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Publisher's Summary

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 multiarmed 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 10 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 20th-century American self-government.
©2017 Nancy MacLean (P)2017 Penguin Audio
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Critic Reviews

"Perhaps the best explanation to date of the roots of the political divide that threatens to irrevocably alter American government." ( Booklist)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Caroline Pufalt on 11-04-17

Timely reading

Don’t be put off by some of the criticism of this book that challenges its historical accuracy. I have read commentary and it doesn’t hold up. Good to read opponents too to put this in perspective but does not change the fact that so called “political choice” theory is a stealth move to help the rich and powerful. This book reveals a dangerous line of thought and policy that will harm our democracy if we don’t heed this information. Also the narrator is great.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful


By H. L. Nelson on 10-11-17

A must read if you believe in democracy

Stunning. Terrifying. Eye-opening. The revelations in this book left me both furious and energized. How an economist trying to justify school segregation in the 1950s became the brains behind today's Koch Brothers juggernaut to transform America into a repressive oligarchy is a story every citizen needs to know. Can't recommend this book more highly.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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