From How to Fight the Conspiracies and Win by Gary North
Remnant Review, Vol. 37, No. 4 (April 23, 2010)
Rushdoony was convinced that conspiracies can gain long-term power only when their principles are in conformity with the general beliefs of the general population. He did not believe it is possible to control society from behind the scenes in terms of a set of presuppositions totally at odds with the beliefs of the general public. Anyone who attempts to implement a worldview totally at odds with the first principles of the general population will find himself isolated. He will find himself regarded as a crackpot. Nobody will pay any attention to him. It is only when an individual conspires with other individuals to take over the institutions of power in society by means of a secret plan to implement the fundamental principles of that society that you find successful conspiracies. You do not see successful conspiracies that are totally in opposition to what most of the population wants.
So, he concluded, we see all kinds of special-interest groups jockeying for position to control Federal spending. There are many conspiracies out there, he said, that would like to get in control of the Federal government. The reason they want to get into control of the Federal government is because the Federal government has power and money to implement their plans for society.
The reason why the Federal government has so much money and power to implement these plans is because the general population a century ago surrendered such power to the Federal government, and did it on principle. The reason why so many socialist plans get funded by the Federal government is because the public really does like socialism. The public likes the idea of being able to take money from one group and transfer it to another group. The voters think that they will be members of the group that receives the money, not members of the group that has it stolen from them. They are fools, he said, but only in believing that they will not ultimately pay the price. They are not fools in desiring to get the money, given the fact that they believe in the legitimacy of coercive wealth distribution by state power. If you believe in the coercive power of the state, you’re a fool if you don’t attempt to get in control of it.
I learned very early that the conservative movement is mostly about getting in control of state power. It has been a movement devoted to getting its hands into the public trough. It wants its wars, not the liberals’ wars. The liberals say that they don’t want war at all, but they always wind up supporting some Democrat President who takes us into an undeclared war. The conservatives want the same right for Republican Presidents to take us into an undeclared war. So, there is true bipartisanship. Whenever a President takes us into an undeclared war, members of the other political party in Congress openly and vociferously support his action. The result, Rushdoony said, has been that the United States has been involved in a constant series of wars that were unnecessary and liabilities.
I was fortunate in the fact that I first discovered about conspiracies from my study of America’s entry into World War II. I wrote a high school term paper in 1958 on how Roosevelt maneuvered the United States into the war by pressuring the Japanese government to attack us. I have not changed my mind. This alerted me to the fact that wars are the major means of expanding the power of the Federal government. I understood early that Presidents maneuver the country into war in order to expand their own power and the government’s power over the general population. Presidents find that the public does not oppose the entry into war, once we’ve gone into war. All resistance ceases. The expansion of the government then can go on without resistance. This is beneficial for the groups that are associated with weaponry. It is also beneficial to all the groups associated with the banking system, which funds the expansion of the arms industry.
In graduate school in 1965, this suggestion was considered a form of lunacy. Later, this began to change when Johnson pushed deeper into Vietnam, and the Gulf of Tonkin attack turned out to be a myth. In graduate school, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was untouchable. He was retroactively the great saint of the 20th century. Any suggestion that Franklin Roosevelt deliberately lured the country into war was considered conspiratorial crackpotism. I was one of the crackpots, so I generally kept my mouth shut on this issue, except in an upper division course on revisionist histories of World War I and World War II — the only such class in the United States in 1962.
This attitude has not changed today. The difference is, today more historians are willing to admit that Roosevelt did maneuver the Japanese into war. What we find, however, is that these historians say that Roosevelt’s action was wise. They applaud the fact that he used conspiratorial tactics to get the country into war. Anyone who says it was wrong for Roosevelt to have done this is regarded as a crackpot, but at least these days you can say that Roosevelt did it. You just are not supposed to say that was a bad thing that he did. However, in the textbooks, the story that prevailed in 1942 in Washington DC still prevails.
Some conspiracy theories are accurate (mine). Not all conspiracy theories are accurate (theirs … and maybe yours). Most conspiracy theories are inaccurate. The reason why I say this is that there are a lot of conspiracies that are in conflict with each other, and they can’t all be equally successful. Some of them were and others lost. But anyone who says that special-interest groups do not connive behind the scenes in order to persuade the public to accept new laws that infringe on the finances and liberties of the public is naive beyond belief. Such conspiracies do exist, and they have been successful in history.
