Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"The United States was Founded on a Conspiracy Theory"

I've begun reading Professor of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University's, Lance deHaven-Smith's, Conspiracy Theory in America. I'm only in the Introduction, and already enjoying his interesting take on conspiracy theories. This for example:

    "Those who now dismiss conspiracy theories as groundless paranoia havre apparently forgotten that the United States was founded on a conspiracy theory. The Declaration of Independence claimed that 'a history of repeated injuries and usurpations' by King George proved the king was plotting to establish 'an absolute tyranny over these states.' Today, most Americans are familiar only with the Declaration's opening paragraphs about self-evident truths and inalienable rights, but if they were to read the rest of the document, they would see that it is devoted to detailing the abuses evincing the king's tyrannical design. Among the complaints listed are onerous taxation, fomenting slave rebellions and Indian uprisings, taxation without representation, and indifference to the colonies' complaints. The document's signers claimed it was this 'design to reduce them under absolute despotism,' not any or all of the abuses themselves, that gave them the right and the duty 'to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
    "The Founders considered political power a corrupting influence that makes political conspiracies against the people's interests and liberties almost inevitable. They repeatedly and explicitly called for popular vigilance against anti-democratic schemes in high office. Educated in classical political philosophy, they understood that one of the most important questions in Western political thought is how to prevent top leaders from abusing their powers to impose arbitrary rule, which the Founders referred to appropriately as 'tyranny.' Whereas Great Britain relied on common law to define the powers and procedures of its government, the generation that established the American republic developed a written constitution to set clear limits on public officials. Nevertheless, they understood that all constitutions are vulnerable to subversion because ultimately they are interpreted and administered by public officials themselves. The Founders would view today's norms against conspiratorial suspicion as not only arrogant, but also dangerous and un-American." 

UPDATE: I've already argued that first followers of Jesus were conspiracy theorists. It's nice to know that both my religion and my political philosophy are consistent with what their founders thought.

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