Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over US government is a secretive political establishment with deep and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did. This book names its true architect - Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan - and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.
In a brilliant, engrossing narrative, Nancy MacLean shows how these ideas were forged in a last-gasp attempt to preserve the white elite’s power in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. By recasting the era’s legal and social-movement successes, Buchanan developed a brilliant, if diabolical, plan to undermine the majority’s ability 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 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, Charles Koch, discovered Buchanan, he created a vast, relentless, and multi-armed machine to carry out Buchanan’s strategy.
Based on ten years of research, this revelatory work tells a chilling story of right-wing academics and big money run amok, and is a call to arms to protect the achievements of twentieth-century American self-government.