Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rothbard on Conspiracies

LRC publishes an essay by Murray Rothbard from 1977 on conspiracies. This is the sort of thing that Virginia Postrel and Arthur J. "Don't Call Me the Fonz" Gillespie would never touch.

Rothbard points to the simple truth that powerful men often use the state as an instrument to expand their power and influence:

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. Hence, if a steel tariff is passed, he assumes that the steel industry lobbied for it; if a public works project is created, he hypothesizes that it was promoted by an alliance of construction firms and unions who enjoyed public works contracts, and bureaucrats who expanded their jobs and incomes. It is the opponents of "conspiracy" analysis who profess to believe that all events – at least in government – are random and unplanned, and that therefore people do not engage in purposive choice and planning.


Rothbard also briefly explains one weakness in such thinking--the willingness to wrap all conspiracies into one conspiracy: "The bad conspiracy analyst seems to have a compulsion to wrap up all the conspiracies, all the bad guy power blocs, into one giant conspiracy. Instead of seeing that there are several power blocs trying to gain control of government, sometimes in conflict and sometimes in alliance, he has to assume – again without evidence – that a small group of men controls them all, and only seems to send them into conflict."

As an atheist, Rothbard also ignores the anti-Christian impulse at the heart of contemporary elites.

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