By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
Nobel laureate James Buchanan is the intellectual lynchpin of the Koch-funded attack on democratic institutions, argues Duke historian Nancy MacLean
Ask people to name the key minds that have shaped America’s burst of radical right-wing attacks on working conditions, consumer rights and public services, and they will typically mention figures like free market-champion Milton Friedman, libertarian guru Ayn Rand, and laissez-faire economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.
James McGill Buchanan is a name you will rarely hear unless you’ve taken several classes in economics. And if the Tennessee-born Nobel laureate were alive today, it would suit him just fine that most well-informed journalists, liberal politicians, and even many economics students have little understanding of his work.
The reason? Duke historian Nancy MacLean contends that his philosophy is so stark that even young libertarian acolytes are only introduced to it after they have accepted the relatively sunny perspective of Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that correctly). If Americans really knew what Buchanan thought and promoted, and how destructively his vision is manifesting under their noses, it would dawn on them how close the country is to a transformation most would not even want to imagine, much less accept.
That is a dangerous blind spot, MacLean argues in a meticulously researched book, Democracy in Chains, a finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction. While Americans grapple with Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency, we may be missing the key to changes that are taking place far beyond the level of mere politics. Once these changes are locked into place, there may be no going back.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” Rev Martin Luther King Jnr (1963)
On January 15th 2018, MLK Day, we launched our new MLK Global website and statement calling for action on an end to poverty, racism and militarism in our lifetime. We do this in the lead up to the 50th anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King’s structural analysis of race, economy and war & his solutions were way ahead of his time and remain a correct analysis of our world in 2018. The same ‘Triple Evils’ he talked of in 1967/68 are still interconnected today, only now they are global: $2trillion global military spend; greater levels global inequality; racism and far-right rising. MLK Global says we need global civil society to unite again around Dr. King’s call for an end to racism, poverty & militarism in our lifetime. https://mlkglobal.org/…/an-end-to-poverty-racism-militarism/
MLK Global believes that Dr. King’s analysis of the underlying structures that reinforce inequality speaks to peoples across the global north & south who share a deep desire for long-overdue change. MLK Global wants to see a renewed awareness of his 5-point Economic Bill of Rights, re-envisioned for today. Economic inequalities, racism, militarism & climate change are destroying families, communities, nations and the very planet we live on. The time to fulfil Dr. King’s vision of a “radical redistribution of power” is now. https://mlkglobal.org/…/dr-kings-econ-bill-of-rights-reviv…/
You can read more about the background to our statement https://mlkglobal.org/background-to-mlk-global-statement/
and find the Statement and Endorsees here https://mlkglobal.org/mlk-global-statement/.
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions.
Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind.”
4 April 1967, Riverside Church, Beyond Vietnam speech
by Max Lawson, Head of Inequality Policy, Oxfam International
This week saw the launch of the first ‘World Inequality Report’ written by the team at the Paris School of Economics and based on the data collected by over 100 researchers behind the World Incomes Database. The summary is very short and full of fantastic charts, well worth taking a look at. They have pioneered the use of tax data and other sources to recalculate the incomes of those at the top, which are hugely underestimated. They have now done this for enough large countries to make some conclusions about global trends, which is the basis of the report.
Between 2007 and 2016, the average wealth of the bottom 99% decreased by $4,500. This decline was particularly
concentrated among the housing wealth of AfricanAmericans. Outside of home equity, black wealth recovered its 2007 level by 2016. But average black home equity was still $16,700 less. Meanwhile, over the same period, the average wealth of the top 1% increased by $4.9 million. Much of this decline in wealth, we argue, was the direct result of policies enacted by President Obama. His housing policies, particularly regarding foreclosures, were a disastrous failure that led to millions of families losing their homes, with black families suffering especially harsh losses. What’s more, Obama had power—money, legislative tools, and legal leverage—that could have very sharply ameliorated the foreclosure crisis, if not largely prevented it. He chose not to use them.
In the following essay, we shall examine the circumstances that led to the housing bubble, and its eventual collapse in Part I. In Part II, we shall take a close statistical look at the decline in black housing wealth. And in Part III, we shall outline an approach that would have halted the foreclosure crisis, had President Obama chosen to pursue it.
Global Justice Now press release:
Download the report
Much more wealth is leaving the world’s most impoverished continent than is entering it, according to new research into total financial flows into and out of Africa. The study finds that African countries receive $161.6 billion in resources such as loans, remittances and aid each year, but lose $203 billion through factors including tax avoidance, debt payments and resource extraction, creating an annual net financial deficit of over $40 billion.