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Old 06-19-2017, 12:14 PM   #126
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

Democracy in Chains- Nancy MacLean

NPR Review

NYJB Review


Read this book on the advice of the journalist Jamelle Bouie. The book follows the path of the rise of the intellectual underpinning of American libertarianism. As someone who was around the forum when the libertarians were all over a lot of the history I knew, but the book follows someone who I had only hazily remembered, James Buchanan, the Nobel Prize winning economist and staunch libertarian who was one of the intellectual linchpins for the libertarian movement but who was eventually overtaken by the Koch's and ended up dying alone and forgotten. The author found his papers and poured over them and from them built the 'inside story' if you will the libertarian movement.

A lot of the points put out by libertarians are already pretty well known, that the genesis of modern libertarianism sprung up as a counterpoint against slavery (many libertarians count Calhoun as a progenitor), the labor movements, and the Civil Rights Movement. As a lot of posters here probably know, the hardcore libertarian movement is what the author calls a 'property supremacists' movement, where the free market and property are to be guarded against democratic encroachment. From that you get 'taxes are theft', the idea that any group movement is illegitimate, such as labor laws, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc.

The book takes the libertarian movement down a journey from a small group of true believers who thought they could win the war of ideas against left leaning economists and politicians into a autocratic secretive movement whose goals aren't to be openly pushed for but who's goals have to be achieved through secrecy. That happened because it dawned on the true believers that it turns out people enjoy Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other government and so even the right leaning electorate wouldn't vote to get rid of them, themselves. (Why would anyone vote themselves poor?" was a critique of the idea of openly pushing the idea). So the movement shifted openly advocating the idea into seeing ways in which they could force their ideas onto an unwilling electorate ("If people choose to be enslaved, can we force them to be free?", was one question found in Buchannan's notes) via changing the rules of the game, not merely voting in a libertarian friendly candidate.

The author pinpoints Chile as being a prototype of this strategy. People know that Friedman went to Chile to supervise the Chilean government but it's less known that Buchannan, Hayek, and other hardcore libertarians went to supervise the government. There the government put up all kinds of roadblocks to any kind of democratic ability to increase taxes or shift the balance of power away from the propertied classes and the military. The author notes that this is a reoccurring theme and a paradox to the naive. If libertarians are so committed to spreading 'liberty' why was their crowing project doused in blood in Chile? Why is the time when libertarians say was the most 'moral', the time between 1850 and 1928 when there was low government intervention and high legal protections for property, also one of the most bloody in American history short of war?

The author ends the book shortly after Buchannan's death so it doesn't go into all the modern manifestation of the libertarian attempt at gaining power in the US. It does mention that the libertarian movement shifted from being apart from the Republican Party to infusing itself within it, via ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, mercatus Center, and its virtual takeover of the George Mason University. It mentioned the strategies in play; in attacking labor unions at the state level by putting up insurmountable roadblocks as well as, in Michigan, the taking over of local municipalities and then imposing draconian libertarian measures far above what would be necessary to solve the problem and in regards to popular programs like social security attempting to muddy the waters with the claims that it's a 'Ponzi scheme', it's unaffordable, etc and asking for modifications with the ultimate aim of reducing its effectiveness. I think it's pretty obvious now to see the playbook, to see that the Republican's hiding of the Obamacare bill, isn't out of some kind of shame, but a recognition that what they're doing is vastly unpopular, but necessary to achieve their economic ends and so has to be hid from the public. The same with the attempt at a Constitutional Convention in which the game plan is to impose further constraints on democratic means to be a 'countervailing force' against corporate and propertied force via a small group of supporters instead of a widespread referendum.

The book isn't too long and is a good read to get into the nuts and bolts in how one of the more important theories that's taken hold of the Republican and Democratic parties and the ultimate stakes, of a return to a Southern plantation style or Company Town economic system with a few propertied players being supremely powerful vs a more egalitarian system.

Last edited by Huehuecoyotl; 06-19-2017 at 12:30 PM.
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Old 06-20-2017, 12:03 AM   #127
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

No Good Men Among the Living - America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes Anand Gopal 2014

This is a fantastic book. Anand Gopal is an American journalist who has been a correspondent for the WSJ, The Christian Science Monitor and reported for Harper's, The New Yorker, The Nation, The New Republic, and Foreign Policy. IE, he is legit, vetted and comes with a reputation. You might want to know that because what he describes is truly fantastic in the sense that it could be hard to believe.

He spent at least three years in Afghanistan (like 2005-8 and went back for a time a couple years later). He traveled and interviewed many people, but focuses on a Taliban commander, a Pharmacist and his educated wife who go from Kabul to the countryside where it's a potentially deadly scandal if a woman's voice is even heard, and a pro-American warlordish person.

