Thursday, August 3, 2017

How Nancy MacLean misrepresented David Boaz

Another Misleading Quotation in Nancy MacLean's "Democracy in Chains" | Cato @ Liberty - David Boaz:

July 5, 2017 - "Everybody’s finding errors in Duke historian Nancy MacLean’s 'work of speculative historical fiction' on Nobel laureate James Buchanan and the libertarian movement, Democracy in Chains. I’d feel left out if I weren’t misquoted, so I’m relieved to find my name on page 211. Here’s what MacLean says about me and some of my purported allies:
'If you tell a great lie and repeat it often enough, people will eventually believe it," Joseph Gobbels, a particularly ruthless, yet shrewd, propagandist, is said to have remarked. Today the big lie of the Koch-sponsored radical right is that society can be split between makers and takers, justifying on the part of the makers a Manichean struggle to disarm and defeat those who would take from them. Attend a Tea Party gathering, and you will hear endless cries about the "moocher class." Read the output of the libertarian writers subsidized by wealthy donors and you will encounter endless variations. David Boaz of the Cato Institute, to choose just one, speaks of the "parasite economy" that divides us into "the predators and the prey"....

Is there any evidence to suggest that close to half of American society is intent on exploiting the rich through the tax system? That they contribute nothing, while using government to gang up on a defenseless minority that somehow, all on its own, generates wealth? ...
"Now: Did I actually say that the poor and working class are 'intent on exploiting the rich'? Or 'that they contribute nothing'? Well, here’s what I wrote on pp. 252-53 of The Libertarian Mind, which is the source MacLean footnotes:
Economists call this process rent-seeking, or transfer-seeking. It’s another illustration of Oppenheimer’s distinction between the economic and the political means. Some individuals and businesses produce wealth. They grow food or build things people want to buy or perform useful services. Others find it easier to go to Washington, a state capital, or a city hall and get a subsidy, tariff, quota, or restriction on their competitors. That’s the political means to wealth, and, sadly, it’s been growing faster than the economic means.

Of course, in the modern world of trillion-dollar governments handing out favors like Santa Claus, it becomes harder to distinguish between the producers and the transfer-seekers, the predators and the prey. The state tries to confuse us, like the three-card monte dealer, by taking our money as quietly as possible and then handing some of it back to us with great ceremony. We all end up railing against taxes but then demanding our Medicare, our subsidized mass transit, our farm programs, our free national parks, and on and on and on. Frederic Bastiat explained it in the nineteenth century: “The State is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.” In the aggregate, we all lose, but it’s hard to know who is a net loser and who is a net winner in the immediate circumstance"....
"I also wrote on page 253 about the 'parasite economy,' in which
every group in society comes up with a way for the government to help it or penalize its competitors: businesses seek tariffs, unions call for minimum-wage laws (which make high-priced skilled workers more economical than cheaper, low-skilled workers), postal workers get Congress to outlaw private competition, businesses seek subtle twists in regulations that hurt their competitors more than themselves.
"Let’s be clear: when public choice economists and I talk about 'rent seeking' and 'concentrated benefits,' and we point to 'subsidy, tariff, quota, or restriction on their competitors,' we’re not trying to protect the rich. We’re talking about ways that businesses, unions, and other organized interest groups seek to use government to gain advantages that they couldn’t gain in the marketplace. And when we suggest limiting the power of government to hand out such favors, we are arguing in the interests of workers and consumers.

"I do not believe that MacLean’s two very short quotations from The Libertarian Mind and the paragraphs in which she situates them fairly depict my argument in the book. One might even say that she reversed the meaning of 'the predators and the prey.' Unfortunately, selective quotation and misrepresentation seem to be MacLean’s M.O., as Steve Horwitz, Phil Magness, Russ Roberts, David Henderson, David Bernstein, Bernstein again, Nick Gillespie, Michael Munger, and others have pointed out."

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