If you often scratch your head at the bad bills that the Republicans pass in Congress and in the state legislatures and wonder what their end game is, you should read Democracy in Chains by Nancy McClean.
What you may think are random bad ideas that have somehow gotten into law are actually part of a grand scheme that has been playing out since Brown versus the Board of Education attempted to desegregate public schools in the United States.
An academic, McClean has studied the articles, books and letters of James Buchanan, the economist not the former president. Buchanan was the primary theorist of public choice theory. In the 1950s, public choice theory was used as a rationale to close all of the public schools in the state of Virginia (rather than comply with desegregation) and is being used today to support state-funded vouchers for private and religious schools. In Virginia in the 1950s, the state gave money to white parents for private school vouchers and allowed hundreds of black children to go uneducated for years. Needless to say, this was a travesty of justice.
Buchanan was also a proponent of “economic liberty.” His writings provided the early framework for what Libertarians and some Republicans are doing now. In Buchanan’s world, economic liberty meant that government should have the smallest possible footprint and concentrate solely on protecting the public, as in providing police, fire, and the military. Everything else should be done by the private sector, according to them. You’ll note that public education and public health are not on their list of “must haves.”
This book connected a lot of dots for me: privatization of public schools and public services; attacks on unions and any collective endeavors by people; attempts to eliminate public education, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, TANF, childcare subsidies, real pensions, and KidsCare; tax cuts for big corporations and the rich; voter suppression; big-money politics; and an Article V Convention (very scary). (Every time the book talked about privatization of state and local unionized public sector jobs–like the recent privatization of Tucson Zoo employees– I thought about the City of Tucson, the State of Arizona, and all of the public sector employees who have lost their good-paying jobs.)
It’s a great book for Democrats and activists who are fighting against greed and for equality. You will recognize ideas, buzzwords, and policies from the Arizona Legislature in the pages of this book. Democracy in Chains puts Libertarian strategies into perspective.