Book/Article Reviews – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com Free Markets and Social Justice Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:16:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-site-icon-BHL-32x32.png Book/Article Reviews – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com 32 32 22756168 Anderson V. Munger Cage Match!!! http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/11/anderson-v-munger-cage-match/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/11/anderson-v-munger-cage-match/#comments Mon, 06 Nov 2017 18:29:04 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12068 Okay, no. It was orderly and respectful. And she’s probably right. But Liz Anderson WAS kind enough to have a discussion/debate about her new book, Private Government. The video is...

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Okay, no. It was orderly and respectful. And she’s probably right.

But Liz Anderson WAS kind enough to have a discussion/debate about her new book, Private Government.

The video is here. Thanks to Bookmarks/Public Square for the opportunity!

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What James Buchanan Actually Thought http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/james-buchanan-actually-thought/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/09/james-buchanan-actually-thought/#comments Sat, 02 Sep 2017 18:43:06 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=12013     One might expect a historian going through Buchanan’s works trying to find his views on this subject to discover this letter, but no, it’s much easier I guess...

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One might expect a historian going through Buchanan’s works trying to find his views on this subject to discover this letter, but no, it’s much easier I guess just to insinuate stuff and provide literally no evidence for it.

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Chris Freiman’s Unequivocal Justice http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/chris-freimans-unequivocal-justice/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/08/chris-freimans-unequivocal-justice/#comments Wed, 02 Aug 2017 15:19:00 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11965 Christopher Freiman  has just published a fabulous book, Unequivocal Justice, the first book in Routledge Press’s new “Political Philosophy for the Real World” series. It is a tour de force of philosophical...

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Christopher Freiman  has just published a fabulous book, Unequivocal Justice, the first book in Routledge Press’s new “Political Philosophy for the Real World” series.

It is a tour de force of philosophical excellence. It may well be the best book of political philosophy published in 2017. I certainly haven’t read anything this year that comes close to competing with it.

Imagine a person said, “I have a solution to the problem of drunk driving. However, my solution works only in a world where alcohol hadn’t been invented.” There’s something deeply silly and incoherent about that.

Well, it turns out that the mainstream of political philosophy over the past 50 years has precisely this problem. The mainline of political philosophy, when it tries to defend or critique various institutions, has largely been a joke, Freiman shows us, though he’s too polite to put it that bluntly.

What Freiman shows is that Rawls, Freeman, Ackerman, Dworkin, and a number of other left-liberal philosophers are making this kind of mistake over and over. His critique is so devastating that you might as well take Rawls’s writings about institutions and throw them in the trash; they are now, thanks to Chris, nothing more than artifacts of historical interest.

Chris starts by saying,

A perfect state is a pointless state.

The point of a state is to mitigate injustice. If Rich would donate his 40% to the poor, the state wouldn’t need to tax his income. If Mimi would buy a hybrid instead of a Hummer, the state wouldn’t need to cap her emissions. But since virtue alone won’t do the job, the state needs to redistribute equitably and regulate efficiently.

…But here’s the problem: the very reasons why the state is needed are reasons why the state won’t work.

 

Rawls writes mostly at the level of ideal theory. But, Freiman shows, an ideal theory of the state is incoherent. (Yes, he responds to Kavka’s argument otherwise.) Under ideal conditions–in which people are stipulated to comply fully with the requirements of morality and justice–there simply is no need for a state, period. There is no need to create an institution which claims a monopoly on violence and which enforces rules through threats of violence. Ideal theory must be anarchist.

Coercion is needed to defend justice only when society is less than fully just. But when society is less than fully just, we cannot stipulate the ideal justness of the state itself. So we arrive at the dilemma for ideal theories of the state: either (i) society is fully just, in which case there is no need for a state, or (ii) society is not fully just, in which we case we may not stipulate the state itself is just.

In order to create a need for a state, Rawls (and his followers) equivocate. They posit bad behavior in the private sector. But then, in order to defend their favored regime and in order to avoid the criticism that the regime itself might be corrupt and make things worse, they imagine away all bad behavior in the public sphere.

