On Monday, Middle Tennessee State University will host an author who will warn faculty and students alike about what she calls “the radical right.”
Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America is scheduled to speak. MacLean’s book concerns the work and legacy of MTSU graduate and Nobel laureate in economics James M. Buchanan. Her book also explores the network of Koch Brothers’ centers and institutes.
As reported, members of the Charles Koch Foundation recently gave $3.5 million to establish the Political Economy Research Institute to honor Buchanan.
When asked about MacLean’s book, PERI Director Dan Smith said nothing in his personal experience “supports the veracity of her narrative.”
“Many other scholars familiar with public choice and James M. Buchanan were similarly surprised. This spurned further investigation into her allegations and her narrative,” Smith told The Tennessee Star.
“It didn’t take long for scholars to find that her narrative is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of public choice economics as well as Buchanan’s research. Reviewers have already found several inconsistencies and errors.”
Smith also said the book doesn’t meet the standards of academic scholarship as it didn’t go through a formal peer review process, which academic publishers generally require.
Smith, for instance, pointed to a review of the book in the Journal of Economic Literature. That review says MacLean’s “historical narrative is at best sketchy, and is replete with significantly flawed arguments, misplaced citations, and dubious conjectures.”
Another review, in The Independent, meanwhile, said “Democracy in Chains is a work of speculative historical fiction.”
Buchanan, who died in 2013, received the 1986 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his leadership in developing the public choice theory of economics, according to MTSU’s website.
As reported, PERI consists of readings of not just left-wing philosophers, as universities often require, but Adam Smith and people who represent a variety of other perspectives as well.
Students involved will come together on Saturdays and discuss and debate those philosophers amongst themselves. The readings do not count toward a grade. The readings only count as extra-curricular activity beyond the classroom, Smith said.
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