2. Therefore, libertarians are all secret racists.
            3. Therefore the entire libertarian movement must be a secret cabal of racists.
            Part 2:
            4. A bunch of libertarians seem to think democracy isn’t all that.
            5. Therefore, Libertarianism is a secret racist plot to undermine democracy.
            Part 3:
            6. Please ignore the fact that the Supreme court overturned majority rule to abolish Jim Crow and desegregate the South.
            7. It’s all a secret racist plot! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

            Let me add – MacClean thinks Tyler Cowen, who has expressed support for Black Lives Matter, is a secret racist. Here’s Tyler Cowen on Black Lives Matter:


          • Sean II

            Theresa, I gotta ask:

            How did it come to be that you only know three numbers: 0,1, and all?

            Anything to do with averages crashes your CPU.

          • Theresa Klein

            What are you trying to say? That the “average” libertarian is a little bit racist? Or that the libertarian movement is “on average” a racist plot to undermine democracy?

            The problem with averages is that averages don’t have any moral agency. Averages don’t have thoughts and motivations and intentions. Averages don’t make plans and take actions. So it make no sense to speak of justice or morality in the context of average entities. Only individuals are capable of moral agency.

          • Sean II

            I’m trying to say you have trouble thinking and talking about averages.

            When someone confronts you with a statement like “on average Xs are more likely than Ys to do A”, you tend to respond with irrelevant answers like:

            “Oh, so you think all Xs do A?”

            “Hey, what about this one X that doesn’t do A?”

            “What about all those Ys who do A?”

            But none of these are responsive to the original statement.

            Makes it very hard to discuss any issue where statistical evidence is involved.

            And before you say it: yes, I know you’ve constructed a theory which tells you being innumerate is some kind of moral imperative. You’re not refusing to consider the evidence, you’re just insisting that everyone be treated as an individual. Sure, sure.

            But the thing is, you are refusing to consider evidence. Those fallacies of relevance make it very difficult to talk about anything where averages play a role.

            Stats are one of the best tools we have for understanding human beings and human behavior.

            You seem to think we should throw that instrument away when it comes to human affairs.

            That’s a crazy idea, and I’d love to know more about how it gets into people’s heads.

          • Theresa Klein

            The behavior of statistical averages is irrelevant to questions of moral and political philosophy, because statistical averages are not moral agents. Groups don’t take actions, make decisions, and harm other people, individuals do. It would be immoral to punish everyone in a group because of the actions of some members of that group, and therefore it is equally immoral to take actions against all members of a group because of the statistical likelihood of them taking some action. You are espousing what is in essence a collectivist ideology.

          • Sean II

            It’s collectivist to think about statistics?

            See, that’s bad news for liberal societies, because it means either doing without good social science, or reducing it down to a form of mental masturbation.

            No offense, TK, but this is the libertarian equivalent of “If it agrees with the Koran, it is redundant and can be burned; if it disagrees with the Koran it is heresy and must be burned.”

            Except instead of a holy book you’ve got individualism as the thing that answers all social policy questions, and can never in any instance be wrong.

            How does that sort of thinking usually end up?

          • Sean II

            I think the obvious counter here is: the paleo vs meso distinction does no work (maybe that’s why the latter term never caught on).

            Certainly the distinction would mean little or nothing to non-libertarians. Much as we ourselves might refuse to be bothered about the allegedly massive differences between Hoxhaism and Maoism, on the grounds that they reach nearly identical conclusions.

            Grouping people by policy prefence is perfectly valid. And in that sense the paleos and meso (and even the neos) are similar enough to be studied together.

            Nothing ridiculous about that.

          • Theresa Klein

            They don’t reach the same conclusions or have the same policy preferences.
            The paleolibertarians spend a lot of time talking about anti-discrimination laws, while the mesolibertarians (not my terminology), just don’t care that much. The mesolibertarians are very interested in liberalizing immigration law, and the paleolibertarians think that should be postphoned until after we’ve dismantled the welfare state (at least).

