But the incompatibility of conservatism with conspiracy theories is more fundamental. One of the central tenets of conservatism is the idea that society is too complex to be easily controlled by a despot or even cadres of well-intentioned social engineers and bureaucrats, or what Edmund Burke, the founder of modern conservatism, dubbed “sophisters, calculators and economists.”
Burke’s argument was more about the nature of a just regime, but it rested on the belief that government planners, no matter how smart, cannot simply will into existence whatever they want the world to look like through raw intellect. This insight was fleshed out by Adam Smith, the Founding Fathers, Friedrich Hayek, and scores of other conservative sociologists, economists and philosophers. It’s central to every serious explication of conservatism and the free market and every conservative critique of socialism, communism, technocracy, and progressivism.
John Locke was arguably the first person to introduce the idea of the law of unintended consequences, which holds that planners cannot foresee all the ways their schemes will interact with real life. And ever since, conservatives have mocked how the schemers always respond by redoubling their efforts.
“The more the plans fail,” Ronald Reagan quipped, “the more the planners plan.”