Nevertheless, Rushdoony’s point is correct. Conspiracies have not been successful in opposition to the general ethical principles that prevail in the voting population. The conspirators use a kind of institutional jujitsu in order to gain what they want. They are able to overthrow the general population only because the general population is already off balance because of its commitment to the same sorts of wealth distribution and power expansion that the conspirators are secretly pursuing.
Conspirators With Clay Feet
This makes it difficult for those of us who do believe in conspiracies to avoid the constant pressure from newcomers that we should get involved in the pursuit of a dozen other conspiracies. There is no agreement among the conspiracy theorists about which is the major conspiracy. There are a lot of conspiracies. They cooperate, as the Bilderbergers do, but they cooperate as alliances of criminal conspiracies cooperate. They cooperate in the way that various gangs of the Mafia cooperate. They cooperate at the expense of the general public, but they are always maneuvering for greater power and greater influence at the top.
So, when we go off to research our favorite conspiracy, we had better do so on the assumption that these people are richer than we are, more influential than we are, smarter than we are, but just as blind to the realities of the world as the rest of us. The old line about every man putting on his pants one leg at a time is correct. These people hit brick walls the same way we do. They are thwarted by the same kinds of unpredictable change that we are.
Why Exposing Conspiracies Changes Nothing
Rushdoony’s main point was this. Any attempt to expose a conspiracy on the assumption that once there is a successful exposé, the American public will throw out the conspirators, is naive. Even if we were successful in exposing conspiracies in this way, the public would not change the system. The best that we could hope for would be to get a new set of conspirators running the show.
The problem is not the conspiracies; the problem is the corruption in the hearts of the people. The fact that the voters would allow and even promote the creation of the modern welfare state is indicative of the fact that larceny is in their hearts. It does no good to replace one conspiracy with another conspiracy if you leave the system intact that enables the conspiracies to gain power.
This goes back to the famous chapter 10 in F. A. Hayek’s book, The Road to Serfdom. The chapter is titled, “Why the Worst Get on Top.” Hayek argued that the modern socialist state, meaning the modern welfare state, encourages the worst people to get on top, because the worst people are the most successful in seeking and maintaining power. Because central economic planning centralizes power, it grants to the state the right to confiscate the wealth of the public. We should not expect kindly people to be successful in the pursuit of power within such a system. We will find, and what we have found, is that the most ruthless people seek out the levers of power, precisely because the levers of power enable them to achieve their goal: control over other people.
It does no good to expose the conspirators. Hardly anyone will believe you, and even if the person does believe you, there’s not a thing you or he can do about it. The public has finally figured out that the system at the top is structured against them, because they saw what happened to the banks in 2008. They saw the banks got the bailout money, not the man in the street. This upsets them, because they wanted the bailout money. They wanted their snouts into the trough. They deeply resent the fact that the bankers got their snouts into the trough first and much deeper. They have only come to this conclusion recently. The far Left and the far Right have known about it since 1913. But who took them seriously?
Rushdoony’s position was that it is a moral obligation to preach and teach against the welfare state, because the welfare state is based on the principle of theft. It is based on the principle of the right of one group legally to extract wealth from another group. The moral foundation of the welfare state is corrupt.
This is why he was always opposed to the public school system. He wrote one of the early books against public education: Intellectual Schizophrenia. He wrote it in 1961, and I read it in 1962. I was convinced. He also came up with a slogan regarding people who were opposed to higher taxes. “They have tithed their children to the state, and then they expect us to take seriously their demand for lower taxes.” He knew this position was intellectually unsustainable. He also knew there was no hope that the United States will ever reverse its course and go back to limited civil government for as long as the public school system is being funded by local governments. He had no illusions about any reform of the public schools. He understood that this would mean simply substituting one group of educational conspirators for another group.
This is why I have little confidence that the Tea Party movement will be a positive tool for reforming the Federal government. When the Tea Party movement comes out foursquare against Social Security and Medicare, I will begin to take it seriously. I do not expect this.
On the other hand, young people who have come into the movement, who are not committed to Social Security and Medicare, and who would jolly well like it if those two programs were abolished, are the political hope of the nation. If these people become consistent in their opposition to welfare for the aged, we may convince them to become fanatical in their opposition to welfare for the young, namely, the public school system and tax supported education at the collegiate level. When individuals are willing to give up their own share of the loot, or their own age group’s share of the loot, then I will begin to take seriously the Tea Party movement.