            And more importantly, the paleolibertarians think that it’s a really important fact that everyone should be aware of that black people on average score lower on intelligence tests. While the mesolibertarians generally think that fact is irrelevant since every person is an individual with the same intrinsic moral worth who deserves to be treated equally under the law and judged on their own merits.

          • Sean II

            There, you just did it again.

            I point out that paleos and meso overlap on most policy preferences, and you respond “wrong, here’s one difference…”

            But an argument of the form “here’s one” does not answer an argument built around “most”.

            The fact remains: if you line up 100 paleo-libertarians and 100 non-paleo-libertarians, give them all a quiz featuring 100 policy questions, their answers will overlap so massively as to present no distinction.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            I hesitate to disagree with a man of your erudition, but paleo-libertarians and non-paleo libertarians would overwhelming disagree on the issues of immigration and abortion. These are two of the most controversial and emotional issues confronting our fellow citizens today. It is quite a stretch to say that how one comes down on either of these matters is a distinction without meaning.

          • Sean II

            Still just two issues out of many. Remember we’re talking about the full range here.

            Plus, key point: pro immigration is not the same thing as open borders. The latter idea is relatively new, even among libertarians. If you asked those 200 libertarians to say yea or nay to a statement like “the U.S. should abolish all border control”, you might not break 20% yes even on the meso group. It’s just such an extreme idea, even radicals shrink from going all in.

            To get big numbers you’d have to water it WAY down with language like “immigrantion is generally a force for good”. But of course that is not a policy question, it’s a sentiment question.

            Also, although the difference you talk about with abortion no doubt exists, it’s probably better explained by variables like age and religiosity.

          • Rob Gressis

            I guess there must be a paleolibertarian under 35, but I can’t think of one off-hand. Do you know of any?

          • Sean II

            You serious? Lew is the single most popular libertarian site on the web. No way it could achieve that status without lots and lots of people in the crucial fetus-35 demo.

            If a kid identifies as libertarian and his first blogstop of the day is LRC, what else would you call him? [insert joke here]

            Not only that, but paleos are a declared subgroup within the alt-right. The cultists of Hans Hoppe and the fanboys of Tom Woods would pass any reasonable test for paleo-ism.

            This one’s is not even a close call. To the limited extent you can use the word “plenty” to describe any kind of libertarian, paleos are plentiful.

          • Rob Gressis

            First, thanks. I didn’t know how popular Lew Rockwell, Tom Woods, etc., were! That said, just because they’re popular, it doesn’t *follow* that the people who like them are paleolibertarians. However, without knowing any more about them, it’s certainly likelier that they’re paleos than that they’re mesos.

            Second, I guess what I meant by my question when I asked it was a named person under 35 who was a paleo libertarian. I mean someone as famous as, say, Will Wilkinson.

          • Sean II

            Oh, I gotcha. I was thinking minions, but you were asking for paleo evil geniuses under 35. Different question from the one I answered. Sorry.

            So in that case I don’t know any, but I’d argue that’s probably a simple matter of base rate: it’s in the nature of being a famous intellectual that very few people pull it off before 35. You get some boy geniuses in STEM, but when it comes to the verbal IQ talmud-style disciplines, seems like the old tigers got it locked down.

          • Theresa Klein

            I dislike the paleo/meso teminology because “paleo” implies that they are somehow older and the mesos are newer. Actually, the “mesos” are the original libertarians, and the “paleos” are people that glommed onto the movement in the 1970s. “Mesos” also draw on an older and broader philosophical literature that includes classical liberal traditions which connect movement back to the enlightenment. See libertarianism is actually a branch of liberal enlightenment philosophy that diverged from mainstream liberalism over the emergence of collectivist ideologies like communism facism and socialism. Libertarianism is the part that maintained a commitment to the individualist ethos, while the rest of liberalism increasingly embraced collectivist ideas.

            The “paleo” libertarians are a political offshoot of that older, broader, liberty movement, not the other way around.

          • I think one of the things this conversation has established is that there are wedge issues among the schools of libertarian thought. Immigration and abortion are probably the biggest two.

