Why SJW's Are the Worst Mystery Writers (Spoiler Alert: The Culprit is Always Racism)

A while back I wrote "Why haven't we heard any of these concerns?  Because the freaking Left is no longer capable of making any public argument that is not based on race or gender."

A classic example of this is Nancy MacLean's new book Democracy in Chains.  She has apparently detected the great conspiracy behind the modern Right, which according do her is a racist backlash against the civil rights movement.  And the person at the heart of this conspiracy is... economist James Buchanan?

For those who don't know, which is probably most of the folks in this country, Buchanan won the Nobel Prize in economics for his development of public choice theory.  If you are unfamiliar with this body of work, I encourage you to investigate it, but in short it analyzes government officials as self-interested and subject to all the same incentives as ordinary people.   This is in contrast to highly idealized analyses that consider government agents as perfectly serving the public and judges proposed government actions by their stated goals, rather than their likely operations as run by real human beings.  It was developed in part as a reaction to  market critics who would cite real world issues in complex markets and compare them to idealized results of hypothetical government regulations.  It tends to explain things like special interest politics, regulatory capture, cronyism, and rent-seeking much better than traditional, rosier theories of government.  For example

So the Progressive Left tends to hate public choice theory.  They have nearly infinite faith in government action and don't like to hear about its limitations.  So it is not surprising that MacLean would write a thoughtful, scholarly critique of public choice theory, backed by a variety of economic evidence.  HAH!  Just kidding.  This is 2017.  Academics in the social sciences, mostly on the Left, don't operate that way.  The only approach they know to refuting such a theory is to link it with racism.  And so that is what she attempts.  This is part of the summary from Amazon:

“[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

“Riveting” – O, The Oprah Magazine (Top 20 Books to Read This Summer)

An explosive exposé of the right’s relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, privatize public education, and change 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.

Hah, this is the Progressive Left, so you just knew the Kochs had to be implicated as well.  A couple of thoughts

  • My first response is:  if only.  It would be fabulous if, say, the Republican Party was constructed on top of the work of Buchanan and public choice theory. Alas, it is not
  • The links to racism the books rests on are simply a joke, but typical of the quality of public discourse today.  You see it all the time.  Coyote gave money to the Cato Institute.  Joe Racist and Jane Hatemonger also gave money to Cato.  So Coyote has been "linked" to these bad people, and therefor must believe everything they do.**
  • Yet another in a long line of books about how libertarians are plotting to enslave you by devolving power to the individual and leaving you alone
  • Don Boudreaux has been collecting a lot of links to critiques of the book.  Beyond the silly vast-right-wing-conspiracy level of scholarship, apparently MacLean edited a lot of the key quotes she uses in the book to essentially reverse their meaning.


** This is an aspect of Progressive thought today that I think is not discussed enough.  I used to make common cause with folks on the Left and the Right on individual issues.  This is becoming increasingly hard, particularly with the Progressive Left, because they tend to demand conformity with them on issues x, y, z before they will work with you on issue w.  I had to step down from a leadership role in an effort to legalize gay marriage in AZ because I did not agree with groups like HRC on things like climate change.  Progressives then assume everyone else is following this totalitarian principle, so if later I make common cause with the Right, say on school choice, I am branded as being anti-immigration.  That is silly, given what I have written, but to them actual words I have written are irrelevant -- what is important is that I did one thing one time on one issue with someone on the Right, so I am now branded with whatever political baggage the Right might have.


  1. Ike Evans:

    This is why the Left is losing and will continue to lose many races they should otherwise win.

    With some notable exceptions (e.g. Trump), the Right promotes much better candidates through the simple process of natural selection: let the guy with the best ideas win over his rivals within the party.

    Despite being an awful candidate that should have (in Hillary's own words) lost by 50 points, Trump pulled and upset because the party proactively rigged her nomination over a 70-year-old socialist with no other qualification other than her gender.

    If the DNC does pull out some victories in the future, it will only be because they managed to find a *really* bad candidate in the GOP to run against - like Trump. This will be the exception, not the rule.

  2. Stan Erickson:

    Thank you for introducing me to Buchanan. Do you know of any concise summary of his theories?

