≡ Menu

Rothbard on Conspiratoids

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.”

from Facebook:

The Conspiracy Theorist as Praxeologist

by T.C. Bell

Last weekend when Professor Woods come to CU Boulder to talk about the basic analytics of Austrian Business Cycle Theory a wide variety of ideological beliefs found their way into Humanities room 1B50. One less prominent group was the 9/11 Truthers, who after the lecture, passed out fliers for their upcoming “Truth Convention ’09” or some such gathering. One of the ladies from the Truther sect was standing near her seat with a not so pleasant expression on her face. I asked her what she had thought about the speech. She replied that it was a shame that Tom Woods didn’t get into the “facts” that our “overlords” consciously set up events like the financial collapse for their own benefit. I countered that Dr. Woods was only trying to get the main ideas of a very overlooked and insightful theory of business cycles to “the masses”. I got the feeling that this answer was not acceptable for the Truthista because she kind of hinted at the idea that Tom Woods is just another shill for “our masters”. Precisely because Tom Woods doesn’t follow up his lecture with a power point presentation on how the Council on Foreign Relations “caused” 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Financial Collapse (Takeover) of 2008 and whatever other problems individuals face in their daily lives this somehow proves that he is the Power Elite’s shill? Being diplomatic about the situation I recommended that she read Dr. Rothbard’s great essay on “The Conspiracy Theory of History”. For Rothbard, unlike most scholars, is not a flat out rejecter of “conspiracy theory”; only “bad conspiracy analysis”.

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.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Jayel Aheram September 5, 2009, 12:21 pm

    Second, the state is evil on its face.

    Every time I attend a Ron Paul event, there was usually a couple of Truthers there whose mission it is to let people know about the evil things the government is doing in secret. It boggles my mind that they would waste time with that when there are plenty of evil acts that the government engages in right in the view of the public.

    • Daniel Gomes September 9, 2022, 12:03 am

      The point is to note that there is a tendency on the part of those who reach state positions and within the public machine and corporations with enough money to buy the favors of politicians, that they will use state power to benefit at the expense of others. This is a hallmark of the praxeological analysis of the state made especially by Rothbard (and Hoppe following him) which emphasizes the conscious use of the state machine to benefit the group of people who use it, as well as indirect beneficiaries such as intellectuals and billionaires. This goes against the end of this article which quotes the “Hayekian” interpretation of the state, that bureaucrats are just “ignorant”, not that they are not, but it is naive not to think that they don’t put their interests first.

      That said, I want to say that I agree that “conspiracy theories” that start to get into more specific issues, such as the purposeful release of a virus, would need more specific evidence, but that there is an inherent tendency for bureaucrats to use means that harm the population and benefit from their control over it and the benefits that this entails. brings, I have no doubt that there is this tendency, and analyzes of the type that emphasize only the “ignorance” of politicians are naive and unrealistic.

Leave a Reply

© 2012-2022 StephanKinsella.com CC0 To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to material on this Site, unless indicated otherwise. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.

-- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright

%d bloggers like this: