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Statue of John C. Calhoun in Marion Square Park along Calhoun Street in Charleston

Interchange – We, the Shackled: Nancy MacLean on Democracy in Chains


For this 90-minute special, our guest is Nancy MacLean, Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University and author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.

James M. Buchanan

This book has the Koch cadre at the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, and George Mason University’s Mercatus Center up in arms over its characterization of one of their patron saints, the Nobel laureate economist of “public choice” theory, James McGill Buchanan and the way his work offers the clearest path to putting Democracy, the “We the people” aspect of our government, in chains.

In other words, Nancy MacLean, gives us a history of the anti-democratic ethos at the heart of supremacy politics. From the slave-era constitutional constructions of John C. Calhoun to the complementary project of Nobel Laureate and “Southern Gentleman” Jim Buchanan, MacLean charts the course of the ideas that have served to unchain the power of right wing oligarchs
like Charles and David Koch, and put “we the people” in tightening shackles.

Charles Koch
Our music throughout is by Alabama, a Country music juggernaut. Alabama’s biggest success came in the Reagan-era, where the band had over 27 number one hits, seven multi-platinum albums and received numerous awards. The band has over 30 number one country records on the Billboard charts to their credit and have sold over 75 million records, making them one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time.[Wikipedia] Their music embodies the mythologies of the glorious white South and the valorization of the hard-working individual in opposition to government and a “hand-out.”

Nancy MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. She’s an award-winning scholar of the twentieth-century U.S., whose new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, has been described by Publishers Weekly as “a thoroughly researched and gripping narrative… [and] a feat of American intellectual and political history.” Booklist called it “perhaps the best explanation to date of the roots of the political divide that threatens to irrevocably alter American government.” The author of four other books, including Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace (2006) called by the Chicago Tribune “contemporary history at its best,” and Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, named a New York Times “noteworthy” book of 1994.

James M. Buchanan: The Architect of the Radical Right – The Atlantic
Nancy MacLean Responds to Her Critics
Reagan – Radio Address to the Nation on Tax Reform. June 1, 1985
Dark Money (excerpt) by Jane Mayer
Unfounded America: Taking Out the Myth with the Trash (Nancy Isenberg)

All songs by Alabama
“Dixieland Delight”
“Song of the South”
“Mountain Music”
“High Cotton”
“Southern Star”
“Tennessee River”
“40-Hour Week (For a Livin’)”

Producer & Host: Doug Storm
Assistant Producer: Rob Schoon
Executive Producer: Wes Martin

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