            I get the feeling that the whole foundation of “liberal-tarianism” rests upon those two issues. Sometimes it seems as though liberal-tarians are eager to paint all those who disagree with open borders as racists and all those who disagree with abortion as male chauvinists.

            This is my principle objection to Theresa’s arguments. Being intellectually honest means that we must object to others’ ideas on their demerits, not on their applicability to a hypothetical arch-racism.

            To cite one example, a libertarian up-and-comer I know of recently linked to an article by Jeff Deist, arguing in part against open borders, publicly declaring Deist the the LvMI as alt-right racists. This is not fair. This kind of hysterical character assassination is what drives normal people away from libertarianism.

            Who wants to learn more about immigration policy if they’re petrified that saying the wrong thing will make them nazis?

          • Sean II

            “This kind of hysterical character assassination is what drives normal people away from libertarianism.”

            Yes, and it’s not working wonders for abnormal people either. Here’s my last couple years of intra-libertarian”discussion” on this issue reduced to a gag:

            Me: “Okay, but at least let’s talk about the trade-offs. Take Europe for example. Opening the border to Muslim immigration seems like an obvious benefit for the migrants, but what it portends for gay rights in the long run is…”
            Them: “Not all Muslims are homophobe, m’kay!”
            Me: “Well no, of course not. But proportionally speaking…”
            Them: “So you’re saying Christians can’t be homophobes? HELLO!”
            Me: “No, of course not. But its a question of numbers and critical mass and…”
            Them: “Oh, and I suppose you wanna deport THEM to Syria as well? If not, HYPOCRITE!”
            Me: “Well, that’s pretty silly. Deporting settled residents with rational expectations is not the same thing as turning off the “vacancy” sign…”
            Them: “So really you’re only offended by homophobes when they’re black or brown?”
            Me: “What? No, but it’s a question of numbers…”
            Them: “Okay smart guy, where’s it better to be gay: San Francisco or Salt Lake City?”
            Me: “Presumably San Francisco but…”
            Them: “Aha. San Francisco has more immigrants than Salt Lake. That’s you defeated, QED.”
            Me: “I’m not sure immigration is the only difference between those two pla…”
            Them: “Plus you do realize: gay rights is not the ONLY libertarian issue. Freedom of movement counts too.”
            Me: “Yes, that’s my whole point about trade-offs. I don’t think gay rights are special. That was just one example…”
            Them: “Oh, so you don’t care about gay muslims who flee to Europe escaping homophobic oppression?”
            Me: “Not if they bring the oppressive homophobes with them at a rate of 20 to 1. This sounds like you conceding the key p…”
            Them: “I’m not talking about statistics. I’m talking about people!”
            Me: “I’m bringing up statistics precisely because they tell us what will most likely happen to people…”
            Them: “But what else can I expect from a known racist who wants all blacks incarcerated at birth.”
            Me: “I never sa…[this is the part where I decide fuck it and just throw out some snarky jokes]”

            Couple months later this will be summarized back to me as: “That time you admitted to not caring about gay rights and wanting Muslims deported for no reason.”

            Hard to imagine having an argument of similar flavor about occupational licensing or rent control.

          • HermanStone

            Me: “I never sa…[this is the part where I say fuck it and just throw out some snarky jokes]”

            Funniest part of the comment. You would never last that long.

          • Sean II

            I might in a one-off, but you’re seeing me after years of exposure so now I tend to snark-on-warning.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            Murray Rothbard thought it was important that libertarians recognize the intractable/immutable nature of group differences in intelligence because these differences would obviously continue in a libertarian society. A libertarian society founded on egalitarian premises would forever be susceptible to charges of racism.

            Just wondering: As an egalitarian, do you think that group differences in regards to intelligence and professional achievement will largely disappear under libertarianism? If so, how will this transformation occur?

          • Theresa Klein

            As an egalitarian, do you think that group differences in regards to intelligence and professional achievement will largely disappear under libertarianism?