There is so much in here about how ****ed up Afghanistan is and how confused and counterproductive so much of what we have done has been and the same for the Soviets and the Taliban. There is a lot of personal drama and the focus is on that and one step back to the politics and the war. But, if you take another step back, although the author doesn't really go here, there is a look at the nature of people and society and politics and how different "solutions" result from different conditions.

I don't want to give any spoilers, but if you haven't been extremely skeptical about US reports of what has happened in Afghanistan you really should be. And Gitmo and prisons on US bases - there's some really awful stuff. One tiny spoiler is that we've had a bit of of problem with conducting raids, capturing, torturing and imprisoning people for years because they have the same name as someone else. Or just that we thought they did. There were two Afghans in Guantanamo who were both in there for being the same person.

Read this book please.
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Old 06-20-2017, 12:16 AM   #128
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

Alright, I'm in. I'll get hold of it and report back.
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Old 06-20-2017, 12:20 AM   #129
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

I wish Amazon would stop trying to DRM ebooks. I can circumvent it but its a pain.
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Old 06-20-2017, 12:48 AM   #130
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

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I wish Amazon would stop trying to DRM ebooks. I can circumvent it but its a pain.
Get it at the library comrade.
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Old 06-20-2017, 02:36 AM   #131
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

I may be getting old but I'm not that old.

At the risk of sounding self-righteous, I'd recommend finding a way to toss the guy 10 bucks if you enjoyed the book so much. I do my fair share of dodging payment for stuff but writing a book like this is not exactly going to be a goldmine. I just had a look and it ranks #120,924 in sales on Amazon and even in books specifically about the Afghan War it's #151. Niche stuff that is valuable needs support.
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Old 06-20-2017, 02:47 AM   #132
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

The book was actually purchased by my daughter, but I would have gotten it at the library. I'm broke as a joke, have one kid starting college next year and another three years later. You're going to have to do better than that to get my $10.
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Old 07-04-2017, 01:29 AM   #133
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

The Fire & The Word - A History of the Zapatista Movement Gloria Ramirez 2008

Can anyone give me any reasons why the Zapatistas aren't awesome? Take this for example: The Zapatistas had expressed support for the separatist movement in the Basque country in Spain. The Basque political-military organization (the ETA) committed many bombings (though there were few deaths during this period) and Subcommandante Marcos sent this this message:

Quote:
We consider the struggle of the Basque people for sovereignty just and legitimate, but neither this noble cause, nor any other, can justify the sacrifice of civilian lives. Not only does it not lead to any political gain, even if it did, the human cost in unpayable. We condemn military actions that hurt civilians. And we condemn then equally, whether they come from ETA or from the Spanish state, or Al Qaeda or George W. Bush, from Israelis or Palestinians, or anyone who under different names or initials, claiming state, ideological or religious reasons, makes victims of children, women old people and men who have nothing to do with the matter.
this is from their military leader. I can't find a good quote for this now, but he's also pretty funny.

The Zapatista story is pretty remarkable, or so it seems anyway. They spent ten years organizing indigenous villages and training in the mountains. Then they declared war on the Mexican state. They were received with support from civil society and protests against the government. They were surprised by this and learning that the people of Mexico and of the world supported them, but didn't want war, they basically stopped fighting. Government forces and paramilitary groups attacked them on and off, especially in the first years and there was some fighting, but it seems like the Zapatistas only killed a handful of Mexican soldiers. Many more Zapatistas and indigenous were killed of course, though still, the total dead seem to be in the low triple digits.

The book opens with a series of testimonies from Zapatistas. It's a bit repetitive and tedious. The next section is a year by year account from 1994 through 2003. This also gets a little tedious. Next it's a Q&A with Subcommandante Marcos. That section is good. And finally something of a proclamation or description of such that came out of one of their big conferences.

There are pictures which are cool throughout, but no captions and it's not always clear what or who they are. It's not like really well written anywhere or put together well. But, I don't think there's much out there covering this and the author appears to have been one of the few journalists patient enough to get close enough to get at this story from the inside. It seems like the Zapatistas didn't necessarily stop people from coming; they had foreign journalists come and stay for a bit. But, they took a while to develop trust and not many stayed in the mountains long enough to really get a dialogue going.

I guess I recommend the book, unless someone knows of a better one on the subject.

(This book was also purchased by my daughter. Next book is a library book though.)

