By John Orth

Many years ago, I recall watching a comedy routine on Saturday Night Live in which Steve Martin played "Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber". In the skit, a woman brings her pale and emaciated daughter to Theodoric for treatment, complaining her offspring is so exhausted she can barely stand up. Observing the girl's depleted condition, he decides it must be "time for another bloodletting". He orders his assistant to carry out this task while he tends to other patients. After several minutes, Theodoric returns to check on the progress of the bloodletting. By this time a large wooden bowl has been filled with blood, and the young girl sits slumped in a chair, dead.

Viewers of late night TV might laugh at the primitive stupidity of a barber who would use an illness which has been caused by excessive bloodletting as justification for still more bloodletting. Yet this type of backwards reasoning is actually quite common. Liberals and socialists frequently employ exactly the same type of convoluted argument to justify their interventionist schemes.[1] Unable to properly judge cause and effect, they desperately grasp at the same failed statist programs over and over again. Perhaps we can gain a better understanding of this debilitated logic by looking briefly at another form of neurological impairment.

Dyslexia is a type of learning disability that causes some people to view certain words and letters backwards. A 'd' might appear as a 'b' for example. The cause of this condition is unknown, but it is believed to be some sort of problem with the way the visual cortex of the brain processes signals. Liberals and socialists appear to suffer from an analogous condition in the area of their brains dealing with rational thought. This impairment does not cause them to see backwards. Instead, it causes them to analyze situations with a kind of backwards logic. An outcome which proves some treatment is causing a condition to deteriorate, and should be discontinued, is instead viewed as proof the treatment must be applied more vigorously. For the purposes of this essay, I have coined the term 'cognitive dyslexia' to describe this condition. Cognitive dyslexia has played a major role in the construction and maintenance of nearly every government program of the past fifty years.

Mother's allowance is a subsidy paid to single mothers for having out of wedlock children. Of course, bribing people to have illegitimate children has the not unexpected result of increasing the number of single parent families. Liberals then view the skyrocketing number of "poor" single mothers with alarm, and start clamoring frantically for even larger sums of money to pour into this program.

Unemployment insurance is a subsidy paid to seasonal workers by those industries and workers which remain active year round. This causes a proliferation of seasonal and sporadic workers, and a corresponding reduction in the number of people employed in year round businesses. Unemployment goes up. Once again, liberals use this increase in unemployment as justification for greater UI expenditures, shorter qualifying times, and special handouts such as the two billion dollar TAGS program.

Rent control is supposed to make it easier for low income people to find an affordable place to live. Instead, it squeezes landlords out of the low income rental business, and makes it almost impossible for the poor to find decent housing. Socialists then use this an excuse for even more lame brained policies, such as government run housing.

The Canada Pension Plan was started in 1966 with the noble intention of ensuring all Canadians were provided for in their retirements. Thirty years later, it has an unfunded liability of some six hundred billion dollars. Rather than simply admitting the plan is an untenable pyramid scheme, the Liberals have increased both employee and employer "contributions" by over seventy percent. (A real good bloodletting) This increase will make it impossible for many overtaxed Canadians to find the money to contribute to a personal RSP. Companies will also be forced to curtail their private pension plans because of the large amount they will now be compelled to "contribute" to the CPP. Many Canadians will be forced to rely entirely on a government plan that will probably collapse before they retire. Rather than ensuring all Canadians are provided for in their retirements, the CPP will all but guarantee thousands are reduced to pauperism.

Human Rights Commissions and affirmative action laws are yet another area where liberals use the failure of one statist program to justify another. The following anecdote should clarify this relationship.

A relative of mine was a line manager in a small firm doing biochemical analysis of agricultural products. It was his custom to hire a student during the summer to cover for employees on vacation. One year the person he hired was black. This was not an issue with him at the time. As he told me "If I had anything against blacks I would not have hired him in the first place." Within a few weeks it became obvious he had made a very poor choice. The new employee was constantly late, fought with other workers, and refused to complete his assigned duties. In addition, it was obvious he had falsified his resume, since he had no knowledge of areas in which he had claimed to be fully trained. He was quickly fired. He just as quickly ran screaming to the Human Rights Commission claiming his termination was the result of racial discrimination. The company was eventually exonerated, but only after a lengthy investigation. The whole tedious procedure took nearly two years and cost the company several thousand dollars. My relative's reaction probably typifies that of most small business owners, "If I hire an incompetent white male I can fire him with no questions asked. If I hire an incompetent member of a visible minority group, I can't get rid of him without going to hell and back. That's why I'll never again hire a non-white." Understandably, the unemployment rate for visible minorities goes up when many businesses adopt this philosophy. Liberals are then shocked by these "racist" hiring practices and use them as an excuse to impose employment quotas and other forms of not so subtle arm twisting (such as refusing to give government contracts to industries which will not submit to affirmative action).