            I have no idea. It would be nice if they disappear, but if they don’t, I do not see how that is necessarily a killer for a libertarian society. “Susceptible to charges of racism” does not mean, “doomed to be overthrown by racial strife”. Indeed, a society which does NOT guarentee equal justice under law and have strong norms of equality and individualism would be MORE likely to suffer racial conflict, since a racially disadvantaged group would be more likely to suffer unequal, unjust treatment, and be less likely to put up with it.
            The ONLY way you could possibly have a society with group differences in outcomes is if you ruthlessly enforce the principle that everyone should be given an equal chance, on their individual merit. Otherwise, the disadvantaged group is going to rebel and you will end up with a police state with armed troops occupying minority neighborhoods.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            How, in a libertarian society, would you go about “ruthlessly enforc(ing) the principle that everyone should be given an equal chance, on their individual merit”? Such a course of action seems to be at variance with the idea that, at best, a social order can only provide for formal equality, and involve a form of social engineering that most libertarians would find both unworkable and abhorrent.

            l also find it interesting that you seem to assume that a libertarian polity will include largely or exclusively “minority neighborhoods”. You seem to reluctantly accept the idea that under conditions of complete freedom of association, most people will tend to cluster with those similar to themselves.

          • Rob Gressis

            OK, let me try again.

            Argument B might not have anything to do with what you said, but it’s how MacLean’s argument appeared to me, and I imagine that it’s how it appeared to Theresa (and her comment below indicates that something like this is how it appeared to her). I presented it as a reason to think that the fact that MacLean and Klein both see racist connections to libertarians is not enough to mean that Klein would be at all sympathetic to MacLean.

            That said, I’ll try to be fairer to MacLean this time.

            Perhaps this, EXTREME ARGUMENT, is her argument:
            1. Libertarianism is racist.
            2. Buchanan is a libertarian.
            3. Therefore, Buchanan is racist.

            Theresa wouldn’t have sympathy for that, because (it appears that) Theresa identifies as a libertarian but also identifies as an anti-racist. By contrast, here’s Theresa’s position, which I’ll call WEAK ARGUMENT:

            4. Few libertarians are racist.
            5. Buchanan is a libertarian.
            6. Therefore, Buchanan is probably not a racist.

            If Klein accepts WEAK ARGUMENT, then the fact that MacLean draws 3 as her conclusion would appear ridiculous to Theresa.

            Now, maybe you, Sean II, don’t think EXTREME ARGUMENT is actually MacLean’s argument.* Maybe you think STRONG ARGUMENT is her argument:

            7. Most libertarians are racist.
            8. Buchanan is a libertarian
            9. Therefore, Buchanan is probably racist.

            Even if STRONG ARGUMENT is MacLean’s position, then Klein will still find it ridiculous.

            This is why I think your statement that it’s weird that Klein would find MacLean’s book ridiculous rather than mistargeted is a stretch.

            *–That said, I would imagine you *do* think EXTREME ARGUMENT is something like MacLean’s argument. After all, didn’t you point out — quite correctly and illuminatingly, I thought — that for many contemporary anti-racists, disparate impact is itself racist? And you also pointed out that anti-racists would look at libertarianism and think it would have a disparate impact. So, on the assumption that MacLean is a contemporary sort of anti-racist, wouldn’t she accept EXTREME ARGUMENT? If so, then it would *really* be a stretch to think that Theresa would have any sympathy for MacLean.

          • Sean II

            You’ve missed one, and it’s important:

            MacLean’s premise (not to be confused with her entire book):

            1) We don’t know if most mincarchsists are racists, but…

            2) From Goldwater to the Tea Party, we can see that most racists disguise their resentments in the language of minarchism.

            3) Therefore it’s worthwhile to scrutinize minarchist movements (especially new ones) for evidence of crypto-racism.

            (The fact that she ends up brazenly manufacturing that evidence is not in dispute.)

            Theresa’s argument, made here on countless occasions:

            1) The old racists never went away. They’ve been always with us, hiding, biding, waiting for a chance to reassert themselves since the civil rights era.

            2) One of the favorite places they’ve been hiding is the liberty movement.

            3) Therefore the liberty movement must scrutinize itself, with strong social norms to drive out the racsist in our midst.

