NEH and Nancy MacLean blasted in Forbes

Historians in the News
tags: NEH, Nancy MacLean



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●  Nancy MacLean’s new book "Democracy in Chains" is under attack from the right. She alleges her critics are tied to the Koch network.

Critique of Nancy MacLean's "Democracy in Chains" by Phillip Magness

The National Endowment for the Humanities is one of the remnants of Lyndon Johnson’s foolish “Great Society” idea that the federal government should meddle in almost everything. Signed into law in 1965, the law creating this federal agency (along with the National Endowment for the Arts) declares, “The encouragements and support of national progress and scholarship in the humanities and the arts, while primarily matters of private and local initiative, are also appropriate matters of concern to the Federal Government.”

That was and still is nonsense….

People should be free to study and write about any of that, but with their own money or money willingly given to them for the purpose. Federal bureaucrats should not give away money taken from the taxpayers for such humanities “research.”

The reason why I say that the case for abolishing the NEH, as proposed in President Trump’s budget, just got stronger is that it funded an egregiously political hatchet job of a book that was recently published, namely Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Duke University history professor Nancy MacLean.

Using phrases like “radical right” and “stealth” are sure to get accolades from leftists who love a good horror story about their supposed enemies. Never mind that any fair account would have to say that there is nothing stealthy in what the “radical right” wants. Conservatives, classical liberals, and libertarians want a return to limited government under the Constitution and have never hidden that. If that’s “radical,” so was the American Revolution, which also sought to secure individual liberty against an overreaching state. And as for putting democracy “in chains,” that was exactly what the Constitution’s drafters intended.

But the fact that MacLean has written a book meant to confirm leftist biases isn’t the main problem. The problem is that she has chosen to target and misrepresent economist James Buchanan (1920-2013), who received the Nobel Prize in 1986 for his path-breaking work on public choice theory. MacLean portrays Buchanan as the dark, racist figure who provided the intellectual veneer for the movement to downsize the government.






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