Phillip W. Magness

U.S. Economic & Political History

Buchanan and the MacLean controversy in retrospect: 1.5 years later

| December 21, 2018

It’s been about a year and a half since Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains hit the bookstore shelves. Having been deeply involved in the controversy that followed from her depiction of economist James M. Buchanan, I’m happy to report that one of the main products of my own research on the subject (co-authored with Art Carden and […]

How Warren Nutter opposed Massive Resistance

| November 22, 2018

The Irish satirist Jonathan Swift once remarked that “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect.” His words anticipated a common observation in scientific research wherein the time and effort that […]

On Buchanan, Knight, and Arthur Krock

| September 4, 2018

Frank H. Knight One of the more fascinating pieces of evidence I examine in my article (with Art Carden and Vincent Geloso) on James M. Buchanan and the school desegregation crisis is an October 1957 letter that Buchanan sent to his old mentor Frank H. Knight. At the time of this letter, Knight was preparing […]

Did Buchanan support segregated school vouchers?

| July 20, 2018

Last summer during the peak of the Democracy in Chains scandal, Georg Vanberg brought two letters to light in which James M. Buchanan shared his private thoughts on the relationship between segregation and school vouchers. Writing to his friend Arthur Seldon, Buchanan expressed his concern about “the evils of race-class-cultural segregation that an unregulated voucher scheme […]

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 […]

On Nancy MacLean’s sloppy use of historical documents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 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 […]

How John Rawls tried to put Democracy in Chains

| December 19, 2017

I’ve spent the past week at the Hoover Institution, researching the early origins of James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock’s 1962 book The Calculus of Consent. While working in the papers of W.H. Hutt, South African economist who spent 1966-67 as a visiting professor at Buchanan and Tullock’s research center at the University of Virginia, I […]

About MacLean and the matter of John C. Calhoun

| December 10, 2017

Several months ago when I first entered the discussion about Nancy MacLean’s book Democracy in Chains, I called attention to her misuse of historical evidence to write pro-slavery theorist John C. Calhoun into the intellectual lineage of economist James M. Buchanan. MacLean’s claim struck me as odd at the time, because Calhoun’s name does not appear […]

The Nutter-Buchanan School Choice Paper: Evidence from the Timeline

| October 20, 2017

In my last several posts on the Virginia School of public choice economics, I’ve explored the background of a 1959 article on school choice by Warren Nutter and James M. Buchanan (hereafter referred to as N-B 1959) that’s at the center of the controversy surrounding Democracy in Chains. Today I want to take a look at the […]