            The middle term in both arguments is nearly identical.

            What’s more, the final term is very similar, expect Theresa wants that scrutiny to protect the libertarian movement while MacLean wants scrutiny to discredit it.

            But both agree on the presence of hidden racsists hiding bigotry behind their desire to “get government out of the way”.

            That’s more than enough similarity to deprive Theresa of the right to use a word so strong as “ridiculous” here.

            “Plausible but poorly executed” would be less hypocritical for her.

          • King Goat

            I’ve seen Jehovah Witnesses work less hard than Sean II here on Theresa…

            It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, Maclean thinks that since a lot of racists find solace in the libertarian message all libertarians must have been racist, Theresa thinks that while a lot of racists find solace in the libertarian message that’s no reason to think libertarianism, or most libertarians, are racists, especially sans any evidence to point to.

            Of course a guy who thinks that the fact that one out of 19 black guys might be a criminal tots justifies acting as if all black guys you encounter are criminals can’t get that.

          • Rob Gressis

            Do you really think that MacLean would endorse something as watered down as your (1)-(3)? Let me present them again:

            1) We don’t know if most mincarchsists are racists, but…

            2) From Goldwater to the Tea Party, we can see that most racists disguise their resentments in the language of minarchism.

            3) Therefore it’s worthwhile to scrutinize minarchist movements (especially new ones) for evidence of crypto-racism.

            In a past post you said that most anti-racists base their judgments of what is racist on something’s consequences, not on its intentions. Given that they think libertarianism would have bad consequences for black people, it follows that libertarianism is racist. Consequently, she would deny (1); she would assert that we know that *all* libertarians are racists. Unless you think she’s not an anti-racist in your sense?

          • Sean II

            You’re missing the point of the flexible definition game anti-racists like to play.

            The points is not to have a consistently expanded meaning of the word. Then the equivocation wouldn’t work.

            The point is to pull stunts like this:

            Step 1: Remind everyone how awful racists are, by conjuring up original meaning racists like George Wallace or Bull Connor.

            Step 2: Now expand the definition of racist, so that we can use the same word to describe people who, say, merely oppose affirmative action.

            Step 3: Scrub memory of step 2, so that people who oppose affirmative action are sorted into the same bin as George Wallace and Bull Connor.

            Rinse and repeat.

            Now I don’t know too much about MacLean specifically (and I don’t care to either) but I certainly do know the type and the tactic.

            And yes, the argument usually does start with a passive-aggressive disclaimer meant to make one sound reasonable. You can’t come right out and say “all my political opponents are racist by virtue of their positions”. Where would be the trick in that?

            More importantly, where would be the book in it?

            Remember how, circa 2011, there was a whole cottage industry of people explaining how without racism no one would be opposing any of Barack Obama’s great ideas?

            Well, none of those books, blogs, articles, interviews, etc BEGAN with someone saying “First, let me just explain the somewhate novel way I use the word ‘racist’. See…for me that’s just anyone who opposes the President’s domestic agenda. Now let me explain why the people who oppose Obama’s domestic agenda are actually, secretly, scandalously racist.”

            Wouldn’t have worked at all. That disclosure at the start would have killed the whole thing. The equivo in the equivocation must be carefully buried in the middle somewhere. The beg must be hidden deep in the question.

            Now, if MacLean’s any different it should be no trouble catching her out. If she just admits somewhere that she’s hot-swapping definitions, we should have a smoking gun quote by now. So far as I know we don’t.

          • Rob Gressis

            I want to remember why we’re having this discussion in the first place: you think, given Theresa’s beliefs, that she should not find MacLean’s book ridiculous. I think, given Theresa’s beliefs, that she should.

            You point out that Theresa thinks that a lot of libertarians are racist, and that’s bad, but it’s not inherent to the movement. The question is: is that just MacLean’s thesis? No, because her thesis is much more precise: according to her libertarian critics, she thinks that Buchanan is a white supremacist who draws inspiration from John C. Calhoun and supports particular libertarian policies precisely because they will help white people and hurt black people. I assume Klein hasn’t read MacLean’s book, and believes the libertarian critics’ take. Consequently, she should find the book ridiculous.

