Conspiracy Theory

Gary Chartier gives Two Cheers for Conspiracy Theories. It’s not the full three cheers, so it’s only qualified support for conspiratorial ruminations within anti-authoritarian politics.

Here’s my take.

I’m a Hayekian more or less in terms of institutional and social analysis. This means I look at things like incentives, rules, and institutions, and modeling methodologies such as game theory and complexity theory, to think about how dialectical social evolution results from a by-product of human design and undesigned spontaneous order. So how should one model politics? Start with assumptions of rationality: Politicians share the same traits as psychopaths. Now, I don’t think politicians are actually psychopathic(psychopathy is a neurological abnormality of reduced activity of the amygdala in the medial temporal lobes of the brain that results in an inability to feel empathy; a psychopath is a psychopath in any institutional setting, including the family). Rather, the institutional incentives of political institutions reward psychopathic behavior. Politicians, in sense, trade/exchange political favors and artificial rents; any consequences of such “trade,” however, are not borne by them; instead, they are dispersed across the larger population. So you have a institutional setting where agents don’t have to bear the burdens of their decisions, which means this institutional setting is not one about reinforcing “empathy,” but rather one about reinforcing power. Thus you wind up with an institutional rule, in a very real sense, consisting of a bunch of coordinating psychopaths.

So, definine politics as a “game of coordinating psychopaths” and apply a evolutionary game treatment to it. In evolutionary game theory, you are looking for evolutionarily stable strategies that have the property that if almost every member of the population(the population in this case being the population of politicians) follows it, no mutant can successfully invade. I think you would end up with something very similar, in terms of the dynamics, if you were to assume a pure propaganda model–that is, history is being designed by some secret group such as “the Bilderberg Group.” In the end, you probably end with roughly the same thing. The difference would be that I would contend there is a “knowledge problem” for any secret grand design of history. No one or nor group is smart enough to “centrally plan history.”

But this doesn’t mean that they are not actual conspiracies. On the contrary, there most certainly are. For example: The Bush Admin, particularly Cheney and his cadre of neoconservatives, conspired to legally implement a unitary executive regime that would be necessary for the prosecution of a permanent war in the middle east, southern asia, and northern africa. This was clearly laid out in the writings of the PNAC members going back to the 90s. However, this doesn’t mean the PNAC was behind 9-11.

With the massive growth of the intelligence State, I think one is quite justified to assume beforehand that “the discrediting” of individuals or groups who threaten “the intelligence State” is likely the result of Psychops. That’s what an intelligence State does.


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