A multitude of conspiracy theorists latched on to a couple of recent American Thinker articles I wrote about the government purchasing large amounts of hollow-point ammunition for obscure agencies, but they misunderstood the point I was trying to make about the size of the federal government.
The first American Thinker article, published on August 14, 2012, pointed out the solicitation of 46,000 rounds of .40 S&S JHP ammunition for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service and asked why the meteorologists at the National Weather Service had a need for ammunition. An alarmed AT reader contacted her congressman, who also happens to be my congressman, who promptly looked into the matter and discovered that the solicitation on the FedBizOps website had mistakenly identified the National Weather Service as the purchasing agency instead of the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement as was originally intended. So, the matter was quickly resolved as to the intended agency requesting the ammunition, but another question arose as to the existence of obscure federal agencies having their own law enforcement agencies.
In my second AT article, published on August 19, 2012, I pointed out the government response to the Internet outcry over ammunition purchases by the National Weather Service, and asked why the government was purchasing large amounts of hollow-point ammunition and just how many obscure federal law enforcement agencies exist. An order of 46,000 rounds of ammunition is not unusually large given the number of officers and the need for practice ammunition to keep up shooting skills over the course of a year. The use of hollow-point ammunition is troubling until it is explained that hollow-point ammo is preferred by law enforcement due to the fact that these rounds tend to stay within the body and not pass through to potentially harm innocent bystanders. Hollow-point ammo has become standard in law enforcement.
I was surprised by the number of comments each of these articles received from individuals convinced that the government is planning something nefarious to keep Barack Obama in power past the election. There were stories of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) concentration camps and stockpiles of plastic coffin liners as the conspiracy theorists loosed their imaginations to feast upon their irrational fears. Many of the comments came from individuals whom I recognized from their many comments to various AT articles and respected for their insight on the topic at hand. It appears that few are immune to the powerful lure of a well-spun conspiracy theory.
I am not inclined towards conspiracy theories for several reasons. First, Occam’s razor, or the law of parsimony, is the principle which recommends the simplest explanation from among competing hypotheses. Usually, the simplest explanation is the best. Any military member will tell you that the more complex a plan is, the more likely something will go wrong. Conspiracy theories tend toward the complex with multiple people interacting in well-coordinated and well-timed ways that just don’t happen in the real world where things go wrong, participants miss their cues, and the unexpected happens constantly. Successful operational plans are intentionally conceived to be as simple as possible to minimize the likelihood of anything going wrong.
Second, conspiracies rely on large numbers of people to keep a big secret, and human nature is not conducive to the success of a conspiracy. Even President Obama couldn’t resist the temptation to immediately tell of the killing of Osama bin Laden along with sensitive details of the raid. Now a book is coming out from one of the members of Seal Team 6 who participated in the raid and was the first man through the door of bin Laden’s bedroom on that fateful night. His motivation is to set the record straight and shift credit away from a credit-hogging Obama using the incident for political points back toward the soldiers actually responsible for the raid. There are a multitude of motivations to tell the big secret, and the more people involved, then the more motivations that come into play.
Third, conspiracy theories make for great fiction and Hollywood plot lines with incredible entertainment potential. The tendency to veer off into the world of imagination to find an explanation for the unexplainable is just too great. When big events that change history occur, they are sudden and shocking to our collective psyche. We demand a big explanation to go along with a big occurrence, when it’s much more likely to be a simple explanation. The Kennedy Assassination has spawned a multitude of conspiracy theories involving the Mafia, the CIA, the KGB, Fidel Castro, and others acting either alone or in some combination to explain a truly shocking event. However, it turns out that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating Kennedy for the simple reason that he was a pathetic nobody who sought to be somebody in the world and committed a heinous act to garner attention. A simple explanation to a massive event that leaves one feeling unsatisfied that something so huge could be pulled off so simply by one lone individual seeking attention.
It turns out that the FEMA concentration camps mentioned in various comments to my AT articles are really National Responder Support Camps constructed as a counter to the government’s poor response to Hurricane Katrina. FEMA’s performance in New Orleans demonstrated the woeful inadequacy of the government in responding to natural disasters. These camps were constructed to pre position supplies and provide a support base to disaster recovery teams in order to improve the government response to the next disaster. There is nothing nefarious about them, and their solicitation can be found here. Anything the government does for the right reasons can be misused by someone in charge who has a nefarious agenda. We must be careful not to allow a situation where someone can misuse the government against us, but we shouldn’t assume every government action is automatically sinister. Popular Mechanics has an excellent article that debunks many of the conspiracy theory myths about FEMA camps.
In my AT articles, I first intended to highlight the disturbing purchase of ammo by the National Weather Service and question the need for this agency to purchase ammo. When it turned out that this was a simple clerical error, I shifted focus to the size of ammo purchases and the number of obscure federal law enforcement agencies in an attempt to highlight the explosive growth of the federal government. Hey, mistakes do happen and government employees aren’t immune to making the occasional innocent mistake which I consider perfectly reasonable and understandable. Given the number of federal law enforcement agencies and the number of agents involved, the size of the ammo purchases becomes reasonable given that some of these were multi-year solicitations. These are simple explanations and plausibly explain the situations under consideration.
What concerned me was that they demonstrated in an offbeat way the size of the federal government which is difficult to comprehend. Hundreds of millions of ammo rounds purchased for some fifty obscure government agencies starts to bring the size of the federal government into focus. It is huge folks! The government isn’t planning anything nefarious. It’s just so large that it requires this much ammo on a yearly basis. It was not my intention to stoke the flames of conspiracy theorists intent on constructing elaborate explanations that feed their desire to see something nefarious behind every good intention. I merely sought to highlight the size of the federal government in terms one could grasp.
We TEA Party conservatives have from the beginning embraced the idea that the federal government has grown to an unsustainable size and must be downsized in a responsible way to preserve personal liberty and restore fiscal sanity. America has a $16 trillion debt that is difficult to comprehend in explainable terms other than being too large to repay. When we get comfortable speaking of trillions of dollars, then the mention of billions of dollars begins to seem trivial in a dangerous way that portends more fiscal irresponsibility. This fiscal irresponsibility is much more dangerous to America and our way of life than any conspiracy theory concocted by deluded individuals who are intent on finding the nefarious in every good intention or unfolding historical event. It is occurring right in front of us, and the simple explanation is that our government leaders are intent on following the failed and discredited economic policies of John Maynard Keynes in pursuit of their radical progressive liberal agenda of big government solutions to problems best left to the private sector.
This is no conspiracy theory as their agenda is well known and they have hinted at their intentions numerous times in consolidating their control of the Democrat Party. President Obama has opined that American business owners didn’t build their businesses, but that someone else built them in a nod to the collective. Vice President Biden has warned supporters that the Republican Party seeks to “put y’all back in chains” for daring to suggest that government spending be brought under control. The Obama Administration has waged class warfare on wealth and wealthy Americans in concert with the Occupy Wall Street Astroturf movement. Their agenda is to spend ever more with no thought to the consequences or admission of any limits. Their answer is to call for the wealthy to “pay their fair share” as if they aren’t already since the bottom half of Americans pay no taxes. These crude class warfare tactics will not work as the wealthy don’t possess enough wealth to pay this tremendous debt, and aren’t likely to remain here and allow the government to confiscate their wealth in the first place. Government is engaged in a massive fiscal fraud being perpetrated right before our eyes and no conspiracy theory is required for its explanation.