Phillip W. Magness

U.S. Economic & Political History

Anti-voucher segregationism & the 1959 Virginia school crisis

| June 18, 2018

Prof. Hardy Cross Dillard Several months ago I wrote a lengthy post on an intriguing historical discovery. In March 1959, Charlottesville, Virginia school board attorney John S. Battle, Jr. laid out a case that school vouchers posed an existential threat to racially segregated schooling. Battle was an outspoken segregationist and member of the Virginia political […]

Democracy in Chains and the problem of misrepresented documents

| June 9, 2018

In my last post¬†I discussed an example of how¬†Democracy in Chains author and Duke University historian Nancy MacLean conflated a pair of historical documents written two months apart from each other to levy unfounded segregationist insinuations against economist James M. Buchanan. Despite the relative abundance of footnotes in Democracy in Chains, MacLean’s work is marred […]

On Nancy MacLean’s sloppy use of historical documents

| June 6, 2018

Jacobin Magazine recently put out a new podcast to promote Democracy in Chains by Duke historian Nancy MacLean. While the bulk of the episode simply repeats the conspiratorial claims found in MacLean’s book, it takes an interesting turn around the 27 minute mark when the host asks her to respond to her critics. While the […]

The Decline of the Adjunct Workforce

| May 28, 2018

A little under three years ago I posted a brief comment about some stats I was compiling for an article on the higher ed workforce. The post investigated a myth that was popular at the time and remains so today, namely that adjunct employment had grown to encompass an astounding 76% of the higher ed […]

How communism affects the inequality U-curve

| May 7, 2018

U-curves are all the rage in inequality studies. Increasingly viewed as a global phenomenon, the distribitional U-curve attempts to show changes in top income and wealth shares over the course of the last century. In other words, it tracks the holdings of the top 1%, 5%, or 10% and so forth over time. The common […]

Income inequality in the United States: it’s flatter than you probably realize

| May 1, 2018

Most economic discussions of inequality in the United States begin with a U-shaped curve. More specifically, they begin with historical estimates of top income shares (e.g. the top 10%, 5%, and 1%) as depicted in Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez’s famous 2003 paper on the subject. When these figures are displayed across the entire 20th […]

On the intellectual uselessness of a certain method of socioeconomic analysis

| March 27, 2018

A few brief observations: 1. The Labor Theory of Value is incapable of functionally explaining even basic economic relationships. See Menger 1871. 2. The notion that class identity functionally drives political or any other type of collective action is hopelessly incoherent and undermined by a pervasive free rider problem. See Olson 1965, Section IV. 3. […]

Abolitionists, Communists, and Jacobin magazine’s fake Jeff Davis quote

| March 4, 2018

One of the stranger recent currents in historical discussions around slavery involves an increasingly common attempt by scholars and activists on the far left to enlist historical abolitionists as ideological ammunition to the causes of anti-capitalism or even socialism. A primary motivating factor appears to be the so-called “New History of Capitalism” (NHC) genre of […]

The Epistemic Toxins of False Historical Claims

| February 27, 2018

Allegations of racism carry a substantial social stigma in today’s intellectual climate. Provided that the allegation is valid, this may be a desirable effect. Racism is insidiously unethical as it fundamentally devalues the targeted person. This may make it worthy of not only condemnation, but the ostracizing that often follows a racist action. Knowledge that […]

Eugenics and the Origins of the AAUP

| January 13, 2018

The history behind the founding of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) almost always begins with the case of Edward A. Ross. A prominent economist and sociologist in his day, Ross was forced to resign from his faculty position at Stanford University in November 1900 after running afoul of the political views of the […]