For example, Rawls claims that we need to equalize incomes in order to prevent the rich from buying power for themselves. (Freiman thinks that’s a weird argument to begin with; in order to stop people from polluting, we don’t equalize income; rather we regulate pollution.) But here’s the dilemma.

…The only way to ground both (i) the need for regulation and (ii) the stipulation of the regulation’s success is to equivocate in precisely the way Rawls does.

So, to restore consistency, Rawls needs to resolve a dilemma: Either (i) the rich aren’t buying up state power, in which case equalization isn’t necessary, or (ii) the rich are buying up state power, in which case they can subvert equalization by buying up the state power unleashed to do the equalizing. Neither option justifies an a priori demand for equalization.

A few other philosophers, including G. A. Cohen and me, have pointed out that Rawls makes cartoonishly bad arguments like this here and there. But Freiman methodically goes through Rawls and a few others, and finds they make such arguments constantly. Rawls’s version of the public goods argument, his argument for redistribution taxation, his argument for the existence of the state, and so on, all have the same form: He’s giving us a theory about how to solve drunk driving, but his solution can only be stipulated to work in a world where alcohol had never been invented.

In the end, the mistake is that Rawls is trying to make a priori arguments for institutions, regime-types, and rules. These arguments all fail. They are no substitute for doing careful PPE-style empirical institutional analysis. Freiman closes by warning left-liberals not just to presume that empirical analysis will vindicate the exact institutions they were defending on entirely a priori grounds.

Again, the book is a tour-de-force. You should read it. It will make you a better thinker.

Here’s my blurb for the book:

Unequivocal Justice, with its delightful and engaging prose, is a devastating critique of the dominant arguments and methods in political philosophy. It shows that almost everything Rawls and other left-liberals have said about institutions over the past 50 years is not merely wrong, but incoherent. It should–if philosophers have an intellectual integrity–change the field forever.

Strong words, but entirely deserved.

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Did Buchanan Really Think That African-Americans Had No Desire For Freedom? Another Major Distortion from Nancy MacLean. http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/buchanan-really-think-african-americans-no-desire-freedom-another-major-distortion-nancy-maclean/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/buchanan-really-think-african-americans-no-desire-freedom-another-major-distortion-nancy-maclean/#comments Sat, 22 Jul 2017 14:50:15 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11933 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...

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Problem of Pluralism Isn’t Real http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/called-problem-pluralism-isnt-real/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/called-problem-pluralism-isnt-real/#comments Mon, 10 Jul 2017 14:47:50 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11917   I recently read Linda Zerilli’s  A Democratic Theory of Judgment. The book explores and sort of gestures at a solution to what we might call the Problem of Pluralism....

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I recently read Linda Zerilli’s  A Democratic Theory of Judgment. The book explores and sort of gestures at a solution to what we might call the Problem of Pluralism. Here’s the problem, in the abstract, in my own words.

 

Many political theorists believe that democratic theory faces a puzzle or paradox. Democracy is supposed to answer to the differing worldviews, opinions, perspectives, and considered judgments of its citizens. But, we’re told, the polity has intractable value and perspective pluralism—citizens have myriad incompatible comprehensive worldviews and value systems. So we face the Puzzle of Pluralism: How can we pass any laws or even offer judgments about what is just or unjust, without thereby disrespecting our fellow citizens and running roughshod over their different worldviews?

Many political theorists think the idea of “truth” is a threat to democracy. To illustrate, suppose that utilitarianism is the objectively true theory of justice. By hypothesis the government should just do whatever utilitarianism requires. If the public disagrees, too bad—they’re wrong. But this strikes some theorists as undemocratic, as it seems to make citizens’ opinions irrelevant for deciding what to do.

On the other hand, if we dispense with the idea of an objective truth, we fall into skepticism or pernicious relativism. Rational argument is impossible. Debating justice is equivalent to arguing about whether the present king of France is bald or whether pineapple pizza tastes good. Denying truth leaves democrats defenseless against authoritarian critics of democracy—by hypothesis, it’s not true that democracy is better than other forms of government.

