Whether it’s the JFK Assassination, vaccine paranoia or the tragic events of 9/11, one thing is for sure: Americans love a good conspiracy theory.
It is no secret that libertarians in America are plagued by rampant conspiracy theorizing. But conspiracy theorizing is not limited to the liberty movement. Conservative Republicans have openly embraced birther conspiracies regarding President Obama’s birthplace as well as Social Democrats who believe that Kennedy was murdered by the CIA & a military-industrial complex eager to continue the war in Vietnam. But now as the limited government philosophy of libertarians has gained traction, the natural outcome has been increased scrutiny of our ideas.
I think it’s important for those who defend the ideas of free markets and limited government to understand the principles & ethics of liberty so that we can better spread the message of freedom. Many conspiracy buffs call themselves “libertarian” but are actually confused socialists. It makes sense why those believing in an elite control plot would be attracted to the message of liberty. It is unfortunate however that they are so muddled in their understanding of the voluntaryist philosophy of free market capitalism.
For example: FreedomWorks recently released a video amongst the libertarian community online explaining how Americans against Obamacare have an opportunity to resist implementing the health care exchanges. One commentator immediately chimed in with:
“Obamacare is one of few things going in the right direction in the states.. if only you would all worry MORE about the federal reserve running your country, worry more about the food companies and pharmaceutical companies perpetually poisoning the masses you would all be better off. The problem isn’t having a government run programs.. it’s about removing the corruption from the government. Start at the base level of the problem.. not at it’s minor programs thinking it would be a victory.”
The author of this quote is obviously convinced of some grand plot that has eluded journalist, scientists and muckrakers all over the world. And to make it worse they take a soft-on-crime approach to one of the greatest wrongs perpetuated on the American economy since the Great Society, namely Obamacare. Indeed the problem IS having government run programs. That is the corruption. Nationalization is Socialism by definition. Also where are these angels who can efficiently run nationalized programs going to come from? There’s nothing minor about a government takeover of healthcare.
And this is not the only example. Another commentator weighed in soon after with this:
“Hate the mandate but love the regulations they placed on the insurance companies. Covering pre existing conditions, children issues and legit womans healthcare is a step in the right direction. Still 4 universal health care. Some things shouldnt b for profit and caring for our ppl shouldnt be one of them. Yes we can afford it. If we can afford to go to war w every muslim country and bail out billionaires we can afford to take care of our ppl. Plus canadas health care system has a 93% approval rating. I think america can do better. But i actually have faith in our country n dont think our government is going to lock us in concentration camps.”
Well we’re all breathing a sigh of relief that this person isn’t insane enough to believe that we are going to be put in concentration camps. But this author would argue that it is the height of cognitive dissonance to claim to “hate the mandate” but “love the regulations”. The mandate is a regulation. Universal healthcare is a Socialist utopian fantasy. These are not the words of a libertarian. These are the loutish words of someone who would rather allow people to suffer to achieve goals that the person believes are a social good, regardless of whether the policies actually achieve the desired outcomes.
Austrian economist Steve Horwitz writing on the same subject put it this way, “there is a more fundamental problem with a classical liberal’s embracing most conspiracy theories. Ultimately, believing that a small group of evil people are manipulating economic and social processes for their own ends concedes to defenders of government economic planning that controlling and manipulating the economy is in fact possible! In other words, conspiracy theories are a form of socialism. If international bankers really are using the Fed to manipulate the economy to enrich themselves, or if politicians and bureaucrats are using the welfare system to undermine the family or to impoverish African-Americans, then using government to achieve fairly specific ends is apparently possible.”
It’s easy to understand why so many get suckered into conspiracy thinking. There are a great many people for whom it would be a terrible disappointment if it were to be discovered that fluoride in significant dilution is harmless and that vaccines do not cause autism. The only thrills some people receive may come from the idea that there is a grand interconnected plot of sinister forces conniving to steal our freedoms.
