Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Philosophy vs. Conspiracy

Anyone who has worked in support of the liberty movement knows an unfortunate truth: it is all too often associated, rightly or wrongly, with "conspiracy theories" -- those all too often unsubstantiated, speculative viewpoints on various topics such as the assassination of JFK, the attempted assassination of Reagan, 9/11, the role of the Rockefellers and Rothschilds in modern world history, and the current doings of the Bilderbergers, Trilateral Commission, and the Council on Foreign Relations. The problem is that liberty's enemies are very aware of this association as well and they use it to their advantage. Too often freedom's detractors slander the liberty movement as being filled with conspiracy nuts and other wackos.

But you know what? In this regard, the dissidents have a point.

Now before any of you David-Icke-website-readers throw your latest edition of The Committee of 300 at your computer screen out of frustration, please know that I could care less if you believe that the Queen of England is the head of a vast secret organization hell-bent on making the United States English colonies again; or, that the Illuminati has been working for 300 years to reduce all mankind to slavery; or, that the Rothschilds have surreptitiously started every war since 1850 through their financing of national governments. Obviously, what you choose to believe is your prerogative and your right.

I can even admire many of the conspiracy theorists for their zeal in trying to bring to light corruption and some of the important questions they have raised (Why did Tower 7 fall anyway?) which poke holes in the "official" story. But at the end of the day, those same issues, no matter how entertaining or interesting, only become road blocks in furthering liberty, because no one wants to discuss universal healthcare, TARP, the deficit, or the War on Terror with someone who leads the discussion with "9/11 was an inside job" or "JFK was assassinated because he was going to get rid of the Federal Reserve."

More pragmatically, with regards to the furtherance of liberty, conspiracy theories, more often than not, are irrelevant. Most people are not concerned with whether there is a secret organization or two or three, etc. that controls the world's leaders and aims to bring every nation under a one world government. Most people are, however, concerned with their individual liberties and the governmental measures that result in their loss.

Why then worry yourselves about Freemasonry, the Bohemian Grove, or some meeting of the super-rich once a year on some resort inaccessible to the public? Your worrying may be justified, but your focus on conspiracy rather than the competing philosophies of freedom on the one hand and coercion on the other may actually hurt rather than help the liberty movement.

The liberty movement seeks to fight force and coercion no matter who seeks to do the forcing and coercing; and, the liberty movement fights bad ideas, no matter who holds or promotes them. Whether those who work to deprive us of our liberty are doing so in furtherance of a grand plan to become masters of the universe or are simply ignorant of the consequences of their actions is not the pinnacle of the liberty debate. Liberty lovers will fight for truth regardless.

That is not to say that some conspiracy theories do not warrant attention, or even, that there are not some that are true. And, if such a theory is actually true, it would naturally follow that others should be made aware of such a diabolical scheme. I do not mean to discount every theory out there and I do not wish to convey that anyone who believes in such theories is automatically a nut.

I do wish to convey, however, that conspiracy theories, and those who are fixated with such, tend to do more harm than good to the liberty movement, because they focus on conspiracy rather than philosophy.

The liberty movement needs converts... many many converts, but disseminating information about conspiracy theories is not a very effective way to obtain converts.

The only way that someone becomes a true convert is through having a change of heart and mind by accepting the philosophy of freedom. Convincing someone that the government is building FEMA camps all over the country to be used as concentration camps is really not going to convince the typical taxpaying, reality-TV-watching, one-beer-a-day-drinking American that Obama's policies are the same/just as bad as Bush's.

The liberty movement must become a movement based on rationality, common sense, objectivity, and deductive argumentation; and, unfortunately, conspiracy theories, whether true or not, are all too often based on unfounded inferences.

Our focus as liberty lovers, therefore, should be on: (1) educating ourselves in the philosophy of freedom; and, (2) educating others.

Educating Ourselves

John Adams once said that he had to study war and politics so that his sons would have the liberty to study philosophy and mathematics. Mr. Adams certainly contributed to our liberty to study philosophy, but how many of us have studied the philosophy of liberty?