 

Zerilli’s book offers an extremely abstract sketch of a possible solution to this problem. It’s really unclear at the end what her view is and how it’s supposed to solve the problem.

But I don’t think that’s the major problem with the book. Rather, I worry that Zerilli, Rawls, Habermas, Arendt, Okin, and the countless other political philosophers and theorists who write about this problem are dealing with a pseudo-problem.* I worry this book, and those it builds upon, tries to solve a merely theoretical problem created by mistaken theory of democracy, rather than a real problem plaguing actual democracies.[1]  What Achen and Bartels call the “folk theory of democracy” holds that voters’ ideologies, political beliefs, and policy preferences explain their voting behavior and the outcome of elections.[2] The Puzzle of Pluralism presupposes a version of this folk theory, and holds that the diversity of ideology, political belief, and policy preferences is philosophically problematic. But the folk theory is false.

By analogy, consider that in Dungeons & Dragons, there is a monster—the Tarrasque– so powerful that it’s puzzling how any adventuring party could defeat it. A Google search indicates gamers have written hundreds of pages theorizing how to fight it. But while there really are better and worse theories about killing the Tarrasque, it’s merely a theoretical problem, because the Tarrasque doesn’t actually exist.

I worry something like that holds true of this book and others in the genre. Normative political theorists write book after book about how to solve the Problem of Pluralism. But after you read, say, Achen and Bartels’s Democracy for Realists, which provides a comprehensive overview of sixty years of empirical work on voter behavior, you realize they might as well debate how to kill the Tarrasque.[3]

Rawls, Arendt, Habermas, and others believe that citizens have diverse ideologies, incompatible perspectives, distinct values, and differing worldviews. Anyone pushing an agenda has to justify her favored policies to these different points of view.

Now compare this to Democracy for Realists: Empirical research finds the overwhelming majority of citizens in modern democracies lack an ideology or anything like a comprehensive political worldview. Most citizens have hardly any real political opinions—they have few opinions at all, and the few opinions they have are largely ephemeral. They are loyal to this or that party on the basis of identity politics—“people like us vote Democrat”—not because they accept, or even know which, ideas and policies the parties push. They sometimes engage in post-hoc rationalization that “feels like thinking”; that is, they sometimes temporarily convince themselves that they agree with whatever they mistakenly and temporarily believe their party believes. Citizens don’t have much in the way of political values, period, let alone competing or incommensurable values. They have few beliefs about politically salient facts, about recent or distant history, or about what causes what. Democracy is not a bunch of citizens with incompatible judgments about social scientific, historical, and moral matters; it’s more like a system which chooses government by periodically polling overwhelmingly judgment- and perspective-free citizens. Elections are “largely random events”.[4] And this is not some new development—democracy has been like this since political scientists started studying voter behavior.

The Puzzle of Pluralism is at best/worst a puzzle for a tiny subset of the citizenry. The modal, mean, and median voter lacks an “ism”; so there is little value or belief pluralism. We don’t have to worry about forcing our vision of the truth onto their differing worldviews, because they don’t have worldviews.

Democracy is not like a giant amateur political theory conference with interminable debates. It’s a system of agnostic know-nothing, opine-nothing Hobbits and party loyalist Hooligans.

The central problem of democracy is not “How do we justify policy when citizens have an intractable diversity of political beliefs?” It’s more like, “How do we justify policy when there is no ‘will of the people’, and further, the overwhelming majority of individuals lack any significant political beliefs?” If anything, democratic theory faces the problem of perspectival and ideological nihilism, not pluralism.

 

 

 

[1] Cf. Daniel Dennett, “Higher-Order Truths about Chmess,” Topoi 25 (2006) 39-41

[2] Achen, C. and Bartels. L., Democracy for Realist (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), 1-10.

[3] Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels, Democracy for Realists (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016). My own Against Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), contains a less comprehensive summary of the same position.

[4] Achen and Bartels 2016, 2.

*Note that I think Jacob Levy’s work on pluralism is different, because it’s about identity rather than about belief.