            You think she shouldn’t find it ridiculous — just mistargeted, because a very similar book could, from Theresa’s point of view, justifiably be written about some prominent libertarians, including Murray Rothbard, Lew Rockwell, or Ron Paul.

            But I don’t think that works. Consider:
            1. MLK was part of the civil rights movement
            2. Many members of the civil rights movement counseled violent resistance
            3. Therefore, MLK probably counseled violence too.*

            Even if Theresa agrees with both 1 and 2, it’s perfectly OK for her to find 3 ridiculous. It would be odd to say that she shouldn’t find it ridiculous, she should only find it mistargeted because, after all, she admits that Malcolm X counseled violent resistance.

            *–I don’t know much about MLK, Jr., whereas I assume that you, Sean II, do. And usually you drop little-known facts that are new to me. So, it wouldn’t surprise me if you pointed out that MLK was, in fact, primarily a violent revolutionary. Fine. The point is, *pretend* he wasn’t, just like Buchanan was probably not a white supremacist.

          • Sean II

            That analogy is overdrawn, but we can save it:

            1) King was a radical left wing activist.

            2) Many radical left wing activists were actually crypto-communists.

            3) Therefore it was NOT RIDICULOUS to scrutinize King for possible ties to commmunism.

            4) Even though he turned out not to actually have any.

            Ultimately it comes down to this: “Ridiculous” is a very strong word.

            Means: “No way, now how, not a chance, utterly implausible, unworthy of attention, laughable on its face, don’t even bother to read, etc.”

            Now, as far as I’m concerned, lots of people DO have the right to use that word in this context. If someone like, say, Mark Friedman wants to call the whole premise of Democracy in Chains a ridiculous witch hunt, he sure can. Because he’s not on record saying the liberty movement suffers from a serious and chronic and ultimately crippling infestation of racists.

            Theresa is, though. She’s said that sort of thing many times here. And I just think that puts some of the stronger language – like “ridiculous” – well out of her reach.

            Jim Buchanan being particularly innocent of the charges against him gets her to “the book is wrong”, or “Nancy MacLean is a hack”, or something like that, but it doesn’t get her to ridiculous.

            Instead, to be fully consistent Theresa would need to say something like: “I totally get why Nancy MacLean went looking for racists in the liberty movement. Because unfortunately there are many, and they are bad news. But she went about it all wrong. Picked on the wrong guy, and let some real baddies off the hook. Used some very dubious methods too. But still her basic idea is valid, and I would eagerly welcome a better author writing a better book that followed the same structure and set out in pursuit of the same basic aim – to expose racists disguising themselves as libertarians. That’s a book we very much need.”

            Theresa could say that, no problem. It’d be perfectly in line with a long series of other statements she had made.

            But that’s a long way from “ridiculous”.

          • Rob Gressis

            Sorry for the late reply. I had a lot of important Dungeons & Dragons to do.

            First, I don’t see why we should prefer your MLK analogy to mine.

            Second, I think the main reason the book is ridiculous is the conspiracy stuff, the lack of familiarity with libertarianism, the misquotes, etc. I think she’s entitled to call it ridiculous for that reason.

            If the person saying music was genetic completely misunderstood the environmentalist position and also said practice was irrelevant, you’d be justified in calling it ridiculous.

          • Sean II

            1) Reason to prefer my analogy is: the question of whether MLK counseled violence is too easily answered. The question of whether he was a closet communist, or communist sympathizer, or communist inspired, etc. is harder. Hence closer to the difficulty of determining whether someone like Buchanan is a “racist” under the flexible definition standards or today.

            2) Here are some quotes. Guess the source.

            “There are a lot of closet racists [comfortably] hiding in the liberty movement.”
            “There are probably a lot more racists in the US right now than there are legitimate libertarians.”
            “I’m not even sure that most of those people understand libertarianism as anything more than something that justifies their desire to discriminate against black people.”

            Think about the person who wrote this. Clearly someone who sees racists lurking everywhere, but especially in the liberty movement. That’s only possible with a very broad definition of racism.

