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I often think democracy is like the foundation of a house, meant to give everyone a say in how things are run. Well, some people are quietly taking a hammer to that foundation. And they're not just random vandals; they're more like skilled engineers with a blueprint.

Three eye-opening books—"Democracy in Chains," "Dark Money," and "The Big Myth"—pull back the curtain on this secretive remodeling job. This isn't just something for scholars to chat about over coffee. Understanding this is our responsibility as members of this society, especially if we care about the future of our community and our planet.

Architects of Modern Libertarianism

Imagine a man so committed to a vision of society that he spends decades crafting a plan to bring it to life. James McGill Buchanan, a Nobel Prize-winning political economist, is that man. Picture a chess player, not just moving pieces randomly but with a well-thought-out strategy. That's James McGill Buchanan for you, the guy at the center of "Democracy in Chains." He wasn't just some professor lost in his books; he was a man with a plan.

Born and raised in the South during the era of segregation, he looked at the civil rights movement and saw not a step forward but a danger to the way things were. Buchanan was talking about more than just making the government smaller. No, his game was bigger. He wanted to rig the rules so that most people—including you and me—couldn't use our numbers to balance the scales between the wealthy few and the rest of us.

Imagine you've got a recipe some folks think is perfect for them, even if it leaves a bad taste in everyone else's mouth. That's how corporate bigwigs felt about Buchanan's ideas. They loved his talk about dividing America into "makers" and "takers." Why? Because it gave them a neat little story to tell, one that made it seem okay to cut their taxes while taking away services that regular folks rely on. Buchanan wasn't just scribbling notes on a chalkboard; he was laying down the first bricks of a well-financed, long-haul project to change the basic rules of how the United States of America works.

A Case Study in Influence

So, you've got Buchanan's playbook. Now, meet Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who decided to put that playbook into overdrive. As the book "Dark Money" lays out, these guys didn't just wake up one day and choose to be libertarians. Nope! It's like it was in their DNA. Their dad got rich building oil refineries for sketchy characters like Stalin and Hitler. He was also a key player in the John Birch Society, a group so far to the right that they thought even President Eisenhower was a commie.

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When the Kochs figured out their "government is bad" message wasn't winning elections, did they rethink their views? Not a chance. They went for a more significant move: change the whole game board. They poured money into think tanks, schools, and political races, all aiming to tilt American politics in their favor. And let me tell you, their reach is so vast that they've managed to change the direction of everything from your local government to the highest court in the land.

The Myth of the Free Market

If you've ever heard that "the market knows best," you've encountered the myth that "The Big Myth" seeks to debunk. This book traces the origins of the free-market ideology that has dominated American politics for decades. It wasn't a grassroots movement but a carefully orchestrated campaign by business elites and wealthy powerbrokers. They used media, rewrote textbooks, and even influenced popular culture to promote the idea that government is bad and markets are good.

This ideology has had real-world consequences. It's given us a housing crisis, an opioid epidemic, and inadequate responses to climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. The belief that markets can solve all problems has stifled meaningful reforms and left us unprepared for the challenges we face as a society.

Common Tactics: Disinformation and Suppression

So, how do these elites keep their influence hidden? Through a web of disinformation and suppression. They fund organizations with innocuous names like "Americans for Prosperity" to push their agenda. They hire private detectives to discredit whistle-blowers and journalists. They even go as far as altering educational materials to propagate their views to the next generation.

These tactics have a chilling effect on democracy. They undermine unions, privatize public education, and suppress voting rights. By controlling the narrative and the rules, these elites have managed to disempower the majority, ensuring their interests are always front and center.

The Role of Philanthropy and Tax Laws

One of the most insidious aspects of this influence is how it's often masked as philanthropy. Wealthy donors write off their political activities as tax-deductible "charitable contributions." This provides them a financial benefit and cloaks their actions in a veneer of social good. Tax laws designed to encourage charitable giving are being exploited to funnel money into activities that undermine the very fabric of society.

This misuse of philanthropy and tax laws raises ethical questions. It turns the concept of charity on its head, transforming it from a means of social betterment into a tool for social manipulation.

