Tuesday, April 28, 2020

What is a "slippery slope"?

If you listen to Scott Adams, the next time you hear him railing against "the slippery slope", saying it's "magical thinking" to believe in such a thing, and you want to understand (or explain to him) why he's wrong, this is for you.

Basically, it's a definition problem. He is defining the term differently than most people would, apparently in order to reach a particular conclusion in which government actions are excused.

He portrays the idea of "the slippery slope" as a magical belief in a law of physics that says once something starts going in one direction, it will continue to do so forever, unstoppable. He says nothing is unstoppable; it only continues until something stops it. Like inertia? But of course, inertia doesn't apply to human behavior, only to physical objects.

What does apply to behavior in a manner very much like inertia is that once you've been able to get away with acting in a certain way, you are more likely to do it again. And go a little further next time, always testing your boundaries. How much can you get away with?

Because the first legislator who proposed the first anti-gun legislation wasn't half-hanged, then drawn and quartered immediately after he proposed that abomination, as he should have been, others were emboldened to follow in his footsteps, until your natural human right to own and to carry any weapon you wish, openly or concealed, everywhere you go is now routinely violated.

He claims that those who point out that something is a slippery slope ignore that it can be stopped. That's not a true claim. No one actually believes something on a slippery slope can't be stopped or reversed. If it couldn't be stopped, why even point out that it's a slippery slope? The warning is an attempt to stop it. It's just that once it starts down that slippery slope you've got more ground to recover before you're back to square one. It's better to not take that first step into tyranny than to have to scale it back after it has been allowed to grow.

You can call it a slippery slope, "precedent", or a natural expression of human nature, but the result is the same. It's not magic, it is a universal feature of human nature.

To discount this very real effect is to deny reality in favor of some fantasy world where laws of human behavior don't apply. Where effect is totally unrelated to cause. It's loserthink.


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