[Vision2020] "Historians Will Look Back in Horror at Koch Network's Attacks on Climate Policy" Author Nancy MacLean

Ted Moffett starbliss at gmail.com
Fri Sep 22 19:13:24 PDT 2017

Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett

Future Historians Will Look Back in Horror at Koch Network's Attacks on
Climate Policy, says Author Nancy MacLean

By Graham Readfearn <https://www.desmogblog.com/user/graham-readfearn> •
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

For the first few weeks after publishing, all was going pretty well.

Nancy MacLean’s book, *Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical
Right’s Stealth Plan for America*
was “deeply important” and a “feat of American intellectual and political
history,” said a review in Publishers Weekly

The New York Times <https://archive.fo/2p5B0#selection-2413.74-2413.163>
said the book joined an emerging corpus of important work of scholars and
journalists that was “documenting the systematic, organized effort to
undermine democracy and change the rules.”

But it didn’t take long for the apparatus of the “radical right” to swing
into action, with attacks coming from many of the same individuals and
institutions that the Duke University history professor documents in
her book.

“At some point the libertarians, particularly people who are part of the
apparatus in one way or another — either academics or the think-tanks —
weighed in, and did the same thing with my work as they have done with
climate science,” says MacLean.

“They don’t engage the central message but instead try and find what they
imagine is a chink in the armor and they focus on that to try and undermine
the credibility of the messenger rather than engage the substance of the
message.  They are still going… they’re very active.”

Mostly, the personal attacks have been in the public sphere “in the guise
of critiquing the work”, although MacLean does admit to getting the
occasional “hateful email.”

The attacks are hardly surprising, given MacLean’s central accusation that
they have been complicit in a project to strangle democratic processes and
demonise public authorities.
Stealth Plan

MacLean’s book charts the “radical right’s stealth plan” through the
fortunes and influence of the late James M Buchanan, a pioneer of so-called
economic “public choice theory” who was awarded a Nobel memorial prize in
economics in 1986.

MacLean’s book also places Buchanan as a motivated and influential advocate
of the free-market economics and neoliberalism preached by the influential
members of the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) – the invitation-only group
Buchanan joined in 1957 and served as president between 1984 and 1986.

The Mont Pelerin Society, established in 1947 by free market economist and
philosopher Friedrich von Hayek, has about 500 members from more than 50
countries, according to a 2010 membership directory obtained by DeSmog

But MacLean’s book also covers the much broader efforts of Buchanan’s
fellow MPS members, including petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch who
joined MPS in 1970.
Koch Co-Opted Mont Pelerin Society

As DeSmog has reported, MPS is populated by operatives from many
Koch-funded conservative and libertarian groups that have worked to
undermine the science linking fossil fuel burning to dangerous global
warming while attacking renewable energy solutions.

MacLean says Buchanan and Koch’s efforts have had a “huge” impact on
climate change policy in the United States and elsewhere.

“In the US, the impact has been enormous and this Koch network has
effectively taken over the Republican Party and turned it into a delivery
vehicle for this project,” she says.

“A classic example is on climate change when in the 1990s there was no
significant difference between the parties in the US on whether climate
change was happening.

“There were policy differences about how you would address it but there was
no difference on the facts.

“But by 2014, only eight out of 278 Republicans in Congress would admit
that climate change was man-made. That’s an extraordinary development and I
would explain that by the way that Charles Koch’s donor network has applied
Buchanan’s insights into political economy to change the rules of American
politics and to change the incentives.”

“This donor network, by spreading so much misinformation, not just the
donor network but the organizations that they fund, has spread so much
misinformation that now the numbers have slipped to the level that action
does not seem necessary to elected officials.”

MacLean suggests the Koch-funded network had essentially “co-opted” the
Mont Pelerin Society. Soon after Charles Koch joined in 1970, MacLean says
the billionaire was using MPS newsletters to recruit for his think tanks,
including the Institute for Humane Studies
and the Competitive Enterprise Institute

“He was clearly treating it as his own pipeline from the 70s forward,”
she says.

She says: “The whole challenge of climate change is almost impossible for a
libertarian to deal with, in the sense that it’s impossible to see how you
could address this without government action and policies that involve
regulation and restraints on corporate behavior.

“Libertarians – at least the hardcore that have been trained by this Koch
network over the years – I don’t see how they can square a hardcore
libertarianism with addressing climate change because of necessity.  It’s
going to rely on government action.”
Hopeful Signs

She said it was “a hopeful sign” that at least one libertarian think tank,
the Niskanen Center
was taking the science of the risks of human-caused climate
change seriously.

MacLean says future historians will see the efforts of the Koch brothers
and others as “huge” in the context of climate change.

“They will see that we were at a point where more and more people were
recognizing the issue and recognizing the problem.

“This moment will be looked at with horror by future generations. It’s
really frightening.”

But there is a chink of light, according to MacLean. The historian says a
common response from readers of her book is that it gives people hope they
can now wrestle back the reins of democracy.

“If the majority understood what they were doing, they would stop it. I
think that’s a really powerful thing to know,” she says.

“They are doing all of this in the knowledge that they can’t win if they
say openly what their end game is. If people work to patiently inform and
activate the majority, then they could be stopped.”

*Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan
for America, is published by Scribe
<https://scribepublications.com.au/books-authors/books/democracy-in-chains> in
Australia and the UK, and by Penguin Random House
in the US.*

*Main image: Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains. Credit:
Bruce Orenstein*
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