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The term “conspiracy theory” has become synonymous with absurd tales of plots hatched by the government or large corporations to deprive the public of their wealth, freedom, guns, or other rights.  The best way for a politician or other public figure to dismiss any claims that they have engaged or intend to engage in nefarious behavior is simply to label the notion a conspiracy theory.  In fact, a conspiracy theory, in the modern usage, is basically defined as an outrageous claim made by utter kooks.

We must acknowledge that absurd conspiracy theories abound.  There will always be those who see conspiracies everywhere and who lack the ability or desire to examine all the facts of a case before making judgments.  There are those who believe NASA faked all the lunar landings, that fluoride is a government plot for mind control, the whole New World Order thing, and that the 9/11 attacks were staged by the government.  These ideas are flawed for a host of painfully obvious reasons.

On the other hand, it must also be acknowledged that there is almost nothing which elements of the United States government (or corporations) will not do.  Our government has, among many, many other things; conspired with the Mafia to murder Fidel Castro; operated the School of the Americas for more than 40 years to train government assassins and terrorists for Central and South American dictators; aided in the assassination of Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lamumba; plotted to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle; and provided assassination lists and been complicit in the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent civilians from Thailand to Chile and Malaysia to Guatemala.  The Joint Chiefs of Staff even proposed a plan to president Kennedy, titled Operation Northwoods, to conduct terrorist attacks against American civilians, making it appear as though Cubans perpetrated them, and using the deaths as a pretext for a military invasion of Cuba.  The CIA also spent many years systematically drugging captured Soviet agents and American soldiers and civilians with LSD and other narcotics.  Known as Project MK Ultra, these mind control experiments also tortured their victims with extreme isolation, radiological implants, and other horrors that resulted in either death or permanent insanity for many.

So, while there is no evil deed beyond the pale for our secretive and power-mad elites in government, not everything is a conspiracy.  Moreover, many negative outcomes result from good intentions and unintended consequences, and not some nefarious plot hatched in a smoke-filled basement.  Some are both a nefarious plot with “good” intensions, and have unintended consequences.  When the CIA plotted with British intelligence to stage a military coup against the democratically elected president of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953, they were trying to ensure that the Iranians’ oil resources remained under the control of American and British oil companies.  What they did not foresee was that the move would permanently poison our relations with the Iranian people, and that the repressive Shah Reza Pahlavi, whom they installed as monarch, would pave the way for the 1979 Islamic revolution, the seizure of our embassy, and the genesis of the modern Islamic war against the west.

Most of our lost freedoms and current efforts by our government to compromise our remaining liberty are not conspiracies at all.  They are executed right out in the open; in the halls of congress and in political stump speeches.  Some, like the Federal Reserve System that was established to siphon the value of the American public’s money into the hands of the major banks and brokerage houses, were conspiracies hatched in private, but subsequently debated publicly in congress and the media.  The unconstitutional federal agencies that have smothered the majority of our liberties were all voted on and are continuously funded by congress.  From the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the Department of Education, these instruments of control and intimidation were created after open debate in congress and still proclaim the loftiest of intentions.

With President Obama’s recent illegal executive orders concerning firearms, many people are talking about a “conspiracy” to take away Americans’ Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.  Many people believe “the government,” or Democrats, or liberals are executing a plot to systematically curtail the ability of the people to defend themselves and then, when the time is right, will begin seizing all firearms from the citizenry.  I do not believe that is the case at all; the people that comprise our government are far too stupid and dysfunctional to piece together such a far-reaching plot across multiple agencies and actually make it work.  What is happening is that arrogant and power-drunk politicians with a variety of motives are incrementally eroding our Second Amendment rights.  Left unchecked, this trend will eventually lead to an attempt to outlaw private ownership of firearms; but an organized plot spanning decades and involving thousands of politicians and bureaucrats - no.

President Obama addressed the idea of such a conspiracy this week, when, talking with Anderson Cooper of CNN he said, “It is fair to call the conspiracy, what are you saying? Are you suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody's guns away so that we can impose martial law... but a conspiracy? Yes, that is a conspiracy! I would hope that everyone would agree with that.”

Whether Barack Obama has talked with others about a glorious future where all the bitter people, who “cling to guns and religion” will be disarmed, so the government can finally implement their policies and bring us a utopia on earth is not important.   Are there politicians and academics that want the American public to be disarmed?  Yes; some of them so that they can enhance the power of government, and some of them because they foolishly believe such an effort would lead to a safer society.  Are there some who really just genuinely want to place sensible limits on who can purchase guns to enhance public safety in some way?  Yes.

What is really important is not the motivation of the people promoting certain policies, but the consequences the policies will have.  Whether the president, in his deliberations with advisors, talked about his executive order being a stepping-stone to confiscation is not important.  What is important is whether it can become such a springboard.  Like the president said later in the interview, “Well, look, I mean, I'm only going to be here for another year. I don't know -- when -- when would I have started on this enterprise, right?”

When Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson backed the creation of Social Security and Medicare, they were not plotting to bankrupt the United States; they were trying to enhance and consolidate political power by giving people something for nothing.  Maybe they were selfless saints who cared only for the well being of their fellow aged citizens.  Does it really matter?  The result is that the US government is so far in debt that it can never recover, and our country is effectively bankrupt.

Is the surveillance regime against all Americans that was established and expanded under presidents Bush and Obama in place to protect us from terrorists, or is it the linchpin of a soon-to-be tyranny with an omnipotence never even dreamt of by the dictators of history?  It really doesn’t matter; what matters is that it is in place and could be used by a future government to instantly identify and eliminate any who oppose it.  As Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower that revealed the scheme said, it is “turnkey tyranny.” 

So when you find yourself thinking about conspiracies, remember that the most dangerous actions of government are taken out in the open and often with good intentions.  What we should fear above all else is not the intentions of a single man, whether he is George Bush or Barack Obama, but the accumulation of so much power in the government that a leader of bad intentions can seize the machinery of government and imprison us under totalitarian rule.  That was the purpose of our now-defunct constitution; to restrict the size and power of the national government because we could never be assured of having wise and just politicians to lead us.

John Adams put is best when he said, “The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with the power to endanger the public liberty.”  What we have to fear is not the intensions President Obama or his successors hold in their hearts, but the lawless nature of our government and its ever-increasing power over our lives and liberties.