            Now think about James Buchanan. Think about how he might fare under such an expansive definition. Could he sit down to chat with a person wielding the modern definition of racism and NOT run afoul of it?

            3) You didn’t ask, but it might help to know how I myself got branded with the dreaded “R” word. Basically five things, although I think any one of them alone might have been sufficient: a) talking crime statistics, b) talking about IQ, c) talking about heredity, d) predicting cultural and political externalities from immigration, and e) making textbook standard econ arguments about discrimination, anti-discrimination policy, etc.

            Buchanan so far as we know had no interest in a), b), or c), but what do think would happen if he showed up on BHL to discuss d) or e)? Think he’d escape the label? I rather doubt it.

            That’s part of my point here: I’ve been around the block with Theresa (and people like her) many times, and I know just how not hard it is to become a racist in her (their) eyes. So when I hear her declare that someone is so far above suspicion that it’s ridiculous to suspect him, I can’t help but chuckle a bit. Because under a definition like that no one is really above suspicion, and no charge of racism can ever really be ridiculous.

            4) “If the person saying music was genetic completely misunderstood the environmentalist position and also said practice was irrelevant, you’d be justified in calling it ridiculous.”

            But MacLean hasn’t completely misunderstood the libertarian position, according to Theresa. See the smoking gun quotes above. She thinks the libertarian movement is full of people whose main interest is justifying their desire to discriminate against blacks. She said that plain as day, in this very thread.

          • Peter from Oz

            They use the same trick with all their other isms and phobias.
            The folk-marxists see all human relationships and interactions as power struggles in which certain types of people always take the part of the oppressed, regardless of the actual circumstances. It is simplistic thinking that is often supported by a raft of complex theorising. One is reminded of medieval churchmen arguing about how many angels could sit on the head of a pin.
            WHence comes this need to castigate one’s fellow man as an oppressor of the ”other”? Is it oikophobia? Is it just the need to be one of the top kids? It’s really a topic which could keep whole schools of psychologists busy for years to come.

          • Theresa Klein

            Maclean argument goes far beyond arguing that racists are hiding in the liberty movement. Her argument is that the entire movement was initiated intentionally as as subversive plot by racists to undermine democracy. She’s literally saying that Buchanan invented public choice theory as part a subversive racist conspiracy to influence public pilicy

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            When I was a teenage Maoist, a Hoxha supporter explained to me that Mao sold out the world revolution by meeting with Nixon and siding with America against the USSR. A “true Marxist-Leninist”, this Hoxhaite explained, would never waver in rejecting both the imperialist United States, and the social-imperialist Soviet Union (when Hoxha and his supporters were feeling theoretical they would justify their break with Maoism as a rejection of the “Three Worlds” theory).

            I appreciate that you probably have zero interest in this subject, but it is not often that I have an opportunity to share my aspergian knowledge regarding Communism in its most raw and brutal form. I apologize in advance for inflicting this post upon you.

          • Sean II

            You sir are the Stakhanov of comment section integrity.

            Everyone should aspire to be as honest, even/tempered, and direct as you are.

          • Theresa Klein

            I’d love it if someone wrote a book on what a racist idiot Lew Rockwell was. Preferably that book would be written by a libertarian.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            You do realize, of course, that Lew Rockwell is still alive. And whatever you think of the man’s politics, you might want to be reticent about referring to such a learned scholar as an “idiot”. With all due respect, Lew Rockwell has forgotten more than you, or I, will ever know.

          • Sean II

            Not only alive, but as I just pointed out in a reply to Rob, he’s the single most popular libertarian on the web.

            This has implications for the dispute at hand. Three possibilities:

            1) If Rockwell is such an obviously evil racist, then his large following must be a bunch of evil racists too.

            2) If Rockwell is such an obviously evil racist, but his followers is not evil or racist, then they must be plain idiots not to see what he is.

            3) Not quite either, but just a chef’s tasting menu of idiots and evils racists.

            In any of these cases, the movement is simply doomed. And deserves to be, too.