Last edited by microbet; 07-04-2017 at 01:36 AM.
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Old 07-04-2017, 01:39 AM   #134
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945

I've been working my way through this. It's a long hard slog but a good read nontheless that discusses the Pacific theater of WWII, which I think is often overlooked. Very similar in style to Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany.
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Old 07-14-2017, 12:22 PM   #135
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by Huehuecoyotl View Post
Democracy in Chains- Nancy MacLean

NPR Review

NYJB Review


Read this book on the advice of the journalist Jamelle Bouie. The book follows the path of the rise of the intellectual underpinning of American libertarianism. As someone who was around the forum when the libertarians were all over a lot of the history I knew, but the book follows someone who I had only hazily remembered, James Buchanan, the Nobel Prize winning economist and staunch libertarian who was one of the intellectual linchpins for the libertarian movement but who was eventually overtaken by the Koch's and ended up dying alone and forgotten. The author found his papers and poured over them and from them built the 'inside story' if you will the libertarian movement.

A lot of the points put out by libertarians are already pretty well known, that the genesis of modern libertarianism sprung up as a counterpoint against slavery (many libertarians count Calhoun as a progenitor), the labor movements, and the Civil Rights Movement. As a lot of posters here probably know, the hardcore libertarian movement is what the author calls a 'property supremacists' movement, where the free market and property are to be guarded against democratic encroachment. From that you get 'taxes are theft', the idea that any group movement is illegitimate, such as labor laws, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc.

The book takes the libertarian movement down a journey from a small group of true believers who thought they could win the war of ideas against left leaning economists and politicians into a autocratic secretive movement whose goals aren't to be openly pushed for but who's goals have to be achieved through secrecy. That happened because it dawned on the true believers that it turns out people enjoy Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other government and so even the right leaning electorate wouldn't vote to get rid of them, themselves. (Why would anyone vote themselves poor?" was a critique of the idea of openly pushing the idea). So the movement shifted openly advocating the idea into seeing ways in which they could force their ideas onto an unwilling electorate ("If people choose to be enslaved, can we force them to be free?", was one question found in Buchannan's notes) via changing the rules of the game, not merely voting in a libertarian friendly candidate.

The author pinpoints Chile as being a prototype of this strategy. People know that Friedman went to Chile to supervise the Chilean government but it's less known that Buchannan, Hayek, and other hardcore libertarians went to supervise the government. There the government put up all kinds of roadblocks to any kind of democratic ability to increase taxes or shift the balance of power away from the propertied classes and the military. The author notes that this is a reoccurring theme and a paradox to the naive. If libertarians are so committed to spreading 'liberty' why was their crowing project doused in blood in Chile? Why is the time when libertarians say was the most 'moral', the time between 1850 and 1928 when there was low government intervention and high legal protections for property, also one of the most bloody in American history short of war?

The author ends the book shortly after Buchannan's death so it doesn't go into all the modern manifestation of the libertarian attempt at gaining power in the US. It does mention that the libertarian movement shifted from being apart from the Republican Party to infusing itself within it, via ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, mercatus Center, and its virtual takeover of the George Mason University. It mentioned the strategies in play; in attacking labor unions at the state level by putting up insurmountable roadblocks as well as, in Michigan, the taking over of local municipalities and then imposing draconian libertarian measures far above what would be necessary to solve the problem and in regards to popular programs like social security attempting to muddy the waters with the claims that it's a 'Ponzi scheme', it's unaffordable, etc and asking for modifications with the ultimate aim of reducing its effectiveness. I think it's pretty obvious now to see the playbook, to see that the Republican's hiding of the Obamacare bill, isn't out of some kind of shame, but a recognition that what they're doing is vastly unpopular, but necessary to achieve their economic ends and so has to be hid from the public. The same with the attempt at a Constitutional Convention in which the game plan is to impose further constraints on democratic means to be a 'countervailing force' against corporate and propertied force via a small group of supporters instead of a widespread referendum.

The book isn't too long and is a good read to get into the nuts and bolts in how one of the more important theories that's taken hold of the Republican and Democratic parties and the ultimate stakes, of a return to a Southern plantation style or Company Town economic system with a few propertied players being supremely powerful vs a more egalitarian system.
Lots of backlash on the intellectual rigour of this book by trusted academics, the book is very dishonest with its quotations of sources:

https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/201...istory-maclean

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...=.0969e40c4fca
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Old 07-14-2017, 03:00 PM   #136
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

Just finished two books that I really really liked:

Weapons of Math Destruction - Cathy O'Neil
Focuses on the rise of algorithms in all parts of human life, and how we're coding our biases into "fair and automated" decision making. Not totally politics related, although certainly has a lot of overlap and examples that do apply to politics. Also ties well with the following book:

The Complacent Class - Tyler Cowen
Argues that the rate of change in American society has been decelerating for the last 30+ years, and that we're more likely to see people fight to preserve what they have than try to create the next new thing. Again, touches on more than just politics, but has a lot more applicability than the last. Gets a little too apocalyptic at the end for my taste when it talks about whether complacency dooms democracy (he finished writing it in late 2016, so this is understandable) but all in all made me think a lot.

