The Thing About Conspiracy Theories

A reader asks: Have you ever taken a look at conspiracy theories?  Sometimes I have thoughts like, “Obama’s heart is not in America, but in dictatorships abroad,” or “9-11 happened because the US government wanted it to happen to give them an excuse for war,” or “Obama is going to go crazy because of massive evasions.”

Here’s the thing about conspiracy theories: They give government a lot more credit than it deserves.

Such theories assume we’re already living in a dictatorship. We’re not–yet; and we will not necessarily ever be in one. Just as freedom is not inevitable, neither is dictatorship.

The course of a society depends upon the dominant ideas of the culture. If the dominant ideas (or implicit attitudes)  are reason, freedom and individual rights, then the society will remain free so long as those ideas remain dominant–and perhaps for some time thereafter. If different ideas become widely held, then the opposite trends will prevail.

One thing the Obama years has taught me is just how hard it will be to kill America. Does Obama wish to kill America? It really doesn’t matter. His policies, left uncorrected, unchecked and without reversal will lead to ruin. But this doesn’t necessarily imply any kind of conspiracy. It simply means Obama has a lot of bad ideas, gained primarily from his time in academia (i.e. economics, political science, philosophy), which he sets out to impose on the nation. Worse still, a lot of people fall for them. Even worse, no coherent or consistent alternative is ever offered by the opposing party.

When Americans consider conspiracy theories, they tend to project onto our government the powers of a dictatorship. The fact remains, as of 2014, that our government still has all kinds of impediments and checks and balances that keep it from being an outright dictatorship. We’re all still largely free to speak, write or think what we wish without fearing persecution. I don’t mean to minimize what the government is doing, such as nationalizing medicine, expanding government regulations daily, increasing taxation and paralyzing the private sector. None of this is to ignore the fact that any government who is permitted to do all these things to its citizens will, at some point, seek to cross over into freedom of speech and thought.

However, we still don’t know if Americans will tolerate intrusions into speech and thought as they have in other realms. America is not yet a dictatorship, and does not qualify as one until or unless government seizes monopoly control over the Internet and all other media.

Part of the error in conspiracy theories is mistaking motives for capacity. Do many in government, including perhaps Obama himself, wish to cross over into dictatorship via attempts to control freedom of speech? Possibly. But it has not yet happened, and this is probably because they recognize they cannot do it. Just because elected officials might wish to do something doesn’t mean they can. It took nearly a century to obtain fully socialized medicine in America, starting with the 1940s tax credit incentives in favor of corporations, and extending into the 1960s with Medicare and Medicaid. Even now, implementing all-out socialism in medicine is proving difficult, and opposition can be expected for years to come, unless or until free speech is squelched. The very same indignant citizens who once screamed that profit-making insurance companies have no right to limit care will soon see the federal government doing the same, or much worse.

Dictatorship can only flourish once people have silenced all reason, all independence and all resulting thirst for freedom within themselves. The Obama years, not to mention all the decades of incremental statism/socialism-lite leading up to them, have shown that while those qualities are dying, they’re not dead yet.

Conspiracy theories abound with respect to China, for example, who (in some scenarios) might seek to take over parts of America, or otherwise coerce America via military force. But this could never happen if America had not allowed itself to reach the point of indebtedness that it has. America crushed the Nazi and Japanese dictatorships in the 1940s because, despite a Great Depression, it still had the strongest economy on earth. Economic wealth and growth is a sign of health in a nation’s citizens. If we ever fall prey to a fascist dictatorship like China, or some coalition of medievalist gangs such as Iran, it will only be because we did this to ourselves.

Paranoia about conspiracy ultimately springs from fear. We think it’s others we fear. In reality, it’s our own errors, evasions or rationalizations that give cause for fear.

It’s not conspiracy we need to fear. It’s our own refusal to accept and operate within the context of reality, rationality and individual rights. If we refocused ourselves and began to both think and act consistently on these principles, there would be far less to fear from any of our enemies–or our own government.

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