Because I’ve been reading Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, my immediate reaction to the news today (see above link) was, “Yes, it would be at the University of Virginia.”
I’ve learned from MacLean that in the mid 20th century, James McGill Buchanan 1919-2013), the founder of contemporary “libertarian” ideology, convinced the president of UVA to “find the resources” to set up a “new school of political economy and social philosophy” at the university.
Which in the late 1950s was “not a top research institution,” as MacLean writes.
To get why today’s violent Nazi, a/k/a white supremacy protest, belonged at UVA, I’m quoting a few paragraphs from MacLean’s “Introduction: A Quiet Deal in Dixie,” which begins by laying out the two catalysts for the “libertarian” movement of today: the Civil War and Brown v Board of Education.
…Buchanan was not a member of the Virginia elite. Nor is there any explicit evidence to suggest that for a white southerner of his day, he was uniquely racist or insensitive to the concept of equal treatment. And yet, somehow, all he saw in the Brown decision was coercion…Northern liberals–the very people who looked down upon southern whites like him, he was sure–were not going to tell his people how to run their society. And to add insult to injury, he and people like him with property were no doubt going to be taxed more to pay for all the improvements that were now deemed necessary and proper for the state to make. [That is, ending segregation and “separate but equal” schools for black kids.] What about his rights? Where the did federal government get the authority to engineer society to its liking and then send him and those like him the bill?
…[Buchanan’s “academic” center at UVA] would train ‘”a line of new thinkers” in how to argue against those seeking to impose an ‘”increasing role of government in economic and social life.” [An end to racism, in other words, and offering the full protections of the post-Civil War Fourteenth Amendment.]
…it is hard for most of us today to imagine how Buchanan…or any other reasonable, rational human being saw the racially segregated Virginia of the 1950s as a society built on “the rights of the individual…”
…what becomes clear as the story moves forward decade by decade is that a quest that began as a quiet attempt to prevent the state of Virginia from having to meet national democratic standards of fair treatment and equal protection under the law would, some sixty years later, become the veritable opposite of itself: a stealth bid to reverse-engineer all of America, at both the state and the national levels, back to the political economy and oligarchic governance of midcentury Virginia, minus the segregation. [“Minus the segregation,” only because the Kochs, et al, don’t care–just as long as civil rights don’t get in the way of their larger plans which, of course, include massive voter suppression, lest we, the majority, actually get to elect our chosen representatives.]
MacLean then outlines the role of the Koch brothers (she deals with them fully later), who have found Buchanan’s ideology to be a useful tool–once the language was modified and polished into Orwellian terminology like “libertarianism.”
Then she continues with the essence of Buchanan:
…Buchanan’s Virginia school…teaches that all such talk of the common good has been a smoke screen for “takers” to exploit “makers,” in the language now current, using political coalitions to “vote themselves a living” instead of earning it by the sweat of their brows…Buchanan believed that government failed because of bad faith: because activists, voters, and officials alike [take note: this demonic trilogy is…us, the majority] used talk of the public interest to mask the pursuit of their own personal self-interest at others’ expense. His was a cynicism so toxic that, if widely believed, it could eat like acid at the foundations of civic life. And he went further by the 1970s, insisting that the people and their representatives [the majority] must be permanently prevented from using public power as they had for so long. Manacles, as it were, must be put on their grasping hands. [My bolding, although it’s so dreadful it sticks out boldly by itself.]
That’s our “grasping hands,” people. And we are the majority which, as MacLean later makes clear, is the enemy of the Buchanan “libertarian” minority–the very, very rich people who intend to put democracy in chains.
This movement started with the South’s loss in the Civil War, the loss of their slaves, (“property,” as in “property rights”) and the naked racism following Brown which–I hadn’t known this until reading MacLean–caused the State of Virginia to close all public schools for years, rather than integrate. That is, they denied children of color any education, let alone equal education.
MacLean is kinder than I am when she writes there’s no evidence to suggest Buchanan was a racist. She’s an historian; I’m an outraged person.
Buchanan was a racist because it was racism that spurred all his “theories,” and it was racism that caused him, and others who support him, to be devious enough to invent language that disguised that racism.
Here are the three paragraphs with which MacLean ends her introduction. Read them and shudder:
The dream of this movement, its leaders will tell you, is liberty. “I want a society where nobody has power over the other,” Buchanan told an interviewer early in the new century. “I don’t want to control you and I don’t want to be controlled by you.” It sounds so reasonable, fair, and appealing. But the story told here will show that the last part of that statement is by far the most telling. This cause defines the “you” its members do not want to be controlled by as the majority of the American people. And its architects have never recognized economic power as a potential tool of domination: to them, unrestrained capitalism is freedom.
For all its fine phrases, what this cause really seeks is a return to oligarchy, to a world in which both economic and effective political power are to be concentrated in the hands of a few. It would like to reinstate the kind of political economy that prevailed in America at the opening of the twentieth century, when the mass disfranchisement of voters and the legal treatment of labor unions as illegitimate enabled large corporations and wealthy individuals to dominate Congress and most state governments alike, and to feel secure that the nation’s courts would not interfere with their reign.
The first step toward understanding what this cause actually wants is to identify the deep lineage of its core ideas. And although its spokespersons would like you to believe they are disciples of James Madison, the leading architect of the U.S. Constitution, is it not true. Their intellectual lodestar is John C. Calhoun. [Who argued that slavery was not merely a “necessary evil” but a “positive good.”] He developed his radical critique of democracy a generation after the nation’s founding, as the brutal economy of chattel slavery became entrenched in the South–and his vision horrified Madison.
That’s why these Nazis–actually white supremacists in Nazi clothing–instinctively chose the University of Virginia for their “protest.” The regressive, anti-Democratic movement of which they are ignorant tools, began there.