Both are super quick reads at ~200 pages.
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Old 07-14-2017, 03:01 PM   #137
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

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Originally Posted by Wotton View Post
Lots of backlash on the intellectual rigour of this book by trusted academics, the book is very dishonest with its quotations of sources:

https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/201...istory-maclean

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...=.0969e40c4fca
I disagree with this. For one point, the experience of dealing with actual people who are libertarians. Those people don't hold democracy in high regard exactly because democracy interferes with the primacy of property rights. Another point, taking the Vox article that was written by Farrell and Teles who are

Quote:
Henry Farrell is a professor of political science at George Washington University. Steven Teles is associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins university and senior fellow at the Niskanen Center.
which are, of course, the university and part of the non profit contallation she points are are funded by the libertarian movement. As part of the article they say

Quote:
MacLean, however, doesn’t want to explain how public choice economists think and argue. Instead, she portrays them as participants in a far-reaching conspiracy. She describes how a movement of “fifth columnists” that “congratulated itself on its ability to carry out a revolution beneath the radar of prying eyes” is looking to fundamentally undermine American democracy. She uses cloak-and-dagger language to suggest that she was only able to uncover the key files explaining what was going on because someone failed to lock “one crucial door” to a half-deserted building on George Mason University’s campus. (George Mason is the site of an unlisted and then-disorganized archive of Buchanan’s papers.)
But MacLean says that public choice theory does have some useful applications, but that the overarching point of public choice was to undermine confidence in the government, just as, for instance, the Southern Strategy leveraged racial animosity towards Conservative means while conservatives will bring up points like school busing went against the wishes of the local population. That's true, but also the overall point was the leveraging of racial animosity, not a sudden concern about involuntariness of the local schools. Pointing out the overall point and not doing into the weeds of what public choice theory is is what I'd expect from someone who is writing about a movement and not a white paper about political choice theory.

This part

Quote:
MacLean’s critics on the right also argue that there is little to no evidence supporting her most important arguments, and some of her most trenchant examples. There is no strong evidence that Buchanan was motivated to rein in state power because he opposed Brown v. Board of Education, for instance, or helped Pinochet design his authoritarian constitution, despite MacLean’s insinuations to the contrary.
aligns with what the economist Marshall Steinbaum encountered when he was putting together a paper on Friedman and Chile in that they try to kick up a lot of dust saying that, for instance, libertarians didn't meet with government officials, but private individuals but on further investigation it turns out there were a lot of government officials who happened to be in the room because of the sanctions against advising Chilean officials. In other words it's a lot of kicking up dust to confuse the point that no one really believes.

The overall feeling I got from reading the book was exactly what I expected from my dealings with libertarians in that their ultimate goal isn't some conspiracy theory. They really do want to subjugate democratic politics to the primacy of property rights and this movement has a large following among the wealthy and well off and that they funnel this money into popular movements. This isn't some surprise, it's literally the idea behind "small government". You can quibble with exactly how important Buchanan was to the project but she definitely nails the racism/libertarian/big money nexus quite nicely.

Last edited by Huehuecoyotl; 07-14-2017 at 03:31 PM.
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Old 07-14-2017, 03:27 PM   #138
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

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Originally Posted by Huehuecoyotl View Post
I disagree with this. For one point, the experience of dealing with actual people who are libertarians. Those people don't hold democracy in high regard exactly because democracy interferes with the primacy of property rights. Another point, taking the Vox article that was written by Farrell and Teles who are

which are, of course, the university and part of the non profit contallation she points are are funded by the libertarian movement. As part of the article they say
You're confusing George Mason and George Washington University. Henry Farrell is a fairly left political scientist that blogs over at Crooked Timber - definitely not a libertarian. Steven Teles' book The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement is excellent.
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Old 07-14-2017, 03:30 PM   #139
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

oops my bad
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Old 07-14-2017, 04:11 PM   #140
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

I listened to MacLean in a pretty long interview and it was interesting, but having read Dark Money by Mayer I'm not sure I will get to Democracy in Chains. Also I'm not familiar with Buchanon outside of MacLean's interview. But, I read the WaPo piece and wonder if they aren't both right. The Koch bros brand of libertarian pretty grossly misrepresents Hayek's positions and moderately misrepresents Friedman's. It wouldn't be shocking if they took from Buchanon what they wanted to get.
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