I’ve ranted before about conspiracy theorists — see, e.g., On Conspiracy Theories. I have several problems with such views.First, they are usually not needed; and they are usually maintained by people who have a naive view of the state. For them, if we can just get rid of the bad guys (and often they are Jews, bankers, capitalists) and elect good ones, things return to normal. Second, the state is evil on its face. It kills hundreds of thousands of people in the open. It is able to do this because it has succeeded in deceiving the people as to its legitimacy (see Hoppe’s Banking, Nation States and International Politics: A Sociological Reconstruction of the Present Economic Order). Third, it ignores the fact that the state has internal rules (see Alfred G. Cuzán‘s classic paper “Do We Ever Really Get Out of Anarchy?, apparently “revisited” by Cuzán in 2007 [see draft]). People who rise inside the state are good at following these rules; and you can be sure opponents inside the state would latch onto violations of them (remember Clinton being impeached for someting minor?). Fourth, the ‘toids usually have no evidence.
Anyway, Vijay Boyapati brought to my attention this priceless reaction by Rothbard (in a 1989 Q&A after a speech) to a questioner’suggestion that “the government” is trying to spread AIDS.
This starts about about 49:50:
Rothbard: I never heard of that.. I don’t know anything about that
‘toid: It sounds far out.
Rothbard: Yeah it sounds far out. I don’t see any evidence to that effect. My favourite story about the government medicine was the swine flu caper if anyone remembers that – (interrupted)
‘toid: – what’s the difference?
Rothbard: well that was documented.
More Rothbard: “There are, of course, good conspiracy analysts and bad conspiracy analysts, just as there are good and bad historians or practitioners of any discipline. The bad conspiracy analyst tends to make two kinds of mistakes, which indeed leave him open to the Establishment charge of “paranoia.” First, he stops with the cui bono; if measure A benefits X and Y, he simply concludes that therefore X and Y were responsible. He fails to realize that this is just a hypothesis, and must be verified by finding out whether or not X and Y really did so.”
As Rothbard says in the essay “Far from being a paranoid or a determinist, the conspiracy analyst is a praxeologist; that is, he believes that people act purposively, that they make conscious choices to employ means in order to arrive at goals.” So far so good. People like Alex Jones and the Truther mentioned above all start in the right place; by examining the situation and asking the all important question qui bono? Who benefits? The problems start because that is where the stop their scholarship. With the answer to the question in hand the “bad” conspiracy analyst rushes to the rooftops to proclaim to the world his “incredible” findings. While on the rooftop he also takes the time to denounce any and all “unbelievers” as accessories to The Crime.
In my opinion bad conspiracy theorists give Governments way too much credit. They seem to forget two things 1)the fact that governments are inefficient monoliths that only know how to “react” to a given situation and 2)F.A. Hayek’s important contribution to economic thought known as “The Pretence of Knowledge”. Economic collapse happens because a small group of people think they can control everything; not because some CFR board member says “Throw the switch!”
A great little often overlooked essay: “The Conspiracy Theory of History” by Murray N. Rothbard.