French socialists have recently (April 1998) been kind enough to provide us with a superlative example of cognitive dyslexia. Industry and business in France are being crushed under an oppressive burden of taxes and regulations. Many companies have been forced into bankruptcy, left the country, or gone underground. Others have shifted to labour saving schemes in an attempt to avoid payroll taxes. Not unexpectedly, unemployment is very high, over thirteen percent. In an attempt to combat this atrocious level of unemployment, France recently passed legislation mandating a reduction in the length of the work week to 35 hours. In effect, they are attempting to force individual workers to lower their output, in the hope this reduced efficiency will cause businesses to hire more people. In reality, this measure will only make it even more expensive for companies to do business, and will force an even larger number to flee the country, go underground, or close their doors.[2]

The intent of minimum wage laws is to raise the standard of living of those occupying the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder. Instead, they price unskilled workers out of the job market, creating a class of permanently unemployable people. Liberals then use the plight of these unfortunates as justification for any number of interventionist schemes: increased welfare expenditures, shelters for the homeless, job training, wage subsidies etc.

Needless to say, the best examples of cognitive dyslexia involve gun control. The primary effect of gun control is to remove firearms from the hands of law abiding citizens while leaving criminals and lunatics armed. This naturally tends to increase the crime rate. Socialists then use this higher rate of crime as justification for even more severe gun control measures.

Time and time again gun prohibitionists have seen their anti-gun agendas turned into law. Time and time again these gun control laws have proven to be spectacularly unsuccessful. By some bizarre twist of upside down logic, they then use the failure of these laws as an excuse to justify even more repressive legislation.

An excellent example of this backwards thinking can be found in a document from the British Labour Party titled "Control of Guns"[3], which was produced in response to the Dunblane massacre. I quote from paragraph 3 and 4 of this study. "The additional controls on storage brought in under the 1988 Act has not lead to any reduction in such offences (stolen firearms). Indeed, in England and Wales the number of pistols stolen has increased from 58 in 1987 to 222 in 1993...there was a quadrupling in the number of offences of attempted murder and other acts endangering life between 1979 and 1994 (up from 255 to 1,044), and a similar increase in the number of robberies where firearms were used (up from 1,038 to 4,104)."

The document then goes on to argue for even more restrictive measures, such as a complete ban on handguns[4], a near complete ban on centerfire rifles, central storage of firearms, and the removal of the right of appeal in the event police turn down a firearms license request. What they are saying, in short, is that since the 'moderate' gun control imposed in 1988 resulted in an increase in crime, they have no choice but to proceed with severe gun control. Any rational person would see the increase in crime after the 1988 legislation as an argument against further gun control, not for it. But then, British Labour MP's are as incapable of rational thought as members of Canada's Liberal Party.

A few years ago, American gun control advocates argued that some criminals were buying guns at gun stores, and that this practice could be stopped by requiring background checks for handgun purchasers. Undoubtedly, a small number of gun predators were acquiring firearms through commercial outlets. However, when the government blocked this source, they simply switched to another: gun shows. Now the do-gooders are shrieking that we must close the "gun show loophole". If they are successful here, it is obvious that criminals will simply switch their source again, this time to private sellers. No doubt, we will eventually see American gun control advocates pushing for mandatory background checks on all handgun sales. But even this requirement will do nothing, because there will always be people who are prepared to commit an illegal act, such as neglecting to perform a background check, if there is money to be made. Ultimately, American gun controllers will come to the same conclusion that those in other countries have: The only way to prevent dishonest people from converting white market guns into black market guns is by registering all firearms.

But of course, this just causes criminals to switch their source yet again, to stolen guns. The resulting increase in thefts leads to calls for greater "safe storage" requirements, like those we have seen recently in Canada and Great Britain. As we have already observed, "safe storage" laws do not prevent criminals from stealing firearms. When they realize this, most gun controllers begin lobbying for complete prohibition. Even if this demand is met, as it was last year in Britain, criminals will adapt yet again, by switching to smuggled guns. Increased smuggling then causes gun controllers to start pushing for UN backed export controls at the international level.

Needless to say, international gun control is a wasteful extravagance that is barely affordable, even by the wealthiest nations. Countries that are too poor to provide their citizens with paved roads and potable water do not have the resources to establish national firearms export registries. They will continue to be sources for smuggled firearms, regardless of what restrictions are imposed at the UN.

Viewed this way, as a sad litany of failure after successive failure, it is difficult for rational people to understand how our opponents can continue to promote these "solutions". Most pro-gun people I have talked to have come to the conclusion that this is the result of a deliberate deception. Gun control laws were never intended to block the supply of guns to criminals, they believe. This is just a smoke screen. They are designed to make it more difficult, time consuming, and expensive for ordinary citizens to acquire firearms. This is something they actually do quite effectively.

