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(Libertarian?) Conspiracy Theories

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I’ve been thoroughly enjoying having nothing to do for the past week as finals season (which is really about a month of pure hell) finally wrapped up, and I’ve been wondering what to write about next.  I can’t bring myself to cover anything particularly heavy; I’d bore myself to tears just trying to put together something coherent about the FDA and drug costs, or censorship (as topical as that would be around “******mastime”), or even about the very welcome news that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is on its way out the door – let alone try to package any of those topics in less than 2,500 words so somebody might actually read it.  So if you were hoping to stumble across my take on the START, or Manifest Destiny, or the Hawley-Smoot  Tariff, tough.  I’m going to talk about conspiracy theories, because it amuses me to do so.

Libertarians get painted as conspiracy nuts, and it’s not terribly difficult to figure out why.  I mean, let’s go down the list:

1.  We’re third-party.

2.  We really can – and often do –  blame “the government” for about anything.

3.  Texas “Libertarian Republican” (massive qualifying quotation marks) gubernatorial candidate Debrah Medina couldn’t give a straight answer on “So was 9/11 an inside job, or what?” nine years after the fact.  Thanks for the press, Deb.

It kind of sucks, but what can you do?  When libertarians track societal problems back to the body behind misguided public policy (also known as “the government”), we can get a little knee-jerk about it instead of realizing we ought to articulate why it is we’re blaming government this time around.  If libertarians aren’t careful, we can end up sounding like tinfoil hat-wearing, black helicopter-spotting 2012 believers instead of a group of folks routinely arguing against the “value” of government intervention large and small.

Today I’m going to try and dispel the myth that libertarians are inherently conspiracy theorists by examining why we might’ve been misconstrued as a whole.  After all,  you non-libertarians out there might’ve once asked something like,

So do you guys really believe 9/11 was an inside job?

By and large, no.  Hell no.  But why would people believe that we did?  In no particular order:

1.  Deb Medina.

2.  Our “the government” mantra.

3.  Our inherent suspicion of what drives our foreign policy.

I wasn’t a libertarian on September 11, 2001.  I was really more of a “if Al Gore would just shut up, everything would be sunshine and daffodils” Republican.  I was incapable (more accurately, I was utterly disinclined) to view world events outside of the two-party spectrum.  My perfect solution to the terrorism problem was to kill everyone who tried to kill us, and then move on.  No kidding: I cheerfully played “Bombs Over Baghdad” when Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off.  I certainly didn’t want to kill “all those A-rabs” because I’m not – nor have I ever been – a bigoted idiot, but I wanted the responsible parties lined up and shot summarily, and I thought everyone would come out ahead if we did.

Ah, if it were only that easy.

While the nation was caught up in an understandable patriotic fervor, you had libertarians coming out and being brave enough to say, “You know it’s not like we aren’t at least partially responsible for this tragedy, in that we ought to be looking at how our foreign policy contributed to this.”

This call for analysis was unfortunately confused as “We really deserved that mass murder.”  Hell, that’s what I heard.  It pissed a lot of people off; how could those libertarians say such a thing?!  And it wasn’t a long step for people to believe that when libertarians said “the government is, in a way, responsible for this attack,” they actually meant “our government conducted this attack.”  And why wouldn’t people assume that’s what libertarians were saying?  Starting on 9/12 there was a sudden abundance of legitimate crazies coming out of the woodwork to moonlight as building code inspectors, rambling on about controlled demolition and other intricacies of architectural engineering like how the melting point of steel is too high for burning jet fuel to cause the World Trade Center to collapse all by itself (apparently somebody was busy huffing glue during 7th period Chemistry, or else they’d have realized you don’t have to actually liquefy steel to weaken its strength).  I firmly believe libertarians got lumped into the conspiracy category out of hand in a “in the wrong place at the wrong time” kind of way.

Even though we libertarians believe the government is, in a sense, all-powerful (with its inherently stupid, heavy-handed, coercive, monopolistic, and counter-productive nature), the government can’t be the equivalent of a bumbling toddler stomping on sand castles and eating paint chips while it’s also a shadowy puppet-master brilliantly conducting the most ludicrously complex military conspiracy in The Entire History of Anything, Ever.  And I think we can agree that all evidence points to “bumbling toddler” being infinitely more likely, yes?

Do libertarians believe in The Illumanati, et al.?

Again, no, that’s anything but a mainstream opinion.

If you don’t know, The Illuminati is pretty much a catch-all phrase that describes some ultra-powerful group of behind-the-scenes individuals controlling everything that happens around the world.  The assumption is that every financial crisis, war, et cetera, is a deliberate conspiracy that is supposed to benefit this group of people somehow.

Why would anyone believe something this ridiculous?  Lindsay Lohan can’t so much as fart without everyone hearing all about it, but we’re supposed to believe nobody’s been able to discover and prove the existence of “The Illuminati?”  Well, you have to realize that it’s awfully convenient to believe in a mysterious “Order” being responsible for everything.  Seriously, imagine being able to chalk up every evil in the world to one root cause. How perfect is that?  And it’s not like this is an unprecedented trend in world history.

The Jews Did This!

Not Pictured: The Jews that did this.

And, yeah, this goes right back to “the government” coming across as a libertarian’s perceived convenient scapegoat for everything.  The Libertarian Party insists that it’s “The Party of Principle,” which I think is as good a slogan or moniker as any, but unfortunately I think too many libertarians forget that we’re supposed to be explaining our principles rather than assuming everyone understands where we’re coming from.  It’s not like we can’t avoid being misunderstood if we take a little time to have a dialogue instead of a well-intentioned diatribe.

Do libertarians think the Mob killed Kennedy?

Probably not, but I think the Mafia legitimately could have had a roll in it.  Read “I Heard You Paint Houses” on the relationship between Jimmy Hoffa, The Teamsters Union, the Mob, and Bobby Kennedy if you want to be entertained.  It’s a good book.

My point here is that there’s a difference between considering alternative scenarios and committing to wildly implausible theories.  Libertarians trumpet themselves as individuals, which means we like to think that, well, we like to think for ourselves.  I figure that’s a positive thing… why wouldn’t it be?  There’s nothing inherently bad with wondering about the “official story” and considering cui bono and all that, but that doesn’t mean we libertarians are stocking up on canned tuna and spare magazines for our Uzis while we reinforce our backyard nuclear fallout shelters because “they’re coming for us any day now.”

So, please, if you hear we’ve all hopped on the proverbial bullet train to Straight-Jacket Junction, give us libertarians the benefit of the doubt.  There’s probably a reason why we’re being painted as crazies, but it’ll be the wrong reason; yes, we question, we wonder, and we say unpopular things and get mis-characterized, but that doesn’t mean we commit to conspiracy wholesale.

But, uh, that being said and all… if anyone in a black suit and mirrored shades asks you about me, I said it was Lee Harvey Oswald and only Lee Harvey Oswald.  Now excuse me, because I’ve got to sweep my room for listening devices.