 

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Psychological Harm and Free Speech on Campus http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/psychological-harm-free-speech-campus/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/psychological-harm-free-speech-campus/#comments Thu, 06 Jul 2017 05:09:47 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11915 Psychological Harm and Free Speech on Campus The short piece I wrote about free speech on college campuses is now available to read online (but not downloadable) here.   I...

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Psychological Harm and Free Speech on Campus
The short piece I wrote about free speech on college campuses is now available to read online (but not downloadable) here.   I like this piece alot, but I know many will disagree with various parts.  Even blogmates will find things to disagree with. I know Daniel Shapiro disagrees with what I say about the Skokie case and I predict Jacob Levy will disapprove of a big part of what I say about college campuses.
The basic idea: we should recognize that psychological harm is real and that like physical harm, it may make interference permissible, even with speech, but that this is highly unlikely to occur on college campuses because college essentially requires extensive speech and thus are places where all present should expect to hear views they disagree with and even disapprove of.

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The Butcher with a Smile – More Mangling from Nancy MacLean http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/butcher-smile-mangling-nancy-maclean/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/butcher-smile-mangling-nancy-maclean/#comments Sat, 01 Jul 2017 16:49:28 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11904 I’m almost finished with Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, thankfully, as I don’t think I can take much more of her disregard for accuracy in her book-length smear of James...

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I’m almost finished with Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, thankfully, as I don’t think I can take much more of her disregard for accuracy in her book-length smear of James Buchanan and libertarian thought more generally. Folks should see co-blogger Mike Munger’s absolutely devastating review if they have not done so already.

As scholars continue to try to “catch them all,” I offer yet another example of her butchering of quotes and arguments. And it’s a doozy.

MacLean is discussing the way in which the US political system puts constraints, constitutional and otherwise, on the will of the majority, which she thinks should reign unfettered (though how that justifies her presumed support of Roe or Obergefell or even Brown, which plays a major role in what Mike calls her “speculative historical fiction,” remains mysterious). She accuses Buchanan et. al. of wanting to go back to a 19th century view of the constitution that she finds horrific. She writes (227), with the quote being from The Calculus of Consent:

[Buchanan] and his co-author Gordon Tullock said that the nation’s decision-making rules were closer to “the ‘ideal’ in 1900 than in 1960.”

She then goes on to catalog the problems of 1900, some of which are legitimate concerns, such as Jim Crow. The idea, of course, is to claim that this is the world Buchanan and friends want to re-create today. She then writes (228) “Had Buchanan’s ideal system of 1900 endured at the national level…” followed by a list of horrors that the Great Depression “might well” have engendered.

Note first that what was once the constitution he thought was “closer to the ideal” has now become his “ideal.” A minor bit of slippery phrasing, but not a huge sin. But it was enough to make me want to check the source. Unsurprisingly, given the problems I documented in an earlier post, she has mangled people’s words again. This time substantially. Below I reprint the relevant passages in TCoC  (emphasis mine) so you can make up your own mind as to how accurately MacLean has represented Buchanan and Tullock. The context is their discussion of the costs of various sets of rules:

The question remains, however, as to whether or not the existing organizational reduces the overall interdependence costs (external costs plus decision-making costs) to the lowest possible level. Saying that external costs will be present in the “ideal” organization is not equivalent to saying that any organization embodying pressure-group activity is, in any sense, ideal.

No direct measurement of the total interdependence costs under existing or alternative decision-making rules is readily available. Certain conclusions can be drawn, however, on the basis of the facts of history. We may observe a notable expansion in the range and extent of collective activity over the last half century—especially in that category of activity appropriately classified as differential or discriminatory legislation. During the same period we have witnessed also a great increase in investment in organized interest-group efforts designed specifically to secure political advantage. These facts allow us to reach the conclusion that the constitutional rules that were “optimal” in 1900 are probably not “optimal” in 1960. If we may assume that the fundamental rules for organizing collective decisions were more closely in accordance with the “ideal” in 1900 than in 1960, these same rules will tend to produce a higher level of interdependence costs than necessary. This suggests that some shifting in the direction of more inclusive decision-making rules for collective choice and some more restrictive limits on the range of collective activity might now be “rational” to the individual considering constitutional changes. The contrary possibility, of course, also exists. If the operation of existing constitutional rules produces roughly “optimal” results today, clearly these same rules were overly restrictive in earlier stages of development marked by relatively less organized pressure for differential legislation.