  3. Bloke in North Dorset:

    Here's Don discussing Public Choice Theory on Econ talk. Its a bit old: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2010/03/don_boudreaux_o_3.html

    As he's been mentioned here's part 1 of a 2 part Freakonomics fascinating interview with Charles Koch: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/why-hate-koch-brothers-part-1/

  4. Illini Marine:

    I always find it amusing that those complaining loudest about the 'game being rigged' are those doing the rigging.

  5. The_Big_W:

    I find it really disturbing that they are this invested in destroying libertarians.

    We must really be getting in the way of their pining for more and more authority over our lives....

  6. Mercury:

    "Why haven't we heard any of these concerns? Because the freaking Left is no longer capable of making any public argument that is not based on race or gender."

    That's race, class and gender - the three pillars of Cultural Marxism by which only the qualified and enlightened are able to ascertain who deserves what and under what conditions.

  7. Peabody:

    I'm not sure a agree with your premise that the Right promotes better candidates based their ideas vs other Republicans. Rather, I think the recent fallback Republican talking points (smaller govt, rah rah military, go America!, etc.) are much more popular with the general population than recent fallback Democratic talking points (gay marriage, social justice, tri-gender bathrooms, etc.). The current Democratic push works in areas that are already very liberal, but much of their historical base doesn't really care.

    I also try to avoid making predictions. The Republicans for example looked to be in pretty bad shape in 2008. 8 years later, the positions are swapped. Governing is hard, criticizing is easy. So it can tough for one party to stay on top for a long time.

  8. Ike Evans:

    I agree with your second paragraph, insofar that the two party system has proven to be very robust in American politics. I believe the Dems will probably sweep the congress in 2018. Not only because midterms tend to be bad for sitting presidents, but much more so because the current sitting president is a dunce. If I could somehow look into my crystal ball of hypothetical history, I suspect that even a half competent Republican President could easily hold onto the congress for 2018 because the Dems are working to hard against themselves with their own philosophical nihilism.

  9. slocum:

    I think the threat of libertarianism to the left is that it has been a way to be a 'respectable' intellectual without being a leftist. It is now nearly impossible to be a conservative in academia, but it is still just possible to be a libertarian. That cannot be allowed. And, of course, in academia, THE unforgivable sin, the 'dark mark' of the death eaters is racism, so if they can pin that on libertarians, they can win and purify universities the final forms of wrong think. And it doesn't have to be a solid argument because the only people they have to convince that 'libertarianism = racism' are academic lefties who are already primed to believe it (as the Amazon blurb shows)

  10. bloke in france:

    You can be diverse, on condition that you agree with me.

  11. Steve Ambler:

    Great post. If I had to teach a class on public choice theory, I'd be tempted to start with this.

  12. CapnRusty:

    "Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a
    secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots."

    She did it! She found Hillary's "Vast Right-Wind Conspiracy!"

    Well, they're giving out Nobel prizes for pretty much anything these days, so . . .

  13. marque2:

    Actually, most Trump voters are very satisfied with him. The reason the Dem's might win the midterms, is that we are pissed off the Ryan, McConnell and all their pals, not implementing Trumps (a conservative) agenda, even though they promised us this for 8 years. If only we had the presidency. After passing Obamacare repeal 50 times under Obama, they can;t see to it to repeal Obamacare even once under Trump, as an example. Instead of defending the president and trying to move forward with an agenda, they collude with the democrats to take down Trump, the only sensible one of the bunch.

    It is the deep state/elitists in Washington who are beating up on Trump, and making people like you think he is a dunce, because they are terribly afraid, he might actually drain the swamp.

  14. CapnRusty:

    Ike: Hm. Trump's idea was to make America great again. Seems to have resonated with enough of us deplorables to have created the greatest upset in American political history. Sure, the Democrats, acting like Democrats, rigged Hillary's nomination, but do you really think Bernie "Don't Cry for Me Venezuela" Sanders was going to to beat Trump?

    Maybe you need to check your premises. Or change the news media you frequent.

  15. crs44:

    "After passing Obamacare repeal 50 times under Obama, they can;t see to it to repeal Obamacare even once under Trump, as an example."

    That was all smoke and mirrors to keep their base believing they were opposing Obama. Fact is, they love Obamacare. It gives government more control. Republicans love control just as much as Dems do.

  16. crs44:

    Sanders, IMO, would have slaughtered Trump. The union people would have backed him over Trump any day. Trump would not have wone PA, WI, MI or OH if Sanders had been the nominee.

