Ilana Mercer on coronavirus conspiracy theories
Government is bad enough. There is no need to explain its workings using conjecture and fantasy. The facts about it suffice. In particular, imputing garden variety government evils to conspiracies is based on the following faulty premise: government generally does what is good for us. So, whenever we think it is failing in its mission, we should look beyond the facts for something sinister.
As if the state’s natural quest for expanded power were not enough to explain the events! Why, for example, would you need to search for the “real reason” behind an unjust, unscrupulous war, unless you honestly believed government would generally never prosecute such a war? History belies this delusion. Even when government prosecutes a just war, it finds ways to turn it into an unjust war by prolonging it. After all, a protracted crisis demands more taxpayer funds. Cui bono?
There’s no conspiracy here. The constituent elements of the bureaucratic behemoth that is government continuously work to increase their sphere of influence. Thus, grunts don’t benefit from war; the generals everybody reveres do. It is therefore but natural for the latter to pursue war for war’s sake. By virtue of its size, reach, and many usurpations, the U.S. government is a destructive and warring entity—no matter which of one the big-government parties is at the helm.
Clearly, conspiracy thinking is not congruent with a view of government as fundamentally antagonistic to the welfare of the individual and civil society, a position held by a good number of libertarians and conservatives.
Some conspiracy claims are more consequential than others. Those pertaining to coronavirus are an example. Let us, then, briefly discuss coronavirus and conspiracy. Watch the YouTube corresponding to this section of the column here https://youtu.be/TjCcjaN3TRk It is my sincere hope to help those whose affinity for conspiracy theories could put them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Governments—national, state, city—are engaged in a power grab that might be irreversible. Of that there is no doubt. But from the fact that the state is engaged in this power grab—it doesn’t follow that COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, isn’t lethal.
In other words, keep in mind that the two propositions are not mutually exclusive. To forget this, is to abandon reason and to risk coming short because of conspiracy thinking.
To clarify: it’s piecemeal and incremental, but in this libertarian’s thinking, the state, by and large, presides over the disintegration of civil society. However, it does so reflexively, rather than as a matter of collusion and conspiracy. Again, the state consolidates power reflexively—a little bit here; a little bit there—and often in response to a real threat, rather than intentionally. Its agents are opportunistic predators, rather than grand conspirators.
Suppose you disagree. Say you think the gargantuan American state is smart enough to coordinate a power grab, rather than do so automatically, and in response to a real threat. In this spirit, some honestly believe that the novel coronavirus is a harmless hoax invented in the belly of the beast to consolidate power.
Suppose you act in accordance with these conspiracy convictions. You throw caution to the wind. And then you get infected. Who’s stupid now? In other words, the state’s agents and agencies do instinctively seize power—and coronavirus is real. Both propositions are true. And you are only as smart as your ability to integrate the two realities.
Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She’s the author of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011) & The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed” (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook & Gab. Latest on YouTube