Aside from the fact that this passage is their attempt to think through (in a Coasean sort of way) the cost tradeoffs faced by alternative rule structures, rather than making a unilateral call to return to 1900, to the degree they do reach a conclusion, it’s that in the actual world of 1960, the rules of 1900 are “probably” not optimal or ideal. Perhaps they are arguing for a more restrictive set of limits on majorities are required in 1960, but the context suggests that it is not majorities per se that they wish to throttle, but special interest groups who are able to exercise what amounts to minority rule through the process of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs familiar to so many of us. (Though not to MacLean, as her description of that process earlier in the book is also pretty mangled.) That process is part of what creates the external costs that are at the center of this discussion.

The point at issue is that claiming that Buchanan wants to go back to what he saw as the “ideal” constitution of 1900 is simply false. She has waded into a much more complex and nuanced discussion that she has reduced to a simplistic falsehood.

It confirms one of the most trenchant criticisms of the book: she does not understand Buchanan’s system of thought. She cannot parse the context and meaning of his arguments, and given her fervor to counter the Trump presidency and the connection to Buchanan and libertarianism she imagines it has, she reads into Buchanan exactly what she imagined and hoped would be there. The problem is that it’s just not there.

As Munger’s review points out, there was a way to avoid this problem if she wished to. On her campus at Duke there are three political scientists who are, or have been, presidents of the Public Choice Society, one of whom co-authored major works with Buchanan. If MacLean sincerely wanted to understand Buchanan’s contributions, she could have walked across campus and talked with Geoff Brennan, Mike Munger, or Georg Vanberg. She made no attempt to contact them in any form, nor, for the record, did she make any attempt to contact any of the members of the GMU economics department to verify her accounts of their work or the events of the last 35 years there. This suggests that not only is she unable to understand Buchanan’s thought, she didn’t make a serious effort to even try.

It is in that sense that this book is a travesty of historical scholarship and a direct attack on the centrality of truth-seeking in intellectual discourse. I share many of her concerns about the Trump presidency, but it’s precisely because those concerns are so important and its potential damage is so great that I think a commitment to truth-seeking cannot be sacrificed in the process. Trump and his crew have already showed their lack of concern with the truth. When scholars and intellectuals try to play that game, we will surely lose. When you wrestle in the mud with pigs, the pigs will win.

I repeat my call for progressive scholars and intellectuals of integrity to join those of us who are deeply troubled by this book’s lack of concern for accuracy, and its violations of the most fundamental of scholarly norms, in publicly denouncing it and calling for a renewed commitment by all of us to those fundamental norms of intellectual charity and honesty. Chaining the truth will not unchain democracy.

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Nancy MacLean Is Either Grossly Incompetent or a Liar http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/nancy-maclean-either-grossly-incompetent-liar/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/nancy-maclean-either-grossly-incompetent-liar/#comments Tue, 27 Jun 2017 13:37:31 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11886 Here, Russ Roberts finds MacLean purposefully removed lines from Cowen in order to stick him with saying the opposite of what he in fact said. Here, Christopher Fleming finds she...

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Here, Russ Roberts finds MacLean purposefully removed lines from Cowen in order to stick him with saying the opposite of what he in fact said.

Here, Christopher Fleming finds she did the same to James Buchanan.

And here Phil Magness finds her inventing a connection between James Buchanan and a bunch of racist segregationist.

Read Greg Wiener’s review of her book here.

 

Expect to see more of this soon. Christ, I understand the government wants to buy itself an apologist for corporatism, but you’d think for $50,000 it could get someone better.

Imagine if an undergraduate read the following text:

Jason Brennan: “Calhoun asserts that racism is not wrong. But I, Jason Brennan, disagree with Calhoun.”

Now suppose the undergraduate wrote this in an essay:

“Jason Brennan writes, and I quote, ‘….racism is not wrong.'”