The "philosophy of liberty" (or the "philosophy of freedom") is not a term heard much in the halls of academia. It is rarely discussed or compared with other more popular philosophies such as nihilism, humanism, communism, fascism, socialism, statism, totalitarianism, etc. But rest assured, there is a thriving sector of academia led by the likes of the Ludwig von Mises Institute ("LvMI"), the Foundation for Economic Education, and others, that is dedicated to the philosophy of freedom,.

Thanks to the internet and groups like LvMI, the great works that embody the philosophy of freedom are at our fingertips. Now anyone can educate himself with the best thinkers of all time. LvMI is an excellent place to start. LvMI provides thousands of pieces of literature, including entire books by some of the world's most thought provoking philosophers and economists, for free. It also has loads of audio and video files so you can watch and listen to lectures on free market economics, foreign policy, and constitutional and legal issues. (Disclaimer -- I have no affiliation with LvMI... I just really like what it does.)

A study of the classics, specifically the Greek and Roman classics, is also necessary to a well- rounded and thorough education in the philosophy of freedom. Studying the ancient historians such as Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy, Tacitus, and Plutarch will give the reader an understanding of the consequences of abandoning principles of liberty for those of force and statism.

Likewise, a study of the more "recent" philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas, Spinoza, Adam Smith, Cervantes, Locke, etc. will present age-old ideas to the reader in ways that will encourage the reader to conclude for himself that the philosophy of freedom is the only philosophy that can have lasting beneficial consequences.

Liberty lovers may also want to consider investing in Encyclopedia Britannica's Great Books of the Western World or the Harvard Classics to get a bookshelf full of some of the greatest works of all time which promote or otherwise enlighten the reader of the necessity of the philosophy of freedom.

The liberty lover should also familiarize himself with liberty's competing philosophies so as to better understand their weaknesses. In doing so it will become apparent that all other philosophies shrink when matched against the philosophy of freedom. That is because freedom is truth... and the truth will set you free.

When one is armed with knowledge of the principles of liberty people are more inclined to listen, and even if they don't agree at first, the message of liberty will at least spark an interest in their minds that may eventually grow into a fire.

Educating Others

Perhaps the best way to describe how to go about educating others in the philosophy of freedom is that American adage spoken by Teddy Roosevelt: "Speak softly and carry a big stick." The philosophy of freedom is our "big stick" -- it speaks for itself. In wielding that stick we must do so with care and let it do the talking.

Liberty lovers need not be disrespectful, pushy, or demonstrate an in-your-face mentality with our brethren who may not yet realize that the philosophy of freedom is the only sure way to prosperity and peace.

I recently read a blog post by Paul Krugman wherein he alleged that certain Ron Paul supporters/adherents of Austrian economics rudely interrupted a presentation he was giving at Baruch College. I was not there, so I do not know the specifics, but to the extent these individuals -- whom I am sure were frustrated with Krugman's continued support of failed Keynesian policies -- acted inappropriately, I hope that in looking back they will realize that their actions did not likely result in convincing anyone that free market economics is superior to central planning.

Similarly, liberty lovers should avoid veering from the actual issues being discussed. This is where conspiracy theorists can cause so much harm. For example, if governmental/bureaucratized "free trade" is the issue (i.e., NAFTA, GATT, etc.) discuss the economic benefits/detriments of such treaties. Shy away from implications that such measures are advocated by the global elite in an attempt to undermine the national sovereignty and economy of the United States. Again, even if true, it does not matter, if your goal is to capture the hearts and minds of men.

Those liberty lovers who are not versed in the philosophy of freedom tend to argue tangential issues which have little positive effect on the listener. Just look at some of the anti-Paul/Austrian comments left by the pro-Krugmanites on the blog post referenced above. I can only presume that those who left such comments have had more experience with liberty lovers who fall under the category of "conspiracy theorists" than those who have a solid foundation in Austrian economics and the classics.

The liberty movement needs to work toward focusing itself on philosophy rather than conspiracy, and that can only happen if liberty lovers themselves become acquainted with the philosophy of liberty, and then learn to communicate that philosophy effectively. In doing so, the liberty movement will gain converts in droves, which just may lead to the liberty movement finally reaching its destination.

Copyright © 2009 Jerry Salcido

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