  17. CapnRusty:

    Oh. You actually think the Hillary people would have voted for Bernie? Bernie might have picked up a few hard-left union members, but he would have lost all those bitter old women who adored her.

  18. Bistro:

    I know you think you're pretty clever but, sheeeesh, it took you a long time to see what was plain to the rest of us starting years ago. I don't mind the evil so much as I mind the fact that they think we're just too stupid to notice.

  19. Matthew Slyfield:

    "I agree with your second paragraph, insofar that the two party system
    has proven to be very robust in American politics. I believe the Dems
    will probably sweep the congress in 2018."

    There aren't enough Republican Senate seats up for reelection in 2018 for that to be likely to happen.

  20. Ike Evans:

    For the Senate, you might be right. It looks like there are 8 Senate seats up for reelection with Republican incumbents. If the Dems held all of their own seats and retook 3 of the 8, they now own the Senate. This is difficult, but not at all impossible.

  21. Ike Evans:

    we are pissed off the Ryan, McConnell and all their pals, not implementing Trumps (a conservative) agenda

    Trump's agenda is anything but conservative. This is a guy who campaigned on universal healthcare. As the elected president, he has done nothing to push congress towards free market legislation for healthcare. Trump is not a conservative.

    After passing Obamacare repeal 50 times under Obama, they can;t see to it to repeal Obamacare even once under Trump, as an example.

    I share this frustration about Congress, though once again it is worth pointing out that Congress has no leadership from Trump.

    It is the deep state/elitists in Washington who are beating up on Trump, and making people like you think he is a dunce, because they are terribly afraid, he might actually drain the swamp.

    The Deep State's efforts to subvert the presidency bothers me as well, but Trump is still a total dunce. I don't need the Deep State to tell me that, I just have to sit down and read his own Twitter feed.

  22. marque2:

    No kidding. So who is the bad guy, Trump or the establishment (GOP, Dems - all the same) who have now been exposed by Trump?

  23. marque2:

    As to your first point - no president is perfect. Trumpnhas several populist ideas, but as evidenced from his executive orders. Judicial nominations. Environmental and regulatory views, he is the most conservative president since Reagan. His stupidity as you call it might actually be brilliance. Notice with all the distractions he has created the press doesnt have time to complain about the tear down of the state department and Epa, and several other agencies. No time to complain about all the executive orders. You might be surprised just how successful this dunce has been at getting his conservative agenda in action. Doubt it could happen without the distraction. If you actually looked at his under-reported accomplishments, you might be impressed as well.

  24. marque2:

    Hard to say, it would be a different game and Trump would have also played it differently. Bernie also would not have had the same donations as Clinton.

    It is the same with the popular vote people. The game was electioneering Chess which Trump won. Change it to checkers, and well both candidates would be playing a different game. Trump would have changed strategies to get popular votes instead of electoral. He still may have won.

  25. Benjamin Cole:

    My problem with libertarians is not that they are wrong, but that the narrative inevitably becomes "Let's bash the minimum wage. Property zoning is a topic for another day."

    Or variations theref.

    Obamacare is bad; the VA is not a topic (the VA is the nation's largest healthcare system).

    Get rid of the Department of Education (not the Commerce Department too?).

    Solar power is bad and to be ridiculed; corn ethanol a topic for another day.

    Why not get rid of the USDA? Not a topic.

    All rural subsidies and cross-subsidies? Not a topic. The Rural American Economy is pinko-wonderland, btw.

    If public employees are self-interested,why does that say about this chart:

    Federal Employment By Agency

    Defense (civilian) 772,601
    Defense (uniformed) 1,429,995
    Defense (reserves) 850,880
    VA 304,665
    VA (receiving monthly disability) 3,700,000 (now near 4 million)
    Homeland Security 183,455
    Justice 117,916
    Treasury 110,099
    USDA 106,867
    Interior 70,231
    H&HS 69,839
    Transportation 57,972
    Commerce 56,856
    State 39,016
    Labor 17,592
    HUD 9585
    Education 4452

    Egads, it takes a lot of self-deception to be a "libertarian" these days, and then bash liberals for liking government.

    For the record, I am for a Constitutional ban on property zoning, and some sort of strong encouragement to decriminalize push-cart, motorcycle sidecar and truck vending. That done, let's tackle the minimum wage.

