Cui Bono?rnConspiracy Theories: A Rothbardian Perspectivernby Justin RaimondornDuring the debate over our unnaturally extended presidentialrnelection, David Corn, associate editor of the Nation,rnappeared on CNN’s Crossfire and took up the cudgel in defensernof Gore and his fellow coup-plotters. The smarmy Corn parriedrnhis opponent’s contention that Al Gore and the Democratsrnwere trying to steal the election with a gleeful cry: “You don’t expectrnme to believe this conspiracy theory, now, do you?” Arnsmile slithered across Corn’s face, and his eyes lit up with therncertainty that he had backed his Republican opponent into arncorner: The argument, as far as he was concerned, was over. Afterrnall, who could possibly believe that the power-lusting Gorernand his army of lawyers would want to seize power by using thernjudiciary to bypass the Constitution?rnCorn’s triumphant smirk was largely due to the bad pressrnconspiracy theories have received over the years. Conservativesrnhave been tarred with this particular brush ever since the earlyrn1960’s, resulting from the nationally orchestrated hysteria overrnthe alleged “threat” of “right-wing extremism” (represented byrnthe John Birch Society). Back in those days, you only had torn”come out,” so to speak, as a conservative, and you would be interrogated.rnThe first question inevitably was: “So, you thinkrnPresident Eisenhower was a communist, eh?” Since the earlyrn1950’s, at least, the Anti-Defamadon League of B’nai B’rith hasrnbeen trying to tar conservatives as either practicing or incipientrnantisemites—adherents to a conspiracy theory so obviously debasedrnand irrational that it discredits every element of theirrnworldview. Once, all that was required to dismiss an idea orrnperson out of hand was an arch of the eyebrow and a referencernJustin Raimondo is the author, most recently, of An Enemy ofrnthe State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.rnto the “black-helicopter crowd.”rnBut the tide is turning. In the perfervid political atmospherernof the present day—after the open conspiracy of Al Core and hisrnfellow bonapartists to seize the Wliite House on the strength ofrna few thousand dimpled chads—that is no longer enough. Thernsmug complacency of David Corn and his ilk, who sneer at thernvery idea that Prince Albert planned to seize the crown andrnplace it on his own head, has thoroughly debunked the anticonspiracyrntheorists, who were similarly disoriented by Watergaternand the Vietnam War, when the whole course of Americanrndomestic and foreign policy seemed to be one dark and evilrnconspiracy against common sense and human decency.rnMany conspiracy theories are, of course, absurd or even evil;rnbut this can hardly mean that they all should be dismissed or denouncedrnas hate crimes. Every organized effort, from a politicalrncampaign to an attempted coup d’etat, can, in some sense,rnbe called a conspiracy, depending on who is making the call.rnThe term is subjective, infinitely elashc, and ultimately meaninglessrnwhen applied to anything short of a criminal cabal. Humanrnbeings act (often in concert) to advance their own interestsrn—in politics and in life. Who can deny it?rnThis is, perhaps, less obvious when the differences betweenrnthe left and the ostensible right are narrowed down to microscopicrnarguments over prescription-drug policy, hi such a case,rnthere are no longer any white hats or black hats in Washington,rnD.C., or San Francisco—only the grey centrism of the mushyrnmiddle. It follows, then, that there are no conspiracies, sincernpractically everyone is neither good nor bad but a morally neutralrntechnician firmly grasping the levers of power. In our era ofrnbipartisan bliss and ideological convergence, when the prefixrn”neo” is attached—like a “for sale” sign—to all of the old ide-rn20/CHRONICLESrnrnrn