One of the great failures of the conservative movement over the last 40 years has been its unwillingness to focus on local government. The conservative movement has raised its money inside the Beltway. The fund-raising letters have gone out to stop this or that boondoggle, this or that expansion of Federal power. The money rolls in, but the Federal government does not change. It is still huge. It is still gobbling up tax money, and it is surely gobbling up borrowed money.
What the conservative movement should have done, beginning in the mid-1960s, was to focus on county government. Here, it would have been possible to train people to get themselves elected, or get people they believed in elected. It would have been possible for conservatives in 1,000 rural counties out of over 3,000 counties to develop institutional barriers against the extension of Federal money and Federal power. But no conservative organization systematically pursued the idea of creating a true grassroots political movement. (The Eagle Forum came close.) Some of them talked a good line, but none of them followed through with money, time, and training materials. The focus has always been on Washington, and especially the next presidential election.
Because so much money flows into Washington, and so much power flows out of Washington, the name of the conservative game has been to gain influence in Washington. We have lost the game. It is difficult to prove the conservative movement in any systematic way restricted the expansion of Federal power.
It is interesting that the deregulation of Federal agencies took place under the Carter Administration, not under the Reagan Administration. That is rarely discussed in conservative circles.
Show me a person who has a plan to reform the public education system, other than by de-funding the public education system, and I’ll show you a problem, not a solution. Our goal should not be to capture the public schools. Our goal should be to de-fund the public schools.
This is our principle of action: replacement, not capture. We should not attempt to take over the existing systems of power and influence; we should attempt to create alternatives that are more reliable, more efficient, and more beneficial to the general public. We can’t beat something with nothing. We also can’t beat the system by capturing the system and maintaining the system. We are not smart enough to do this, and in any case, we are not ruthless enough to do it.
What I have outlined here I was taught almost 50 years ago. Rushdoony understood this. Leonard E. Reed understood it, and so did the editor of The Freeman, Paul Poirot. These men persuaded me that the quest for power in today’s society is the devil’s own quest.
This is why I don’t have much faith in the Tea Party movement. I do have a sense of optimism about the younger members of the movement, who follow Ron Paul rather than Sarah Palen. Paul understands these principles. He is the only politician in my generation at the national level who has understood this position. This is why he is now known to millions of people, and no other congressman is. (Pelosi is, of course.) He stood alone when it paid nothing to stand alone, and he is now the representative of a movement that could turn into an effective political force at the local level. He exercises this influence precisely because he has not sought to extend power to the Federal government. He has not been involved in a quest for power; he has been in a quest for the decentralization of power, and the de-funding of power.
We can’t beat something with nothing. We can create problems for the government. We can scare Congressman into not voting for another round of stimulus deficits. But we cannot roll back the existing spending. We cannot roll back the Federal debt. We cannot do this, because the public does not want it done.
We can, however, prepare for the day when the capital markets will not pony up any more money to the United States Treasury to fund the boondoggles, especially the boondoggles of Social Security and Medicare.
When the Soviet Union proved that communism could no longer maintain power, Western Marxists lost their faith. They had been Marxists only because they believed in power, and they somehow believed that day, as intellectuals, would be powerful people in a Communist society. They had not read carefully what Stalin did to intellectuals. They had not read what the Pol Pot did to intellectuals in Cambodia. He sent them to the farms or had them executed, if they had hands without calluses or if they wore glasses. He knew an intellectual when he saw one. They died.
I think the same is true of the welfare state in the West. I think the only way that you’re going to see intellectuals abandon faith in the welfare state is when it goes belly up, and they are 70 years old, and the checks don’t come. Then they will finally figure out that the system was not a good thing. But, for as long as the welfare state continues to exercise power and can continue to send out checks, intellectuals are going to be as committed to the welfare state as millions and millions of old people are committed to Social Security and Medicare. You don’t change the system from the inside. You create an alternative system, and you wait for the existing system to go belly up. That is how you change people’s minds.
You can’t beat something with nothing. This is why people don’t really want to change it. It costs too much money, too much commitment, and too much time. That is why we face a crisis. That is why the Tea Party movement is probably not going to succeed in anything except being a spoiler.
But, if individuals at the local level begin to organize, this may change. When the checks stop coming from Washington, it is going to be politically acceptable to resist the extension of Federal power. The main reason why local politicians are willing to accept the extension of Federal power is because they fear the withdrawal of Federal money. When there is no more Federal money coming out of Washington, you will see organized resistance to the extension of Federal power. That will be a great day.