That’s what MacLean is doing, over and over again. She is either grossly incompetent or a straight up liar.

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Conspire Me This: Is Nancy MacLean a Hired Gun for the Establishment? http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/conspire-nancy-maclean-hired-gun-establishmet/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/conspire-nancy-maclean-hired-gun-establishmet/#comments Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:30:49 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11875 Historian Nancy MacLean recently wrote a hit piece smearing James Buchanan and a number of other public choice theorists. What’s Buchanan’s basic message? Simple: Government isn’t magic. In representative democracy, small,...

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Historian Nancy MacLean recently wrote a hit piece smearing James Buchanan and a number of other public choice theorists.

What’s Buchanan’s basic message? Simple: Government isn’t magic. In representative democracy, small, privileged special interests groups–such as the corporations–make deals with the government. The government then uses its power to distribute favors to the privileged at the expense of the everyone else. And it does so while telling the bald-face lie that “government is just the name we give to the things we choose to do together.” 

Buchanan won a Nobel Prize for fighting for the little person and for speaking truth to power.

Now the government sure wouldn’t want anyone making its dirty secret public, would it?

So, along comes Nancy MacLean. The government paid her over $50,000 to smear Buchanan and people like him. Rather than challenge his ideas, she accuses him of this and that. Yet, all the while, Nancy is quite literally a hired gun for the government seeking to rationalize its oppression and abuses.

Its a bad book, and you, might notice, not peer-reviewed. But keep in mind it is quite literally a piece of government-funded propaganda. There’s no more point in arguing with Nancy than there is arguing with one of Goebbels’s essays. Asking about its intellectual value is a category mistake.

 

UPDATE: Here, Russ Roberts catches Nancy “I lie for money, status, and power” MacLean straight up lying about Tyler Cowen. 

 

 

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NDPR Discussion of Against Democracy http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/ndpr-discussion-democracy/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/06/ndpr-discussion-democracy/#comments Tue, 13 Jun 2017 14:02:25 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11856 The Pea Soup blog is hosting a discussion of Thomas Christiano’s review of Against Democracy here. Some comments on the discussion: It’s clear Christiano and I have different views of some...

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The Pea Soup blog is hosting a discussion of Thomas Christiano’s review of Against Democracy here.

Some comments on the discussion:

  1. It’s clear Christiano and I have different views of some of the political science literature. Like Achen and Bartels or Somin, I don’t think the shortcuts literature does much to vindicate democratic voting–I think it shows democracy “works” only by positing very low standards for “working” or by extrapolating from contentious examples. Christiano disagrees.
  2. Christiano and I both agree, though, that democracy overall has been the best form of government we’ve had so far. It looks like we both also agree that democracy performs better than we’d expect if the crudest form of the median voter theorem were true. But we disagree about why democracy over-performs in that sense.
  3. I’m still puzzled about what Christiano means about me having a simplistic “micro-theory”. Before writing Against Democracy, I read all the major political science works on democratic functioning and on how voter preferences/behavior translates into policy. There is significant disagreement about just how much voters matter and in just what ways, but there is not much disagreement over the claim that how voters vote does have a significant impact. In particular, the literature supports the view that democratic ignorance/misinformation/irrationality is dangerous and leads to worse quality government. If I waved a magic wand which made the majority of voters advocate even worse policies, that would lead to worse government; if I waved a different magic wand which made the majority advocate much better policies, that would lead to better government.
  4. In Against Democracy, I critique the non-instrumentalist/proceduralist arguments for democracy. I argue that democracy is not intrinsically just, and the only reason to accept it is if it functions/works better (according to the correct procedure-independent standards, whatever they are) than other forms of government. Christiano disagrees, but he doesn’t seem to criticize this part of the book in his review. But suppose, as I argue, that democracy is not intrinsically just, but also suppose that Christiano is right that voter ignorance/misinformation/irrationality is not that harmful. If so, we should still feel free to pick epistocracy (or futurarchy or whatnot) over democracy, if those other forms of government turn out to function even better.

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