Phillip W. Magness

U.S. Economic & Political History

A Tale of Two Newspapers

| September 25, 2017

Virginius Dabney, editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch   The ongoing controversy over Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean has provided no shortage of conversation material this summer, including an unintentional commentary on the degraded state of academic standards in the history profession. When I first read this book at the beginning of the summer, I was […]

Buchanan and Agrarianism – a revealing passage

| July 19, 2017

In James M. Buchanan’s autobiography Better than Plowing, he offers a fascinating late-life reflection on a subject that he refers to as the country aesthetic. The discussion occurs in the 8th chapter of the book, which is about his reflections on life in old age. It’s a fascinating read and tells how Buchanan – at the […]

Nancy MacLean’s segregationist sins of omission…and commission

| July 15, 2017

One of the most inflammatory charges of Nancy MacLean’s new book Democracy in Chains holds that James M. Buchanan, and by extension his department and research center at the University of Virginia, served as something of an intellectual buttress to the segregationist forces of 1950s and 1960s Virginia politics after Brown v. Board. MacLean has very little […]

Nancy MacLean’s Calhounite Imagination

| June 29, 2017

In my last post I documented how Nancy MacLean, the author of the new book Democracy in Chains, misused evidence to depict a non-existent intellectual debt between the economist James M. Buchanan and a group of pro-segregation Agrarian poets from Vanderbilt University. MacLean’s primary purpose in doing so was to prop up her own narrative, which […]

How Nancy MacLean went whistlin’ Dixie

| June 27, 2017

If you read Duke University historian Nancy MacLean’s new book Democracy in Chains, you will probably come away thinking that the late economist James M. Buchanan believed himself to be something of an intellectual heir to the Vanderbilt Agrarians of the 1930s. According to MacLean, these now-obscure southern literary figures were a main reason Buchanan wanted to go […]