Must-Read: Steve Horwitz: MacLean on Nutter and Buchanan on Universal Education

August 2, 2017

Must-Read: That’s it. I’m calling this one for Nancy MacLean in Nancy MacLean versus the critics of her book Democracy in Chains on the rise of right-wing Public Choice.

I think she gets a number of things wrong, but she gets the big thing about it right:

Steve Horwitz: MacLean on Nutter and Buchanan on Universal Education: “Finding examples of misleading, incorrect, and outright butchered quotes and citations in Nancy MacLean’s new book…

…has become the academic version of Pokemon Go this week. I now offer one small contribution of my own…. Hardly enemies of democracy in the paper, Nutter and Buchanan see their task (as Buchanan did for his whole career) as offering analyses that could inform the deliberations of the democratic process…. MacLean sees this paper as an attempt by the two scholars to undermine public education in Virginia in order to keep the effects of pre-Brown segregation while still complying with the law….

They also never mention race in the paper, as she acknowledges, but their use of the technical language of economics and their race-neutrality is seen by her as evidence of their attempt to generate racist outcomes by stealth…. One might also note that supporting Brown also means that one is thwarting the desires of democratic majorities…. It’s fascinating that she sees the foundation of the arguments of democracy’s supposed opponents as a rejection of a Supreme Court decision that told local and state majorities that they couldn’t have the segregated schools they wanted…

Yep. That’s an extraordinary own goal by Horwitz: The true democracy is the Herrenvolk democracy…

The reason that Nutter and Buchanan were focusing on schools in Virginia in the late 1950s, rather than on other aspects of the libertarian agenda, was precisely that they thought they could gain energy for their principles by offering them up as powerful means to generate racist outcomes by stealth.

We see this more clearly if equally elliptical stated in Nutter and Buchanan in 1959 As Michael Chwe says:

Buchanan and his University of Virginia colleague Warren Nutter state:

We believe every individual should be free to associate with persons of his own choosing. We therefore disapprove of both involuntary (or coercive) segregation and involuntary integration.

In the political context in Virginia at the time, involuntary integration meant obeying the Brown v. Board decision…

Chwe says:

I do not know their intentions…

Actually, we do know Buchanan and Nutter’s intentions:

…but Buchanan and Nutter’s argument for school privatization gave intellectual validation to whites who wanted to exclude blacks from their schools…

As they intended it should.

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