The 'Enlightened Liberal' and the Argumentum ad Populum

Be it Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, or any horrific tragedy that strikes America, the apparent reaction is to respond with the predetermined agenda of the media and this administration, regardless of the reality of the crisis.

The fallacy of their argument is the critical thinking error called argumentum ad populum, or an appeal to popular opinion.  Virtually all such appeals are illogical and destined to damage those groups intended to be helped.  You may feel better, but the disabled are worse off due to your "kindness".

A typical reaction to an appeal to opinion is to enact very silly and counterproductive legislation that appeals to the majority.  Names such as "No Child Left Behind," "The PATRIOT Act," and "The Affordable Care Act" all are intended to invoke a popular and emotional appeal to poorly designed legislation.

What may not be as commonly understood, however, is the trauma and pain that such legislation causes in the name of protection.

In my 30 years of association with a center that treats developmentally disabled children, I have seen the travesty of such misguided "popular" arguments.  In the case of treating developmentally disabled, children, funding issues at the state and federal level have created a situation in which reimbursements are delayed, funding amounts are reduced, and treatment protocols are endangered due to funding limitations.

The treatment of psychological and developmental problems throughout our American society has been sporadic and ill-advised, and influenced mostly by budgetary constraints.  Families have found that getting effective treatment for their children is almost impossible.

School districts have been saddled with the costs of providing education regardless of the impact on the community, and yet federal and state officials remain aloof to the concerns of the children, their families, and the local communities.

We have seen at Sandy Hook the impact of a failure to effectively treat someone with psychological disabilities.  The popular response is more gun control, since to suggest that government is responsible for this failure to provide services would be to implicate the very politicians who are lobbying as compassionate public servants for re-election.

It is popular to attack a symptom and still not solve the problem.  "You've done something," even if that something is harmful to the long-term successful resolution of the problem.

After 30 years working with non-profit institutions, I am convinced that the private sector can do a significantly better job than government dealing with children and adults with developmental disabilities.  To reinforce my conviction, I have decided to work to create a fund to be able to provide treatment for children independent of state or federal funding.

In my mind, the major faiths of our world are in a significantly better position to provide such care.

I am beginning a Walk Across America for Developmentally Disabled Children.  I will be one of the oldest persons to do it.  I leave on March 15, 2014 from California (hopefully Camp Pendleton) and arrive in Ocean City, Maryland on July 1, 2014.

The purpose of this walk came about after a meeting with representatives from a state agency in which the senior person in the meeting, a political appointee, asserted absolute junk science in order to support an irrational decision that adversely affected the children he was responsible for helping.  His decision was eventually reversed.

Nothing is more cruel to a child or family of a child with developmental disabilities than to advance a political agenda at the expense of providing care.

I hope that my walk will encourage many people, hopefully millions of people, to get involved in this debate and help us create a viable and caring solution to this problem for our children, their families, and for our society.

Col. Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret.) served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan.  He specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the state CPA societies.  He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations.  He can be reached at and on Twitter at @fryan1951.