In Salon, a former libertarian named Edwin Lyngar adds to the "Why I left the movement" literature. This bit
, about the Rob Paul delegation to the 2008 Republican national Convention, is worth quoting:
And boy, was it a circus. Many members of the group were obsessed with the gold standard, the Kennedy assassination and the Fed. Although Libertarians believe government is incompetent, many of them subscribe to the most fringe conspiracy theories imaginable. Airplanes are poisoning America with chemicals (chemtrails) or the moon landings were faked. Nothing was too far out. A great many of them really think that 9-11 was an inside job. Even while basking in the electoral mainstream, the movement was overflowing with obvious hokum.
During the meeting, a Ron Paul staffer, a smart and charismatic young woman, gave a tip to the group for the upcoming convention.
“Dress normal,” she said. “Wear suits, and don’t bring signs or flags. Don’t talk about conspiracy theories. Just fit in.” Her advice was the kind you might hear given to an insane uncle at Thanksgiving.
The reference to the Kennedy assassination stings. Still, I know all too well that there are libertarian zealots who have latched onto that topic without understanding it or making any kind of scholarly contribution to the literature. These people usually fixate on the notion that JFK was killed because he was going to take action against the Federal Reserve -- a claim that isn't true
do so many libertarians become conspiracy theorists? Because conspiracy theories -- whether worthwhile, worthless, or in the unproven-but-intriguing category -- all tend to alienate the citizen from the government, from the very idea
Libertarians use JFK's death to drive home the idea that government is always malign. Of course, this idea goes against everything the Kennedy brothers stood for. The proposition of universal political corruption, taken to its logical conclusion, undermines all faith in democracy. From there, it is but a short step to Peter Thiel's formulation that freedom and democracy are incompatible.
We can go further. This antipathy for democracy links conspiracism, libertarianism and fascism
Libertarians insist that they have no kinship to fascism -- that they are, in fact, the truest opponents
of fascism. But the linkage between libertarianism and fascism became hard to deny when Milton Friedman went to work for Pinochet.
Even more revealing is the background of the Koch Brothers
One big time Birch family, the Koch family, has spent (and continues to spend) huge sums to bankroll Birch ideas. David and Charles Koch, the sons of Fred Koch—one of the original founding members of the Birch Society and a friend of my father—have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their favorite political causes.
The JBS offers a loving biography of Fred Koch on this
page. You should also read Wikipedia's page
on the Koch paterfamilias:
He claimed that the Democratic and Republican Parties were infiltrated by the Communist Party, and he supported Mussolini's suppression of communists. He wrote that "The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America," and that public welfare was a secret plot to attract rural blacks and Puerto Ricans to Eastern cities to vote for Communist causes and "getting a vicious race war started."
The Birchers, fueled by Koch cash, were and are notorious for promoting "the paranoid style." Alas, the rewriters of history have largely managed to hide the links between the Society's founders and the American pro-fascist movements of the pre-war era.
One example should prove the point.
In the 1950s, Fred Koch's chief partner in establishing the JBS was J. Howard Pew, a personal friend to Robert Welch, the founder of the Society. A couple of decades earlier, Pew helped to establish a fascist group called the Sentinels of Liberty
The second most important of the [American Liberty] League's auxiliaries was the Sentinels of the Republic, an anti-Semitic organization which constantly warned the country of "the Jewish-Communist" menace. In 1936 the Senate Lobbying Committee released Sentinels' files revealing fascist sympathies. "The Jewish threat is a real one... I believe our real opportunity lies in accomplishing the defeat of Roosevelt." wrote its president, Boston banker Alexander Lincoln to Cleveland Runyon, who replied that the people were crying for leadership: "The Sentinels should really lead on the outstanding issue. The old line Americans of $1,000 a year want a Hitler."
In public, the Sentinels did not extol the virtues of Hitler; instead, they opposed any attempt to regulate business, with a particular emphasis on repealing laws against child labor. In other words, the movement was outwardly libertarian and inwardly totalitarian.
Tea Partiers, following the lead of Glenn Beck, have tried to rewrite this history, claiming that liberals
were somehow allied with the fascist movement. This assertion makes sense only if you manage to ignore every piece of printed material from the 1930s.
From time to time, I am asked by what criteria do I differentiate the (relatively few) worthwhile conspiracy theories from the many that are rubbish. My quick-n-dirty solution will strike many people as unfair, yet it works for me. I ask: "Did a libertarian come up with this theory?" If the answer is "yes," then the assertions are probably