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“One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original bi-weekly column appearing every other Monday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here.
The elephant in the room among libertarians is the “conspiracy theory.” Some libertarians openly and proudly promote the various theories of government conspiracy, notably 9/11 and the JFK assassination. Others are more reserved, and though they may believe a theory here or there, they are less likely to share their belief openly. And still others openly mock most if not all conspiracy theories and believe that engaging in such speculation damages the libertarian image and credibility in the world at large. I think each approach has merit, depending largely on the conspiracy theory in question. Some are clearly ridiculous while others are increasingly not. I would like to here examine two things: 1) what a conspiracy is and 2) whether or not the state is just one big conspiracy.
What is a Conspiracy?
I will not drag out dictionary definitions, but in my understanding a conspiracy is two or more people acting in secret to bring about some end. Conspiracies, then, can be for good or ill. When two teenagers secretly plan to elope, they are conspiring. When they secretly plan to ransack their buddy’s bedroom, they are also conspiring. When parents lie to their children about Santa Claus, they are conspiring. When they hide their broken marriage from their children, they are also conspiring.
It is plain to see, then, that conspiracies can not only be for good ends or bad, but are in fact all around us. Probably everyone has conspired with someone else on something at some point in their lives. A great many people are conspiring on something right now! Now that we know what a conspiracy is, let us see if the state qualifies.
Is the State a Conspiracy?
Franz Oppenheimer and Albert Nock theorized that the origin of the state was in conquest. When one group of people plan to conquer another group, they usually do it in secret. If the latter group were to know, they could better prepare to defend themselves. It is in the conquerors’ best interest to keep their plans secret, or in other words, to conspire.
Moving forward in time, old states are replaced by new ones through either conquest (external) or through a coup (internal). In both cases, the new state promoters conspire with one another before installing their new state. Even the secrecy behind the deliberating and penning of the US Constitution qualifies it as a conspiracy. (Other characteristics qualify it as a coup.)
Within a working state, most of the goings-on are kept secret. “Classified” is the common phrase. Necessarily, most planning, especially military, is classified. In other words, most of what the state does it does through conspiracy.
Considering the above, I have concluded that the state itself is one big conspiracy. For good or ill, its origin and maintenance was/is handled via conspiring individuals. And it is because of the conspiring nature of the state that libertarians are quick to adopt and promote the various negative conspiracy theories involving individuals within the state. The state leaves many no other choice. It actively and purposefully keeps most of society in the dark on some of the most important questions regarding its actions. Were the state to be truly transparent, it would greatly risk losing the perception of legitimacy that it requires for its survival.
I fancy and explore a conspiracy theory here and there. I am a seeker for truth, after all is said and done. I cannot afford to ignore what could be very important to understand. I do not hold the state as some benevolent force in society. On the contrary, I believe that its society’s enemy numero uno. The state plunders and destroys our wealth, our liberties, and our lives. Because it does so, it is the greatest and most insidious conspiracy of them all.