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Occam's Razor and American safety

For those not familiar with the law of parsimony or briefness, Occam's Razor sounds like a movie about a military mission in Afghanistan. Actually, it's a principle that is used by scientists and lay people alike to ascribe a meaning or motive to something by looking at the simplest explanation first. And, by the way, the man who came up with the hypothesis was a 14th century Franciscan friar (and the word 'razor' is a metaphor for cutting through all the unnecessary explanations).

Our good friends at Wikipedia give the following example: "Two trees have fallen down during a windy night. Think about these two possible explanations for it: 1. The wind has blown them down or 2. Two meteorites have each taken one tree down, and after that hit each other and removed any trace of themselves." Let's apply that to the Presidential Election of 2016 and the subsequent 'Russia collusion' investigation now being conducted by Special Counsel, Robert Mueller. Here's explanation one...Donald Trump won the Presidential election because he got more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton. Explanation two: Donald Trump won the election because his campaign colluded with Russian nationals and then those Russian nationals ran ads on social media which then changed the mindset of some voters in key electoral vote states who then voted for him and put him over the top.

Occam's Razor decision-making isn't only used in politics; it's also used in medicine such as when there are many possible explanations for symptoms. Most healthcare practitioners start off with the simplest diagnosis: if a child has a runny nose, he probably has a cold rather than a rare birth defect. Medical students are often told, "When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras" (thanks, again, Wikipedia).

Both political parties use Occam's Razor to support their own theses. For the Republicans, government-sponsored healthcare is unworkable because the government is unworkable. For the Democrats: government healthcare is desirable because in some parts of the country, the private sector doesn't do a good enough job insuring people and because of that the whole country must have it and then subsidize those areas that are failing. Alright, maybe that's not your classic Occam's Razor justification, but it does help understand the polarity between the Left and the Right.

The Second Amendment is meant for our protection, and those that wish to abolish it have only hope in the goodness of mankind as a deterrent to violence. They are either incredibly ignorant of human nature or unrealistically trusting.

When the Right makes a fact-based argument, the Left will counter with an emotional one. The recent, terrible, mass-shooting by a mentally-disturbed young man in a south Florida high school is a case in point. The Right will blame the shooter; the Left will blame the gun. Now, please don't label me insensitive for my next statement because I, too, grieve for the parents and friends of the 17 victims in the school shooting, but the argument for blaming the gun is a little like blaming the steak knife for the death of the cow you're eating. It's way off in anti-Occam's Razorland. Those lives needn't have been taken had the warnings about the deranged perpetrator been heeded, and THAT'S my point. We have to stop interjecting arguments, ideology or fear of being labeled un-PC into practical situations.

Since this shooting, I've once again heard from non-gun owning friends of mine that have proposed that the first and best solution is for America to rid itself of all of its 300 million plus guns. They say that by doing so we will eliminate any future shootings of any kind. Meanwhile, gun-owning friends of mine say we must secure those people and places that are unsecured and allow law-abiding, bona fide, concealed firearm carry permit holders (like a designated teacher or a security guard) to bear a sidearm in every school.

Our schools are one of the most vulnerable areas for these kinds of attacks, and they must be, not later. 'Gun-free zones' (read: no opposition to would-be attackers with guns) are an open invitation to any deranged person owning a firearm that wants to star on the evening news by slaughtering innocent children. The Second Amendment is meant for our protection, and those that wish to abolish it have only hope in the goodness of mankind as a deterrent to violence. They are either incredibly ignorant of human nature or unrealistically trusting.

Stephan Helgesen is a retired U.S. diplomat and now political analyst and author. He has written nine books and over 800 articles on politics, economics and social trends. He can be reached at:

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