Blogs > Liberty and Power > Timeline for Democracy in Chains (Nancy MacLean)

Jun 18, 2018

Timeline for Democracy in Chains (Nancy MacLean)

tags: Democracy in Chains,Nancy MacLean

A brief timeline...

6/13/17 - Democracy in Chains is published

6/25/17 - Russ Roberts publishes a short article on Medium, showing that MacLean appears to have intentionally edited a quotation by Tyler Cowen to alter its meaning. He offers her an opportunity to respond.

6/26/17 - MacLean replies, but instead of explaining her edits of the Cowen quote she attacks Roberts' motives on account of his relationship to Cowen.

6/27/17 - I publish a critique of MacLean's misuse of evidence about the Agrarian poets on HNN, a news aggregation website for academic history. The editor - with my express permission - extends her an invitation to respond.

6/28/17 - Jonathan Adler extends MacLean an invitation to answer the mounting criticisms of her book on the Volokh blog, then hosted by the Washington Post.

6/28-7/6/17 - Over a week goes by of complete silence from MacLean to both the HNN and Volokh invitations.

7/7/17 - MacLean publishes and widely circulates a post on social media claiming that her book is the "victim" of a Koch brothers-orchestrated conspiracy theory that includes buying ads to suppress its google rankings and manipulating its star ratings on

7/12/17 - InsideHigherEd runs an article on the MacLean controversy. They contact Mike Munger, David Bernstein, and myself for comments, which we give. MacLean refuses to comment.

7/19/17 - The Chronicle of Higher Education begins coverage of the controversy. MacLean agrees to respond to questions from a reporter, but only by email as vetted through her publicist. The questions are largely softballs and allow her to make continued charges against the motives of her critics without opportunities to respond and without any followups. MacLean also falsely claims that her critics have failed to disclose connections to the Koch brothers despite this information being both disclosed and publicly available.

7/20/17-present day - MacLean gives dozens of lectures before sympathetic audiences and interviews with sympathetic hosts in which she continues to spread conspiratorial and ad hominem attacks on her critics, our motives, and our alleged funding. At public appearances, she also adopts the practice of screening questioners from the audience by demanding that they reveal any Koch/GMU connections before she will take their questions.

10/19/17 - The Wall Street Journal runs a piece on the MacLean controversy, citing my research and interviewing me. They solicit a response from MacLean. MacLean answers "via email that Mr. Magness is “wrong about the facts of Virginia history" then declines to respond to any followup questions asking her to elaborate.

Spring 2018 - MacLean is extended an invitation to participate in an author-and-critics session about her research at the History of Economics Society's conference. She responds by insisting that any professor with any connection to a Koch-funded university be barred from participating in the panel. She declines when these extraordinary terms cannot be met.

6/6/18 - MacLean gives an interview with a friendly podcast from Jacobin magazine. The host asks softball questions about her critics, emphasizing that she need only respond to those on the left. MacLean specifically addresses a critical review by left-leaning scholars Henry Farrell and Steven Teles by accusing them of failing to read her book and by claiming that Teles has financial links to the Koch network because he collaborated with a former Cato scholar on his current book.

6/8/18 - Farrell responds in a multi-point essay on twitter, noting that MacLean's attacks on him and Teles in the Jacobin interview contain multiple untruthful and irresponsible assertions.

6/17/18 - History of Economics conference session on MacLean's book occurs, albeit without her in attendance due to the aforementioned reasons.

6/18/18 - A pair of MacLean's more vocal academic defenders argue that she's justified in ignoring and dismissing her academic critics because they think we've violated norms of "professional" engagement in the way that we've treated her work.

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