The Relevant Part of Buchanan’s Memo

by Don Boudreaux on July 14, 2017

in History, Myths and Fallacies, Reality Is Not Optional

Dr. Solomon Stein is playing a leading role in archiving my late colleague James Buchanan‘s papers.  I thank Solomon for sharing with me Buchanan’s unpublished 1973 memo that Nancy MacLean quotes both on page 120 of Democracy in Chains and in her recent fantastical and mistaken assertion that she’s the target of “a coordinated and interlinked set of calculated hit jobs.”*  The 1973 memo – which I mentioned yesterday in this post – is long.  It was written as a set of notes in preparation for an upcoming meeting in Los Angeles of 14 senior free-market-oriented academics (including Buchanan), think-tank executives, and government officials.  Much of this memo is in the form of phrases (rather than complete sentences) and it is filled with misspellings and poor punctuation.

Pasted below is the part of the 1973 memo (corrected only for obvious misspellings) from which MacLean quotes – the part from which, in her recent plea for help against the imaginary “set of calculated hit jobs,” conveys the impression that Buchanan thought of, and described as, a “gravy train” the assistance to higher education given by the Kochs.  This impression is completely false.

But, more importantly, than these, need means of attracting new adherents. New young scholars. Personal experience. With force, young scholars can be attracted. And with money.

Current market for Ph D’s. Money talks. FREE-Center experience. Useful for spillover results, perhaps in long run far more important than short term results.

Project by project. Use not for purpose of generating results, per se, although this would be puich [unsure what this was meant to be, pitch?] But use as means or devices to get young scholars, many of whom are noncommitted, interested in and committed to set of values, notions. There seems nothing at all unethical in this. Simply using funds to accomplish both good research and to bring men into the fold. And this must be done. In one sense, this is what our opposition has done for decades. Nominally, funds for projects. But what short of projects, results did not matter. gravy train did. Federal funds used in this way. Why not use them in other ways.


* Here’s the full quotation from the relevant part of MacLean’s plea for help: “This will sound nutty, I know, but it’s actually happening: the Koch operatives and the riders of their academic “gravy train,” as James Buchanan called it, are working very hard to kill DEMOCRACY IN CHAINS –and to destroy my reputation (as they have done to climate change scientists and others bearing inconvenient truth).

“It appears they are using Washington Post blogposts as a seemingly respectable pivot for a coordinated and interlinked set of calculated hit jobs. By using the WAPO blogposts, they make it appear to the ordinary web surfer that the WAPO itself is trashing my book when it’s really the Koch team of professors who don’t disclose their conflicts of interest and the operatives who work fulltime for their project to shackle our democracy. The other side was getting top placement because their team was clicking and re-clicking and sending embedded links, and the velocity of their activity drove up their links.”

MacLean is spot-on about the nutty part.


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