Ray Fisman in Slate takes my paper with Daniel Berger, Nathan Nunn, and Shanker Satyanath on Commercial Imperialism as partial confirmation of John Perkins' allegation of a global conspiracy to take down poor nations for the benefit of rich corporations. This is fun, so let's run with it. Of course there's a eeny weeny difference between conspiracy theories and social science that just says, yes, CIA interventions could have been helpful to US corporations making a few export sales in US client states (Fisman knows this as he makes clear in the article). The full-fledged conspiracy version has the World Bank coordinate and centrally plan the actions of myriads of large corporations, US government agencies, and other aid agencies, all with their own separate interests, to all work for the general obscene profit of all corporations. Which is a bit implausible when the World Bank can't even plan malaria control.
Alright, you got me, I'm part of the conspiracy. They threatened my dog Lucy if I did not recant my candid research. Which is also kind of the problem with conspiracy theories: if there is no evidence for them -- it just means the conspiracy hid the evidence! Conspiracy theories never go out of fashion because it's impossible to disprove them.
The NYT today had a front pager about a conspiracy theory in Pakistan that sees a vast effort to destroy Pakistan led by an American "think tank." I wonder which one? Some think tanks I know (NOT including my good friends in think tanks) could possibly wield deadly weapons of mass boredom. Let me investigate further and get back to you.
Unfortunately for those fighting the proliferation of conspiracy theories, the US military is doing it's best to spread mass paranoia about Americans everywhere. According to the headline story in yesterday's NYT, General David Petraeus has ordered a vast secret intelligence gathering program around the world, among other things:
General Petraeus’s September order is focused on intelligence gathering — by American troops, foreign businesspeople, academics or others — to identify militants and provide “persistent situational awareness,” while forging ties to local indigenous groups.
Thanks a lot General Petraeus! Now no American academic can go anywhere in the world with being seen as a spy. John Perkins knew it all along...