Democracy in Chains

Democracy in Chains

The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America

Book - 2017
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Penguin Putnam
Finalist for the 2017 National Book Award

“[A] vibrant intellectual history of the radical right . . .” – The Atlantic

“This sixty-year campaign to make libertarianism mainstream and eventually take the government itself is at the heart of Democracy in Chains. . . . If you're worried about what all this means for America's future, you should be” – NPR
An explosive exposé of the right’s relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, stop action on climate change, and alter the Constitution.

Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. Democracy in Chains names its true architect—the Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan—and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.

In a brilliant and engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how Buchanan forged his ideas about government in a last gasp attempt to preserve the white elite’s power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. In response to the widening of American democracy, he developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the ability of the majority to use its numbers to level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.

Corporate donors and their right-wing foundations were only too eager to support Buchanan’s work in teaching others how to divide America into “makers” and “takers.” And when a multibillionaire on a messianic mission to rewrite the social contract of the modern world, Charles Koch, discovered Buchanan, he created a vast, relentless, and multi-armed machine to carry out Buchanan’s strategy.

Without Buchanan's ideas and Koch's money, the libertarian right would not have succeeded in its stealth takeover of the Republican Party as a delivery mechanism. Now, with Mike Pence as Vice President, the cause has a longtime loyalist in the White House, not to mention a phalanx of Republicans in the House, the Senate, a majority of state governments, and the courts, all carrying out the plan. That plan includes harsher laws to undermine unions, privatizing everything from schools to health care and Social Security, and keeping as many of us as possible from voting. Based on ten years of unique research, Democracy in Chains tells a chilling story of right-wing academics and big money run amok. This revelatory work of scholarship is also a call to arms to protect the achievements of twentieth-century American self-government.

Baker & Taylor
A scholarly exposâe of the ideas of political economist James McGill Buchanan and multibillionaire Charles Koch explores their role in the radical right's six-decade campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, and minimize restrictions on the wealthy.

& Taylor

A scholarly exposé of the ideas of Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan and multibillionaire Charles Koch explores their role in the radical right's six-decade campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education and minimize restrictions on the wealthy.

Publisher: New York, New York :, Viking,, [2017]
ISBN: 9781101980965
Characteristics: xxxii, 334 pages ; 24 cm


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Mar 29, 2018

OMG! If there is one book to read about current politics this is the ONE. If you want to understand the conservative libertarian strategy to bring Democracy down this is the book. She does a great job at simple explanations and gives many insights on how we have in the past and can continue to keep this movement from handing democracy to an oligarchy. It is not a conspiracy. All of her points are clear and easy to follow.

Feb 23, 2018

The below comment is not aging well, is it?

Aug 10, 2017

It's the Democratic Party that want Democracy in chains. The American electorate voted for Trump, they won the electoral college. Eight months after the election they are still going on about Russia. They can't believe they lost. Their candidate Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate, she blames everyone but herself. Her husband had a lot of baggage did he not?

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