Leviathan in Chains: Michael Munger on Public Choice Economics

Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains purports to be a bombshell of a book. Praised by NPR, her tale of how a southern academic single-handedly masterminded a plan to subvert American democracy is perfectly crafted to inflame and entertain progressive partisans. MacLean's conspiracy theory traces the “radical right’s stealth plan,” and insinuates the central bogeyman, Professor James M. Buchanan, saying “I can fight this [democracy] . . . I want to fight this.” The bad news for MacLean’s fawning reviewers is that Buchanan never said this. MacLean made it up (or at least made it sound like he said it). Vox.com delivers a death blow to the book’s premise of the shadowy origins of public choice economics – a common-sense branch of the dismal science that explains government failures in terms of bad incentives facing politicians and bureaucrats. Professor Michael Munger is both MacLean's colleague at Duke and an expert on public choice. He joins the show this Sunday to break down Buchanan’s real legacy – his Nobel-Prize winning contributions to economic science – and to help Bob understand the bizarre progressive reaction to his work. One of public choice’s central insights, and the theme of Bob’s new book, Secret Sauce, is that democracy must be limited by a constitution to protect the rights of minorities and individuals from infringement by the majority. Ironically, it is progressives who can best utilize Buchanan's insights to resist a power-grab by our democratically-elected president and congress. Don’t miss the autopsy of MacLean’s failed attempt at revisionist history (or “historical fiction,” to put it in Michael's more charitable terms).

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