O's Top 20 Books to Read This Summer
The must-reads that'll take you straight through to Labor Day.
4 of 20
Democracy in Chains
Is there a vast right-wing conspiracy? Historian Nancy MacLean comes down squarely on yes in her riveting, unsettling account of "Tennessee country boy" James McGill Buchanan, key architect of today's radical right. Just after the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decisions in 1954 and 1955, the economist and future Nobel laureate saw the writing on the wall: Desegregation would tilt power away from privileged white men and toward a more diverse, egalitarian America. Buchanan had recoiled from the New Deal, which he felt threatened that hierarchy. Fueled by the fortune of billionaire conservative kingmaker Charles Koch, his progeny sketched a blueprint to undermine constitutional protections and usher in a permanent ruling class—in MacLean's words, "a return to oligarchy." Republican elites have since flocked to Buchanan's toxic brew of ideas, and here MacLean sets out to prove that what's occurred is not an organic movement but a "hostile takeover" of American governance.