In defense of the slippery slope argument…
Liberals constantly decry conservatives’ slippery slope arguments against their progressive legislation as simply red herrings. Their refrain is usually “Don’t be absurd, no one’s trying to do _____ (insert the relevant slippery slope argument here).” They suggest that such an argument is mere hyperbole and conservatives are introducing ideas no one wants.
As usual, the liberals are wrong on both scores. History provides a rich trove of liberal camel noses leading to a tents full of camels.
The most famous of course is the income tax. In 1913 when the income tax was established, the top rates began at 1% on income over $20,000 ($450,000 in today’s dollars) and topped out at 6% for income over $500,000 ($11,430,000 today). Today, 100 years later, the income tax applies to virtually everyone earning more than $11,000 per year and tops out at 39.6% for incomes above $400,000. Think about that… the highest rate today applies to an income that would not even have qualified for the lowest tax bracket in 1913. And a tax code that started out four pages long is today four times as long as the Bible!
Then there is Roe v. Wade. In the run up to Roe v. Wade, liberals claimed women simply deserved the right to choose for themselves. How different would the arguments have been in the statehouses and courthouses if opponents could see that in 40 years the government would require abortifacients be available to underage girls without their parents’ consent or that government would be funding hundreds of thousands of abortions a year?
How about the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was intended to prohibit discrimination against the handicapped? What started out seeking sidewalk ramps, wider doors and job security for the handicapped has morphed into the government demanding companies allow alcoholics to drive trucks, forcing cities, towns and businesses to spend thousands of dollars or shut down swimming pools, to requiring companies to offer separate bathroom facilities to those too shy to pee in public bathrooms. Today the Americans with Disabilities Act has become a tort tool for lawyers and leaches to extort millions of dollars out of the pockets of small businesses.
Liberals may not like it, but the slippery slope is indeed a reality. What is outlandish hyperbole today is tomorrow’s reality. That is the fundamental nature of government. History clearly demonstrates the avaricious nature of government and its intent to expand its power in myriad ways once it gets a toehold in virtually any arena.
Unfortunately, the slippery slope is not just a parlor game. It has real consequences in the real world. Today there are two issues where the slippery slope argument is particularly relevant: gay marriage and guns.
Gay marriage: Liberals suggest the issue is simply one of equal rights for gays. All they want is for gay people to be able to marry like anyone else. Not surprisingly, conservatives see it as something quite different, and the slippery slope provides a compelling illustration. Conservatives say that if the definition of marriage is changed from one man to one woman, then on what grounds would the momentum for redefinition stop there, and would chaos not ensue? Two men and one woman? Three woman and four men? A village? A man and his son? (Jeremy Irons makes a valid point in asking why that shouldn’t be allowed as there is no chance of procreation.) And once gay marriage is legal, how long until gays demand to be married in the Catholic church or any other Christian church where the teachings are explicitly against homosexual marriage? (Ask the Boy Scouts about that.) Liberals of course say, that’s just and example of hyperbolic scare mongering or homophobia. Luckily we don’t have wait for history to see the chaos that lies around the corner. A Kansas town passed a resolution that would force churches to rent facilities for gay weddings. (This measure later lost at the ballot box.) A Florida judge has already allowed the listing of three people as parents of a child while a Kansas man is being sued for child support for acting as a sperm donor for a lesbian couple. Then of course there is the federal judge in Utah who is considering reversing the ban on polygamy. Liberals can call this slippery slope argument hollow, but the reality is that history is on the side of just such as slope.
Then there is gun regulation. In the wake of events like Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and Columbine Americans are understandably concerned about gun violence. Unfortunately however the liberal solution is to seek to take the guns away from law abiding citizens, which seems particularly ludicrous as gun violence in the US has been declining dramatically for 20 years. While many Democrats are talking about “enhanced” background checks and bans on “assault style” rifles, make no mistake their goals are far more sinister and go much deeper.
Despite the 2nd Amendment’s explicit protection of the right to bear arms, liberals seek to ignore that right. Not sure? This too we don’t have to wait for history to demonstrate. The proof is already here. A Democratic proposal in Washington State would allow sheriffs the right to enter and inspect the homes of semi-automatic firearms owners annually. A new New York law allows police to track ammunition purchases and the state is already confiscating guns from people who were once on anti-anxiety medicine. Under a new Maryland law, gun buyers will have to be fingerprinted and licensed. The new Connecticut law now bans magazines over 10 rounds and outlaws the ownership of a variety of semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15. The argument is that government simply wants to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Of course that all hinges on who gets to decide who is “dangerous”… Remember, it wasn’t very long ago when Homeland Security suggested that “disgruntled war veterans” or “those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority” might be terrorist threats. No doubt 2nd Amendment advocates and small government Tea Party types are not far behind in being added to that list…
Of course this slippery slope history is exactly why conservatives advocate small, limited government. Government power is rapacious, arbitrary and virtually unstoppable once it gets started. Both conservatives and liberals recognize this. The difference is conservatives fear it while liberals count on it. Think about that the next time a liberal seeks brush aside your concerns by claiming “Your slippery slope argument is fallacious”.