“Libertarian” male lawyers in hysterical snit over “Democracy in Chains”

I just got back from a quick trip to Three Lives & Co–buoyed by an almond croissant eaten on the subway–to buy a book called Democracy in Chains, by Nancy MacLean, professor of history and public policy at Duke University.

The subtitle, The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, will tell you why I wanted the book. Shades of The Neu Wannsee Conference: The Koch Brothers Final Solution to Democracy.

But truth is, I only learned about the book because…the Volokh Conspiracy blog has been consumed, eaten up for the past few weeks with what I take great pleasure in labeling a massive male hysterical attack on Professor MacLean, her scholarship and her book.

Male hysteria running rampant on a blog founded by Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA. (If you look at that link to Volokh’s Wikipedia entry, you’ll notice he is described as a boy genius. And I would not dispute this. But I know a few geniuses and can state that as brilliant as they are in one or more areas of life, they are not necessarily profoundly intelligent about life in general.)

Volokh is a Russian Jewish emigre, born in Kiev, Ukraine when it was still an SSR.

Alisa Rosenbaum was another Russian Jewish emigre. Have I ever mentioned my contempt for people–especially Jews–who change their names to, oh, I don’t know, Dylan? Ayn Rand? Any name that scrubs their origins?

Volokh has not changed his name. But he and his blog have embraced “libertarianism,” which, I have recently learned, sprung out of Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” called Objectivism. My translation of Objectivism: skimpy rationale for sociopathy.

I prefer President Obama’s comment about her, in an interview with Rolling Stone:

Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we’re considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity -– that that’s a pretty narrow vision.

I’ve wandered off my objective. Yes, that’s me trying to be funny.

So, after moderately trashing Eugene Volokh–who is a bright guy and I can’t figure out why someone with a brain chooses to bind himself with the constrictive and simplistic (and utterly Orwellian) chicanery called “libertarianism”

OK, let me get onto the real subject. The Volokh Conspiracy–colluding with the Washington Post (and somebody better explain to me why the Post would give so many column inches over so many days to a bunch of guys purporting to critique the scholarship of Nancy MacLean while really just foaming at the mouth with bloviations anyone who knows how to read can take apart. Which I intend to do.

But not now. This is just the kick-off. I’ll start reading the book tonight and maybe tomorrow or Monday will start dismantling the Volokh Conspiracy’s assault on Nancy MacLean.

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2 Responses to “Libertarian” male lawyers in hysterical snit over “Democracy in Chains”

  1. S.E. Wonacott says:

    I look forward to your defense of MacLean’s book. Thus far, and disappointingly so, MacLean has refused to rise to the challenge.

    If I may, I’d like to correct one error in your post above. Libertarianism did not originate out of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. Objectivism and libertarianism have always had a fraught relationship. Rand rejected the term and disliked many self-described libertarians. Libertarians like Murray Rothbard considered Objectivism a cult. Unlike libertarianism, which mostly focuses on the relationship between the individual and the government, Objectivism defines itself as a much more sweeping philosophy of life. Rand, for example, thought Objectivism proved the superiority of the Romantic art movement over other kinds of art.

    Libertarian thought predates Rand, and you could safely say that libertarianism evolved through the 1950s and 1960s contemporaneously with Objectivism. Overlaps happened, of course, but the two were not inseparably intertwined, and libertarianism certainly didn’t spring out of Objectivism.

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks for the correction. I haven’t read Rand. I did try when I was a teenager but found her opening paragraphs impenetrable and couldn’t get further in. If she was a romantic, as you say, she’d be pleased that instead of her, I went deeply into “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre.” But as President Obama said, we do grow up. As a grownup I re-read “Wuthering Heights” and was appalled: every character was a model of some unpleasant pathology or another. But “Jane Eyre,” utterly romantic, has held up. A recent read surprised me: it’s not only a terrific read, it’s a radical view of a strong woman.
      Meanwhile, “Democracy in Chains” is causing me to wake up in the middle of the night in something like fear.

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