The Illuminati Effect
THE CIRCLE / POINT OF VIEW – Conspiracy theories are everywhere. Only, they can from time to time be used to understand useful concepts, because those who conceive them sometimes put their finger on fundamental principles related to the Illuminati effect.
When one tries to understand the origin of the history of the Illuminati, one finds oneself in Germany with the Order of the Illuminati of the Age of Enlightenment. The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century.
The Illuminati, at its core, were a Bavarian secret society, founded in 1776, for intellectuals to gather in private and oppose the religious and elitist influence of the time. Well-known progressives were part of it but the arrival of the Freemasons pushed the Conservatives and Christians to commit to the group, which eventually simply disappeared.
The Illuminati Effect is tantamount to a sort of equivalent of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”, which would act on the government of a Nation rather than its economy. We see it in conspiracy theories. Indeed, it is noticeable in this habit that people have of linking political events together just because they seem to lead in the same direction. Observers then infer the existence of a plan knowingly organized by an occult power, the “Illuminati” (or other scapegoat).
Yet there is nothing mystical about this notion. It emphasizes the effects that spontaneous ordering has on government itself. If we admit that a society can form its own equilibrium spontaneously, so can a public administration. Citizens thrive on exchange, especially in services, but political organizations are no different. They get richer as they are needed and if they become useless, their fortune is nil. Those in power therefore have every interest in encouraging situations in which we will demand their intervention. Because when power is needed everywhere, the wealth of its custodians will be maximum. Those with political powers therefore tend towards the same goal of increasing situations where legal force is welcome.
To illustrate, let’s take a simple example. Place a target in a street and give a coin to each passer-by who hits the center with a dart. If you look at the scene from the outside, everyone who tries their hand at the game does seem to follow the same plan. They can support each other in improving their individual chances. Yet they only act out of self-interest. The goal matches, but they don’t have to work together.
Political power works the same way. Its agents have a number of tools at their disposal, whether they derive from their duties or from the circumstances. They use them as levers, making it possible to more or less directly constrain the actions of a population. If economic actors compete to provide better services, organs of power compete for better tools. Utility is wealth, including in this area. “Profitability” in politics consists in making oneself as essential as possible to social life. However, there is a maximum threshold that cannot be exceeded. As long as someone controls the whole system, nothing is left for the other players. There is therefore also competition for the available space.
We only need power to protect ourselves from the servitude of others or to impose our wills on it, two antagonistic and mutually exclusive purposes. If a civil society thrives on exchange and is based on trust, the corruption of power will give it an opposite form, a state of perpetual war that thrives on mutual mistrust. As soon as we fear the actions of our fellow human beings, armed force is quickly essential. In the exercise of power, thousands of people share a common goal or use similar methods. The outside observer can therefore quite infer that normally foreign powers are all advancing in concert. This concord is inevitable since there are very few means to increase political power.
The Illuminati Effect is therefore both an economic concept, a psychological bias and a normal condition in all human relationships:
1. The economic concept
The economic concept is concerned with the actions of the agents of power on their environment, as a consequence of their definition of interest and value. It is therefore a central concept in the school of public choice. Because where another economic current would study the spontaneous order of civil society, it is more interested in its political counterpart.
2. Psychological bias
It refers to the attitude of the observer. As the agents of power seem to be moving in the same direction, the public may well interpret their actions as arising from the same bond of subordination to an outside force. For example, if two separate governments establish a single system of mass surveillance, citizens may infer that they are “sold to the same master.” This idea is both true because they do pursue a common goal, the increase of power, but also false, because their actions are not necessarily organized from outside.
3. Finally, the Illuminati effect is common in human relationships
We are all agents of power. We all have influence over others. Our activities are sometimes useful and sometimes harmful. Each person is therefore both in a situation of exchange and of conflict with his neighbor. Our interest changes in the things we consider to be important, making us political or social animals depending on the circumstances.
Psychological bias is compounded if an authority figure is clever enough to take into account the interests of his “competitors” and knows how to use them to his advantage. His pursuit of success will then make it feel even more like reinforcing a plan, even though it was born out of his will alone. Power does not encourage sharing, and a situation of eternal war is not conducive to the exchange of services. This will not prevent it from strengthening itself through its own destruction, feeding as much on tyranny as on revolutions. Because it doesn’t matter which way the wheel turns, as long as it turns.