Duke Historian Nancy MacLean says many architects of the libertarian movement "seem to be on the autism spectrum”Historians in the News
tags: Nancy MacLean, libertarian
Duke historian Nancy MacLean, while speaking at the Unitarian Church of All Souls in NYC on February 7, 2018, says she thinks that the villain of her book Democracy in Chains was a villain precisely because he may have been, in her opinion, autistic. And people who have what she considers an evil ideology have tended to be autistic. She is talking about James Buchanan, who won a Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on Public Choice Theory. See the 1 hour mark:
There is a young man who asks her a question about where James Buchanan’s ideas and ideology come from, whether from “personal greed” or “malevolence.” MacLean responds:
Such a profound question, and I have to say as an author I have struggled with this, and I could explain it in different ways. I didn’t put this in the book, but I’ll say it here [stifled laugh]. It’s striking to me how many of the architects of this cause seem to be on the autism spectrum, you know, people who don’t feel solidarity or empathy with others, and who have kind of difficult human relationships sometime.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not at all objecting to being grouped in with the likes of a Nobel Prize-winning economist. The point isn’t the comparison to the person at all. The objection is that to MacLean’s mind James Buchanan’s ideology is not just wrong, but downright evil. And why is it evil? And why is it “malevolent”? Because it’s what autistic people believe! Only autistic people could believe in an ideology with which Nancy MacLean disagrees.
In case you’re wondering, James Buchanan was a classical liberal. That is, he believed in small government, free markets, and that people should be generally left alone. MacLean interprets this as being evidence of Buchanan being autistic (she doesn’t directly say it, but certainly implies it–which is her M.O. in her book, by the way). She accuses us of not feeling solidarity with other people and of not feeling empathy. Naturally, those of us on the spectrum know that we are certainly empathetic, as I myself have discussed several times–in some cases and ways, more so than others. I know that I have the ideology I do precisely because of my strong concern for the poor. ...