A despot in disguise: one man’s mission to rip up democracy | George Monbiot | Opinion | The Guardian

James McGill Buchanan’s vision of totalitarian capitalism has infected public policy in the US. Now it’s being exported • George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

It’s the missing chapter: a key to understanding the politics of the past half century. To read Nancy MacLean’s new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, is to see what was previously invisible.

The history professor’s work on the subject began by accident. In 2013 she stumbled across a deserted clapboard house on the campus of George Mason University in Virginia. It was stuffed with the unsorted archives of a man who had died that year whose name is probably unfamiliar to you: James McGill Buchanan. She says the first thing she picked up was a stack of confidential letters concerning millions of dollars transferred to the university by the billionaire Charles Koch

Continue to full story: A despot in disguise: one man’s mission to rip up democracy | George Monbiot | Opinion | The Guardian

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New Book Exposes Koch Brothers’ Guide To Infiltrating The Media | Alternet

Through media, they have advanced their political and ideological goals and attacked those who stand in their way.

Source: New Book Exposes Koch Brothers’ Guide To Infiltrating The Media | Alternet

The True History of Libertarianism in America: A Phony Ideology to Promote a Corporate Agenda | Alternet

This is an adapted version of an article that first appeared on NSFWCORP. Published daily online and monthly in print, NSFWCORP is The Future of Journalism (With Jokes). For more features, or to subscribe, click here.

This important article kicks off what will be a focus of coverage of AlterNet over the next few months on the corporate-funded “pro-market” arm of libertarianism in America and the sophisticated methods of inserting business propaganda into the public debate.

via The True History of Libertarianism in America: A Phony Ideology to Promote a Corporate Agenda | Alternet.

The Immoral Intellectual Roots of Libertarianism | ThinkProgress

by Ian Millhiser

Herbert Spencer was a popular author during the nineteenth century who supported strict limits on the government and even opposed many forms of charity towards the poor. Nature, Spencer argued, “secures the growth” of the human race by “weeding out those of lowest development,” and he also believed that neither government nor private charity should interfere with this process of natural selection. Though Spencer was not a eugenicist — he actually argued that the poor should be treated much more harshly than nineteenth and twentieth century eugenicists did — he was both a social acquaintance of Sir Francis Galton, the father of the eugenics movement, and a significant influence on Galton’s thinking. Spencer also shaped many of the policies developed by some of the most powerful judges and lawmakers of his era.

Reading Spencer’s many works today is an uncomfortable experience — the man devotes hundreds of pages to establishing a philosophical justification for a kind of neglect that most Americans would now view as a moral atrocity. Yet Spencer is also one of the foundational thinkers in the development of the economically libertarian philosophy that drives politicians such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

On Monday, ThinkProgress published a piece entitled “Rand Paul’s Favorite Philosophers Think Poor People Are ‘Parasites.’” The thrust of the piece is that, though Paul now claims that his policies would lift up poor people and minorities, the economic libertarianism that drives Paul is so inherently anti-poor and anti-civil rights that Paul’s efforts to offer himself up as the champion of the downtrodden are misguided at best and deeply cynical at worst. Over the course of the piece, we trace the intellectual roots of economic libertarianism through Paul’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), as well as through thinkers such as Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand and Spencer…

via The Immoral Intellectual Roots of Libertarianism | ThinkProgress.

The System that Wasn’t There: Ayn Rand’s Failed Philosophy (and why it matters) -Nicholas McGinnis | The Rotman Institute of Philosophy

Posted on August 25, 2012 by Nicolas McGinnis

“I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.”

That’s Paul Ryan, Republican vice-presidential candidate, in a 2005 speech delivered at The Atlas Society–one of many lavishly funded organizations devoted to spreading the thought and philosophy of Ayn Rand (he’s since distanced himself).

There are so many of these organizations it is hard to keep track. Apart from the Atlas Society, there is the Ayn Rand Institute, the Nathaniel Branden Institute, the Anthem Foundation and the Institute for Objectivist Studies. Numerous libertarian think-tanks, like the Cato Institute, promote Rand. Campus groups–which receive funding from objectivist foundations–are everywhere, promoting Rand via slick newsletters (like The Undercurrent: “Obama wants to use Blakely’s earnings to cover the bill for thousands of less productive citizens’ flu shots and groceries,” a typical line reads–Blakely is the noble, visionary entrepreneur who created Spanx.)

https://i2.wp.com/blsciblogs.baruch.cuny.edu/his1005spring2011/files/2011/03/Homeless-Children.gif

fig. 2. To hell with your ‘flu shots,’ parasites.

The fantastically rich find in Rand’s celebration of individual achievement a kindred spirit, and support her work with pecuniary enthusiasm: in 1999, McGill University turned down a million-dollar endowment from wealthy businessman Gilles Tremblay, who had given the money in the hopes of creating a chair dedicated to the the study of her work. Then-president Bernard Shapiro commented that “we can’t just sell our souls just for the sake of being richer,” hopefully aware of the irony: what else is there but getting richer? Rand literally ends her most famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, with the dollar sign replacing the sign of the cross, traced in the air–indicating the dawn of a new, bold, daringly sophomoric era.

Rand’s books have sold in the millions, never quite losing steam in the half-century since publication. A now-infamous Library of Congress survey placed Atlas Shrugged as the second-most influential book in America, trailing only the Bible–a dubious pairing, perhaps, given Rand’s militant atheism, but one that indeed captures the uneasy tension of contemporary America: the celebrated Protestant ethic versus the spirit of capitalism.

Despite her popular appeal, perennially best-selling books, and the breathless testimonial of politicians, actors and businessmen–Ryan is scarcely alone in his praise–professional academics almost universally disdain Rand. An online poll by widely-read philosophy professor and blogger Brian Leiter had Ayn Rand elected the one thinker who “brings the most disrepute on to our discipline by being associated with it,” by a landslide. She is almost never taught in classrooms. Her name elicits jeers and funny, exasperated tales of fierce, bright undergraduates under her spell arguing her case for hours on end.

This near-unanimous rejection has led to some remarkably uncharitable, and bizarre, attempts to explain away the lack of academic interest: in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Rand, its authors write that “her advocacy of a minimal state with the sole function of protecting negative individual rights is contrary to the welfare statism of most academics,” claiming outright that the overwhelming majority of professional philosophers and political theorists have been simply unable to fairly evaluate her work because of the biasing factor of their prior political commitments.

Somehow the same ‘welfare statism’ of academics has not prevented the close study of Robert Nozick’s landmark Anarchy, State and Utopia, a sophisticated libertarian text that mounts an original, and far more effective, argument against redistributive policies. Apart from John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, there is perhaps no more commonly-assigned book in undergraduate political philosophy classes.

Surely there must be some other reason for Rand’s academic neglect. The authors of the SEP entry do go on to suggest an additional number of largely psychological hypotheses having to do with Rand’s dogmatic tone, cult-like following, and emphasis on popular fiction–never entertaining the possibility that professional philosophers think her work is, quite simply, of poor quality. Objectively, ahem, speaking…

Continue reading:  The System that Wasn’t There: Ayn Rand’s Failed Philosophy (and why it matters) -Nicholas McGinnis | The Rotman Institute of Philosophy.