If Only MacLean Had Read All the Way to Page 4….

by Don Boudreaux on October 3, 2017

in Myths and Fallacies, Virginia Political Economy

My former student Gayle Thomas sent to me this e-mail this morning (shared here with Gayle’s kind permission and with links added):

Hi Don,

I noted with interest your post on Buchanan’s birthday. I have recently borrowed “Better Than Plowing,” his collection of autobiographical essays, and this morning read the following on page 4:

“…officer training school in New York radicalized me. Along with many others, I was subjected to overt discrimination based on favoritism for products of the eastern establishment universities. This sobering experience made me forever sympathetic to those who suffer discriminatory treatment…”

Of course, I immediately thought of the eminent scholarship of Nancy MacLean and her masterful reading of the psyche of James Buchanan. Had she taken a moment to read even the first essay in this collection, she might have had a better insight into his character.

Gayle Thomas

UPDATE: As Ross Emmett correctly points out, MacLean does note Buchanan’s expressed antipathy toward eastern-establishment elites.  She does not, however, seem to think that this knowledge of Buchanan matters much for assessing his role in the intellectual debates.


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