Years ago I read that a high percentage of millionaires regularly re-soled dress shoes rather than buying new ones. I didn’t know how it worked, but I immediately began replacing soles on my old shoes – I could hardly wait for this to make me a millionaire!
Well, I’m not actually that slow, but it did take some time for me to fully understand the difference between correlation and causation. Resoling shoes does not cause anyone to become a millionaire. This should be obvious. But many people who get rich do so because they watch their money closely, are careful with every decision, save what they can, when they can.
Over time all these little, thrifty, discerning decisions, like resoling shoes, add up.
The fact that it now costs more to buy new soles rather than to buy new shoes is beside the point! The point is that many things go together in ways that seem to be a result of cause and effect. However, the reality is that just a correlation exists between the two, not a causation.
Take automatic weapons and mass shootings. Owning an assault rifle that has been modified to perform like a machine gun does not make anyone become a killer. Many people own guns who have never killed anyone. Many people own guns who have never killed anything at all. Gun ownership does not necessarily lead to violence. There is no causation.
There is a correlation, however.
No one has ever killed 59 people from hundreds of feet away who did not own an assault rifle, modified to become a machine gun. All the mass killers, in a sad and sordid string of mass killers in our country, owned guns. Most of them owned multiple guns. Most of them own guns that are not made for self-protection. Most of them owned guns that are so horribly destructive they are inappropriate for hunting.
On the other hand, many people have reached an impasse in a relationship, fallen into despair due to misfortune, or become so unhinged due to mental illness that, had they owned a gun, they might have used it violently. Not-owning a gun was not the cause of their despair or rage. Again, there is no causation. There is, however, a strong correlation: only those with guns could become mass murderers, whether in premeditation or a fit of rage.
Guns are not the cause of our problems. Tragically, our problems are much deeper than that.
But there is a strong correlation between our obsession with guns, our inability to make reasonable decisions about their possession and use, the sheer number of, and access to, these weapons of mass destruction – and the growing number of grieving parents and spouses and siblings and children and neighbors and coworkers, whose lives have been irreparably changed by a gun.
Maybe, regarding the things that matter the very most, however, there is both correlation and a cause.
There is a strong correlation between my love for my family and my relationship to freedom. In other words, if taking SOME step, any, first, simple, reasonable step to reduce gun violence saved just one member of my own family from an act of brutal, senseless violence (and even if that's all that taking that one step did), then I would be willing to take that step – even if it cost a little bit of my freedom.
Maybe you love your family as much as I do, and if you do – there is a cause we ought to embrace together.
Photo Credit: Matthew Henry