Sunday, March 22, 2009

Conspiracy Theories

I have known a wide variety of people through sport. On Saturday night I spoke to a volleyballer who happens to have a gift for wise business decisions. Many people 'buy & sell' for a living but I am quite ignorant on such topics.

I am a scientist and a skeptic. After a few drinks, my friend shared a 'conspiracy theory' which was new to me. I'm all for freedom of speech and I like hearing a tale that I can disprove as much as one that can be proven. In essence, I was told that national banks and federal reserves in many democratic countries have long acted in the best interest not of their citizens but rather a small group of international bankers who have managed to 'legalize' a white-collar crime of global proportions. Naturally, these bankers belong to families with obscene wealth and power whose sole goal is to further increase their wealth at the expense of the masses. You might guess that these bankers also control the media, buy politicians, orchestrate wars, and use their tremendous influence over the boom and bust of the business cycle for personal gain. Most significantly, they cripple countries with interest payments on 'national debt'. Presumably these individuals, unlike Bill Gates, are also able to stay off of the 'world's richest' lists.

The world is full of grand conspiracies: the CIA killed JFK; the moon landing was fake; aliens visit; global warming is a hoax; Diana was murdered, and 9-11 was orchestrated by the US; and I'll leave out the very-blatantly religious ones (like 'the evolution hoax').

Each one of these claims has one big thing in common. It requires the silent collusion of many 'powerful and evil people'. My first instinct is always disbelief because I feel intuitively that such secrets are too hard to keep. One 'carefully blown whistle' would sort things out immediately. Furthermore, even though we've all heard that power corrupts and recent history has demonstrated some great villains, I do believe that most people are 'good people'. Call me naive.

But far as conspiracies go this 'evil international bankers' one is a bit unusual. On Sunday, I had a look at the web. The Internet is fantastic at quickly at disproving conspiracy theories, but details are scarce in this case. Support for it is also hard to find. It saddens me to say that I found the obvious few websites that spin a similar but strongly anti-Semitic version that I refuse to dignify with attention because it preaches hate and violence against innocent people. I did find one exceptionally-long low-budget documentary film from a few years ago that proposes this same theory without any 'hate' talk and supports it with historical quotes by famous people (which may or may not be real). The documentary does predict the current stock crash but I suspect that was inevitable sooner or later.

After some research and thought, I remain skeptical and unconvinced but I am also aware that although I have grown up in a very peaceful and stable world, it is far from perfect. I am not ignorant of the fact that just sixty years ago 'everyone' was at war. 

One thing is for sure: the global economy is ridiculously complicated.  The possibility that some wealthy people might be 'cheating' seems plausible enough.  But who really knows?  I'd like to hope that the American government is regaining control of their financial mess.  If you believe the golden rule: "Whoever has the gold, makes the rules" then maybe you should have bought some 'gold' last year because everything else is just paper. As I understand it, most economists agree that the current global financial system is fundamentally flawed. Growth is unsustainable. Inflation can't go on forever. Further from obvious is an alternative, or a solution. My blog-post-inspiring-friend predicts that the stock market (although it may improve in the next few months) is still 'years from hitting bottom' and he also speculates that you and I are likely destined to live through a complete global financial collapse accompanied by rioting and war. I sure hope he's wrong. And so does he.

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