  26. Mercury:

    RE: SJWs are the worst Mystery Writers....

    A couple weeks ago my wife and I started watching Big Little Lies:
    ...which is more of a 6 hour movie than a TV series and concerns a community of rich, uber-Progressive parents in Monterey whose kids all go to the same fancy school (starring Nicole Kidman and the ‘Legally Blonde’ chick). The whole thing is essentially a flash-back because you know right off the bat that there is a murder at the end but you don’t know who the murderer or the victim will turn out to be. That aspect is sort of clever but the whole situation makes everything obvious from the first 15min.

    As I told my wife after the first episode: “The guy who is abusing his wife is the villain, the struggling single mom and her son are the victims and somehow the artsy, black, second wife will be the hero.”

    I gave up after the third-to-last episode because I had had my fill of crazy women and fey, sensitive men for a while but my wife finished it without me last night and said I more or less nailed it.

  27. The_Big_W:

    The problem is that Hillary is a dunce too, except that if she had won the media would be constantly blowing smoke about how "brilliant" she is.

    Also, outside of Trump's twitter feed, he is doing interesting things. He is one politician who actually is stating that overregulation it bad and is working to get rid of it.

  28. Joshua:

    Disturbing, but also kind of amusing. Libertarians have achieved almost nothing, except maybe marriage equality.

  29. Joshua:

    Benjamin! It's been so long. I'm afraid you're confusing Republicans with libertarians again. I agree with all of your positions, but some of your contrasts are fabrications. Please cite one example of a self-described libertarian who holds each of the set of the contrasting views that you portray. Or name a libertarian organization that hasn't railed against zoning/ VA/ Commerce Dept/ Corn ethanol/ USDA/ Rural subsidies (You might have a point on this one, it gets too little attention).
    I am a libertarian and I bash liberals (progressives) for liking government. I also bash Republicans for liking their own flavor of government. In reality, Democrats and Republicans have much more in common than they have different - they are both big fans of telling people what to do. According to the public choice theory advanced by Buchanan, almost all of the elected politicians want to be elected for selfish reasons, including self-enrichment.

  30. ErikTheRed:

    Good grief. A straw-man that big should only appear at Burning Man.

  31. Benjamin Cole:

    Joshua: That's my point!

    Libertarians might agree we need to eliminate the VA, the USDA, the Department of Commerce, the global gunsel service, or property zoning and the suffocation of push-cart vending. But they never say so. The assent occasionally if the topic is brought up.

    Point to me one blog post, from, say, Cafe Hayek, entitled "End the VA" or "End the USDA." But D BX has innumerable posts on the evils of the minimum wage, or how great huge trade deficits are.

    Some very brave libertarians have summoned up the nerve to publicly say we should get rid of the….Import-Export Bank. Woo-woo, way out there for freedom!

    Really, American libertarians must like to play with tiddlywinks.

    The topic de jour is always bashing the minimum wage, and how great gigantic trade deficits are.

  32. Peabody:

    I'm confused. You argue that libertarians are secretly for government spending. Then you pivot to the issue that they just don't talk about the issues you prefer as often as you prefer. Those are two very different viewpoints.

    One could argue that focusing on a smaller number of relevant issues is more effective in influencing public discourse than a scattershot approach of trying to address every possible topic. You can't bring attention to causes if you are trying to bring attention to 100 causes at the same time.

  33. Dan Wendlick:

    when all you have is a hammer, the whole world is filled with nails.

    The only filter an increasing number of academics has is Marxist class-struggle, which has been demonstrated empirically and theoretically to be false. People act in their own perceived self-interest, not in the interest of class or race (unless they can be persuaded that those align, but that's the topic for a different discussion). All those greedy and corrupt bureaucrats are features of the socialist systems, not bugs: people who are acting in their interest against the good of class/race/group.

    this generation is so stilted in their moral development that they cannot generate any valid empathy towards others, and then project this lack of empathy by others onto themselves. So I'm not just acting in my interest, I am acting specifically in opposition to theirs. There is no principled way to maintain a differing worldview from theirs except personal and group (corporate would be a better word here, but is loaded in terms of this discussion) hate. They mocked Bush for "You're with us or you're against us" thinking, but operate exactly under those conditions themselves.

  34. Bill Drissel:

    Buchanan showed that government employees and politicians come from the same gene pool as the rest of us.