Democracy in Chains | Guest Column

By David Turnoy

Have you ever had a conversation with someone, asking how far the radical right wants to go in turning back the reforms of the New Deal and the 1960s/1970s, wondering when the libertarian billionaires behind this effort will be satisfied? I mean, how many billions of dollars does one need? My wife and I have had this conversation a number of times, never really able to figure out an answer.

With the recently released book “Democracy in Chains,” by Professor Nancy MacLean of Duke University, we now have a definitive answer: they won’t be satisfied until our Constitution is changed so that a small number of wealthy white elitists have unlimited property rights, and the only functions of government will be to provide national defense and to keep the angry majority from rebelling.

A little-known economist named Jim Buchanan (1919-2013) is the theorist behind this effort, and Charles Koch has provided the money. Isn’t it interesting that you have probably never heard of Jim Buchanan, also that you have only really heard of the Koch brothers in the last ten years? This is because they knew that their ideas would be so unpopular with the masses that they have run a stealth movement for decades. Sounds like a conspiracy theory, doesn’t it? But Professor MacLean documents all this in her book. She actually had access to Buchanan’s papers on the campus of George Mason University, and it is all there.

According to Professor MacLean, the founders of the Libertarian Party, “Sought a world in which liberty was preserved by the total absence of government coercion in any form. That entailed the end of public education, Social Security, Medicare, the U.S. Postal Service, minimum wage laws, prohibitions against child labor, foreign aid, the Environmental Protection Agency … and, in time, the end of taxes and government regulations of any kind.” (pp, 139-140)

What is being sought is the end of the social contract. Economic liberty and property rights are seen by this movement as the most important goal, and democracy is seen as hostile to economic liberty. After all, would the majority of Americans vote to eliminate all the programs mentioned above so that a small group of white elitists can pay almost no taxes, pay their workers less than the minimum wage, and get rid of all regulations that limit the profit of this privileged class? Of course not! Hence the effort over the last several decades to restrict the vote; fewer voters means more success for them.

The influence of this stealth movement is felt throughout our society. Many members of Congress as well as lawyers and judges have attended their workshops, as this group tries to indoctrinate as many of our public servants as possible. They aim to take us back to a time before the New Deal when judges favored property rights over the rights of the people, and they are well on their way to getting there.

When you hear people like Paul Ryan talk about how going in this direction will be best for everyone, he is lying. The effort of Buchanan and Koch has to be based on lies because no person with an ounce of compassion would ever agree with their goals. I am writing this article because I feel it is so important for the public to know about this effort to destroy the lives of most of our citizens so that a few people can have unlimited economic freedom. They don’t want you and me to have unlimited economic freedom, only themselves. Therefore, we have to stop them, which we can do by voting against their policies and their candidates, and by being smart enough not to be taken in by their lies.

The other thing to be aware of is that if they are successful in undermining our Constitution, it could lead to horrible violence in our country. The following statement to The Guardian from Senator Bernie Sanders is instructive, “Taking on the greed of Wall Street, the power of gigantic multinational corporations and the influence of the global billionaire class is not only the moral thing to do — it is a strategic geopolitical imperative. Research by the United Nations development program has shown that citizens’ perceptions of inequality, corruption and exclusion are among the most consistent predictors of whether communities will support rightwing extremism and violent groups. When people feel that the cards are stacked against them and see no way forward for legitimate recourse, they are more likely to turn to damaging solutions that only exacerbate the problem.”

In other words, we have to stop this movement or it will lead to violence and dictatorship, even fascism.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said that taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized society. Apparently this group doesn’t care about our society being civilized as long as they have the absolute freedom to make as much money as they want. Our current president, whether he knows it or not, is following the libertarian agenda by appointing cabinet secretaries who want to destroy the government departments they were appointed to run and by appointing judges who rule on the side of corporations over people. He is doing everything he can to benefit a wealthy elite and to make life difficult for the rest of us. And unfortunately, the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln that once fought a war to end slavery, has bought right into Trump’s agenda. They would rather be in power than do what is right for the people.

So, it is up to all of us to stop this. I strongly encourage you to read “Democracy in Chains.” I picked it up at the library, and I am now returning it; I would bet that Darvill’s also has the book. And please share this article widely. After all, knowledge is power.