The Corner

Politics & Policy

Nancy MacLean vs. Tyler Cowen

Nancy MacLean has a book on the libertarian economist and political theorist James Buchanan. It seems to conduct a drive-by on another libertarian writer, Tyler Cowen (who is among other things a fellow columnist for Bloomberg View). Russ Roberts has the goods.

Here, for example, is Cowen commenting on proposals to change the Constitution for libertarian ends: “While weakening checks and balances would increase the chance of a very good outcome, it also would increase the chance of a very bad outcome.”

And here’s MacLean’s description of Cowen’s views: “The economist was creating, it seems fair to say, a handbook for how to conduct a fifth-column assault on democracy.

“‘The weakening of checks and balances’ in the American system, Cowen suggested, ‘would increase the chance of a very good outcome.’”

Roberts documents several other distortions, none of which lend themselves easily to innocent explanations. It’s enough to make you wonder whether MacLean’s attacks on her main subject, Buchanan, which have been credulously received by liberals, are on the level.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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