Resistance and the Way Forward

The situation may seem dire, but understanding the problem is the first step toward solving it. Public awareness and education are crucial. We can't afford to be passive information consumers; we must participate actively in our democracy. This means voting, yes, but also staying informed, questioning narratives, and holding our representatives accountable.

There are ongoing efforts to reform campaign finance laws and protect voting rights. These initiatives aim to level the playing field and give power back to the people. By engaging in these efforts, we can reclaim our democracy from the grips of powerful elites.

The themes presented in "Democracy in Chains," "Dark Money" and "The Big Myth" serve as a wake-up call. They reveal a troubling pattern of influence and manipulation that has reshaped American democracy.

But knowledge is power. By understanding these forces, we can take steps to counteract them and work toward a society that lives up to the democratic ideals we hold dear. The cornerstone of democracy may be chipped, but it's far from broken. It's up to us to repair it.

These three books reveal an impressive 100-year guerrilla war against the American people that is coming to fruition unless the voters show up in 2024 and shut them down.

Related Books:

The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market

1635573572In "The Big Myth," bestselling authors Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway take us on a riveting journey through America's infatuation with the "free market." Building on their previous work in "Merchants of Doubt," which exposed the roots of climate change denial, they now tackle another deeply ingrained but destructive belief. With meticulous research, they reveal how powerful business elites and media allies orchestrated a campaign to demonize "big government" and glorify unchecked capitalism.

From rewriting textbooks to defending child labor and even shaping pop culture, this well-oiled machine turned fringe economic theories into mainstream thought. The result? A half-century of policies led to housing crises, opioid epidemics, environmental degradation, and a disastrous response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This book isn't just a history lesson; it's a wake-up call, urging us to challenge these myths and envision a future where markets serve democracy, not the other way around.

Order the book "The Big Myth" here

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

I0307947904n "Dark Money," investigative journalist Jane Mayer delves deep into the hidden world of America's wealthiest individuals who are reshaping the nation's political landscape. Far from a grassroots conservative uprising, Mayer reveals a meticulously orchestrated campaign by a network of billionaires with extreme libertarian views. Led by figures like Charles and David Koch, these elites have exploited tax laws and funded a web of think tanks, academic institutions, and political campaigns, all to advance an agenda that serves their interests, often at the expense of the public good.

From undermining environmental protections to skewing tax laws in their favor, their influence has reached from state governments to the Supreme Court. Compiled from five years of extensive interviews and research, "Dark Money" is a compelling expose that uncovers the hidden mechanisms and key players behind America's growing economic inequality and eroding democracy. A must-read for anyone concerned about the future of American governance.

Order the book "Dark Money" here.

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America

1101980966In "Democracy in Chains," author Nancy MacLean uncovers the calculated, six-decade-long campaign aimed at crippling American democracy from within. Far from a spontaneous political shift, MacLean identifies Nobel Prize-winning economist James McGill Buchanan as the mastermind behind a well-orchestrated plan to alter the very rules of democratic governance. Developed in reaction to the civil rights movement and the expansion of democratic ideals, Buchanan's strategy was eagerly adopted and funded by corporate donors and right-wing foundations, notably Charles Koch.

The book reveals how this alliance has successfully infiltrated every branch of government, from the White House to state legislatures, to disempower the majority. Their tactics range from undermining unions and privatizing public services to suppressing voter rights. Based on a decade of meticulous research, "Democracy in Chains" is both a chilling exposé of a stealth takeover and a rallying cry to defend the democratic achievements of the past century.

Order the book "Democracy in Chains" here.

About the Author

jenningsRobert Jennings is co-publisher of with his wife Marie T Russell. He attended the University of Florida, Southern Technical Institute, and the University of Central Florida with studies in real estate, urban development, finance, architectural engineering, and elementary education. He was a member of the US Marine Corps and The US Army having commanded a field artillery battery in Germany. He worked in real estate finance, construction and development for 25 years before starting in 1996.

InnerSelf is dedicated to sharing information that allows people to make educated and insightful choices in their personal life, for the good of the commons, and for the well-being of the planet. InnerSelf Magazine is in its 30+year of publication in either print (1984-1995) or online as Please support our work.

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