            In case 1), Nancy MacLean is just flat out right in her basic premise. In case 3), she’s at least not obviously wrong. And in case 2), she has a halfway decent fallback argument that libertarians are the reliable dupes of racism, even when they are not especially racist.

          • Theresa Klein

            Every movement tends to have a large number of what we can call “rabble” at the bottom. The intellectual elites are always a small number at the head of the pyramid. Most of the time, the rabble doesn’t even really understand the philosophy of the intellectual elite. I should mention I have never actually visited Lew Rockwell’s site. I only know of him by reputation and via his involvement with Ron Paul’s controversial racially tinged newsletters. (Which is a great example of how he has damaged libertarianism politically by trying to appeal to racists). Basically, I think the following Lew Rockwell has may indeed be because there are a lot of closet racists out there and Rockwell has made them a comfortable home hiding in the liberty movement. I’m not even sure that most of those people understand libertarianism as anything more than something that justifies their desire to discriminate against black people. There are probably a lot more racists in the US right now than there are legitimate libertarians, so it’s not really surprising that Rockwell’s site is popular. Moreover, there are a lot more right-wing Republicans than there are legitimate libertarians, and because of tribalism in politics people tend to line up with the end of the spectrum they think they belong to. So a lot of libertarians do ally and sympathize with right-wing Republicans. It’s hard to maintain intellectual independence and non-partisanship in an environment where everyone else is fiercely engaged in tribal warfare.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            You really might want to visit Rockwell’s site before dismissing the man as an “idiot”. And the Mises Institute, of which Rockwell is Chairman and Founder, deals largely, if not exclusively, with matters related to Austrian economics. The Mises site is a great place for one who wants to learn abut the nuances of Austrian theory- and a most unsatisfying location for race obsessed alt rightists.

            By the way, Austrian economics is a most demanding discipline. I would be hesitant to dismiss the folks who regularly visit LRC or the Mises Institute as “rabble”.

          • Sean II

            Good advice in general.

            Too many ideologies use that method to dispose of doubts:

            Q: “My theory is perfect, why doesn’t everyone agree with it?”

            A: “Because they’re evil, crazy, stupid, racist, etc”

            It’s a bad mental habit, because it stops you thinking just when you ought to wonder: “maybe they know something I don’t?”

            To be sure, some people are stupid (half below average, I hear).

            But that’s not who reads Mises or even LRC. The regulars in those places probably have a mean around 110 or more.

            Any worldview which hinges on calling people like that idiots is a bad one.

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            As Jason Brennan has sadly but accurately pointed out, the most politically active citizens of our republic tend to be those who believe that their ideological opponents are “evil, crazy, racist, stupid, etc”. This is true of conservatives, leftists, and, alas, libertarians. More deliberative types are often far less likely to immerse themselves in direct political action. If you encounter someone who spends an appreciable portion of their spare time participating in partisan causes, more likely than not you have encountered an individual who only has the most cartoon like understanding of his/her political adversaries.

            Disheartening, but true.

          • Sean II

            It’s a moral form of the cash-on-the-table illusion.

            i.e. – “There’s an easy to make the world better, but for some crazy reason people just won’t do it.”

            Being a grown-up means reacting with suspicion to any argument that takes this form. Is the solution really a solution? Is there really no hidden downside? Shouldn’t we at least be curious about why so many other people choose to leave this alleged treasure unclaimed?

          • A. Alexander Minsky

            A thousand upvotes, and a hearty “Amen”.

        • ViperRum

          Well if we are going to go down the road of history early progressives were racist, eugenecists with very strong authoritarian views. Check out the work of Thimas C. Leonard. And this despicable aspect of early progressives was not due to political expediency the really and honestly believed it. There wer, in short, despicable people. If you are a progressive these are your intellectual forebearers.

          • Theresa Klein

            Right, well, Lew Rockwell was racist in the 1980s, not the 1920s.

  • Peter from Oz

    The Chronicle of Higher Education has now waded into this debate, trying to defend MacLean.

  • Chris Baker

    Is there a way to “read the whole thing” without giving any money to it?