This "conspiracy theory" view of gun control is undoubtedly correct when applied to government leaders and the heads of major gun control organizations. But are we to believe that every little old lady stuffing envelopes for the Coalition for Gun Control is somehow "in" on this plot? I think this is unlikely. Most rank and file gun controllers suffer from cognitive dyslexia. In their minds, each failure does not prove they are on the wrong track. Instead, it proves they did not go far enough the first time.

Cognitive dyslexia is also apparent in the way our government views citizens' militias. Shortly after the bombing in Oklahoma City, our socialist idiot of a Justice Minister opined that we need strict gun control to prevent militia groups from taking root in Canada. Mr. Rock is clearly oblivious to the fact that militia groups are the result of gun control. Many Americans fear they are living under a government run by power mad megalomaniacs. The government's brutal use of force at Ruby Ridge and Waco, in addition to the assault rifle ban and the Brady Bill, has created an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. Mr. Clinton's response, a push for even more severe gun control, and legislation giving the FBI greater surveillance powers, only fuels gun owners' suspicions and increases the likelihood of another confrontation.

The situation in Canada is no different. It is doubtful there were any militia groups in this country prior to the passage of Bill C-17 in 1991. It is quite likely there will be after the government starts enforcing the provisions of C-68. Mr. Rock's 'solution' has caused the problem, and further heavy handed attempts to rectify things with more gun control will only exacerbate matters.

If you listen carefully, you will be surprised how frequently liberals make use of reverse logic. A few days ago I was watching a television program about women's self defense. The self proclaimed defense "expert" was recommending such things as guard dogs and karate classes. Eventually the commentator asked her "what about guns?" "I reject the use of guns" she replied. "More women are killed with a gun than successfully defend themselves with one." (I have never heard of this statistic before, but since the show was Canadian, it might well be true.)

After pondering this for a moment, I realized her argument was a stunning example of cognitive dyslexia. If one sex eschews the use of guns, and the other does not, should we be surprised when the group that rejects firearms ownership is victimized by a gun more often than they defend themselves with one? Clearly, the greater the number of women who voluntarily disarm themselves, the fewer defensive uses of firearms by women there will be.

I have often wondered, when listening to liberals, how literate, seemingly intelligent people can be guilty of reasoning that is so obviously completely backwards. The answer, I believe, is that their entire mode of thinking is constructed upon a false premise.

Every system of belief is based on certain axioms, certain truths regarded as so self evident they are accepted without question. To a liberal or a socialist it is axiomatic that the solution to any socio-economic problem lies in government intervention. These groups never debate whether or not the government should intervene to correct some perceived problem. Instead, discussion is limited to what form this intervention should take. When faced with undeniable evidence that one of their statist schemes has been followed by a deterioration of the condition it was supposed to correct, they come to the only conclusion they can within the context of their distorted world view: Either the intervention was of the wrong form, or it was of insufficient severity.

Thirty years of bungling mismanagement by liberals and socialists (including those socialists who called themselves Conservatives) has brought our country to its knees. Whenever their meddlesome interference proves disastrous, they respond with an exaggerated version of the original plan. Our once great nation cannot tolerate much more of this bloodletting. It will not be too much longer before we end up like the unfortunate victim of Theodoric's incompetent barbering.


[1] I am not suggesting all liberals suffer from this fault. I believe Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and others at the top of the power structure understand clearly how things work. They know, as well as we do, that government is nothing more than an enormous protection racket. They prefer a disarmed population for the same reason any common criminal does, because extortion is easiest when you are armed and your victim is not. I am only suggesting that the great bulk of lesser politicians, newspaper columnists, anti-poverty activists, trade union leaders, radical feminists, tree huggers, and assorted do-gooders (those that Lenin once referred to as "useful idiots") have this failing. It should also be mentioned that conservative thinkers are not entirely immune to this malady. The "War on Drugs" is probably the best example of conservative cognitive dyslexia.

[2] Ironically, one of the most effective critics of this type of socialist silliness was a Frenchman named Frederic Bastiat. In 1846 he wrote, in a satirical vein, a letter to the King, advocating passage of a law requiring "workers in every branch of industry (to be) restricted to the use of their left hands alone." This action, Bastiat reasoned, would mean that "An immense number of people will be needed to meet the present demand for consumer goods. So prodigious a demand for manual labour cannot fail to bring about a considerable rise in wages, and pauperism will disappear from the country as if by magic." Over 150 years have passed since Bastiat wrote this essay, yet France has still not learned a country cannot increase its wealth by fostering inefficiency.

[3] Control Of Guns, The Labour Party's Evidence to The Cullen Inquiry, May 1996. George Robertson MP and Jack Straw MP.

[4] This total ban on handguns was implemented early in 1998.