For them, a grand conspiracy by “Big Pharma” is attempting to poison us with genetically modified food. Conspiracy Theory Socialists will often demand food labeling for products that are genetically modified, even though the libertarian position is to be against government coercion in the free market. A purchase of a product is a private contract mutually agreed to and the government has no business forcing producers to label their products. Those who call themselves libertarians but advocate for GMO labeling are in fact Conspiracy Theory Socialists. Libertarians would do well to avoid such quackery and to trouble themselves with the real “Big Pharma Conspiracy”, namely the one involving the lobbying of pharmaceutical companies for the passage of Obamacare.
This author has come under fire from professional conspiracy hustlers because I have spoken out in favor of critical thinking be applied even to ideas espoused by those calling themselves “libertarians”. In a meandering rant imbued with what appeared to be jealousy, talk radio show host & conspiracy hustler Alex Jones spent an eight minute segment engaging in character assassination, misinformation and slander directed at myself (VIDEO). In the rant, Jones made assumptions and claims that could easily have been debunked with a simple Google search. For example, in the video he claims that my definition of conspiracy theories in a debate in New Hampshire (VIDEO) makes me like Karl Rove, attempting to control the debate. Unfortunately for Jones, and perhaps myself as this is revealed, I simply lifted the definition of conspiracy theories from Wikipedia. Apparently the producers of the Prison Planet hit piece were too busy to do a quick google search to see where I got it from.
In order to foster critical thinking amongst the crowd at the debate in New Hampshire, I made it known that I would reveal to the audience a little-known conspiracy that I had uncovered. Many libertarians have been taken in by the theories peddled by Oliver Stone. The leftist sentiments that JFK might have been assassinated by a conspiracy have been peddled for years, despite mounting evidence that Oswald acted alone. But the KGB knew how prone to conspiracy theories Americans were. During the Cold War, Soviet disinformation agents took full advantage of our national tendencies towards paranoia by forging a document with Lee Harvey Oswald‘s signature that connected him to a known CIA asset. It was a conspiracy to promote conspiracies. Leftists, gullible conservatives and libertarians have been propagating the CIA/Oswald connection lies ever since.
Even socialists such as Bill Maher and Noam Chomsky have self identified as libertarians. But they are merely claiming to believe in some system where citizens can have civil rights, but not economic ones. That is not libertarian. Also, liberals such as Maher propagate socialist conspiracy theories by spreading paranoia about genetically modified food labeling and many in the liberty movement go right along in lockstep because of their fear of “big corporations.” Corporations that get subsidies from government is an example of corporatism, not capitalism and the subsidies and bailouts they receive are the problem. Libertarians as well as leftists can be taken in by such conspiracy theories and unknowingly spread misinformation about ridiculous ideas such as colon cleansing or the idea that organic foods are somehow healthier than genetically modified. But as Mark Twain was known to say…
Some libertarians try and argue that conspiracy theories are helpful. They get people interested and questioning government. This is basically arguing that the ends justify the means. That is precisely the argument that libertarians must resist. It is to agree with the neoconservative philosophy of the noble lie, that it is acceptable to lie to the public who are too stupid to see the truth. “We must wake the sheeple up,” the conspiracy theorists cry, “even if what we say is not true.” Truth seekers and honest men and women must reject this approach.
In the weeks after Texas Congressman Ron Paul shuttered his office doors in Washington, the movement he inspired is struggling to come to grips with their values and beliefs. The many groups that compose it contain a wide variety of special interests attempting to wield influence. Libertarian ideas have come under increasing scrutiny from people interested in how we feel about issues concerning the national debt, basic economics & foreign policy. Unfortunately, a recent Pew research poll has shown that a majority of young people, 6 in 10, believe in big government. That means that libertarians have a lot of work to do to counter leftist propaganda that the State is the solution to societies ills.
A time for choosing is coming when we will have to decide whether we are more successful spreading the ideas of Frederic Bastiat, Ron Paul & Frederich Hayek or of Alex Jones, Mark Dice & David Icke. Which will you choose?