The simplistic slippery slope

16 Jan

I am soooo tired of hearing people say, in any context, that if the government passes a law to do such and such, we will start down a slippery slope that will ultimately lead to a complete government take-over of (pick one) the media, guns, privacy, the Internet, etcetera.

Right now, it’s guns we’re hearing about as the administration proposes to put some controls on firearms in the wake of the December school shootings in Connecticut. Opponents say we can’t allow any kind of ban on any kind of gun or ammunition and certainly can’t ask gun owners to be licensed because any of those steps will take us down the slippery slope until the Second Amendment means nothing and “only the government will have guns.”

So is this slippery slope real — regarding firearms or any other issue? Is it something we should be afraid even to stick our toe onto?

Yes, I think it is real. I also think we’re on it ALL. THE. TIME. in relation to a multitude of issues: free press, guns, privacy, the Internet, free speech and on and on.

The trouble with the metaphor is that it implies a stark choice between the top and the bottom, between all and none, between good and bad, and that’s just not the way life works.

Our freedoms lie on a continuum with anarchy at one end and tyranny at the other but LOTS of room to maneuver in between. What we’re looking for is the balance point between liberty (to the right of anarchy) and security (to the left of tyranny).  And that balance point slides back and forth depending on the times and the circumstances and the needs of both individuals and society.

Citing the slippery slope as a reason not to work toward the balance point is lazy thinking — way too simplistic to reflect the reality of life. I’d like to ban that phrase from our culture.

If we can’t do that, then let’s at least face the fact that we’re on the slope all the time, sliding down a bit and then dragging ourselves back up a bit and then doing it again. And again.

We have yet to hit bottom and it’s not likely we ever will as long as we are thoughtful enough and willing to work hard enough to find the balance that will satisfy as many of our needs as possible. The slippery slope is a fact of life; it need not do us in.


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