Slippery Slopes

With the . . . ahem . . . annual avalanche of Supreme Court opinions on the way, I thought I’d raise a question about how slippery slope arguments play out.  The reason advocates make this sort of argument is that they want to convince someone not to do something.  If A leads to B and B is seen as unacceptable, then people will be less likely to do A if they are convinced that there is no line between them.  The problem, of course, is that this tactic can backfire.  It might convince people that there is no distinction between A and B when they thought that there was, and thus make B more likely once A happens.

In practice, how often does the former scenario happen as opposed to the latter one?  I’m not sure that there is a good study on this question, though we can all come up with examples on either side.

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4 Responses

  1. Shag from Brookline says:

    Once again, Justice Scalia’s scales of justice are tested by the slippery slope, perhaps with the blindfold a bit askew. He has projected, it seems, more slippery slopes-dissents than any other Justice (at least presently on the Court). As the master of the slippery slope, in Heller he pre-empted the dissents’ slippery Second Amendment slopes arguments with his dicta on some limitations on Second Amendment absolutism (which dicta was furthered in McDonald v. Chicago at the state level). The Court has not returned to the Second Amendment as yet regarding lower court tests of the Scalia dicta but several cases loom in the sights of the Justices to “Cert.” While Scalia’s slippery slope dissents seem to have leveled off any long-lasting effects, the real test may be Scalia’s pre-emption attempt in Heller. Consider that after “smart phones,” we have “smart guns.” Who knows, with technological advances, these “smarties” can be combined, perhaps presenting a clash of the First Amendment with the Second Amendment. Constitutional slaloming can be fun, even on a honeymoon.

  2. David Glenn says:

    This tactic may over-used but still lot of law practitioners are doing it.

  3. Jones Lebond says:

    I can’t seem to find any sites on the minority and concurring opinion of Grutter vs. Bollinger. Can someone help me out?
    Thank you. 🙂

  4. Shag from Brookline says:

    Inspired by this post, I submit to Gerard this verse as a wedding gift that might inspire him on his return to active duty to follow up on this topic.


    Constitutionally slaloming
    Down this “Slippery Slope,”
    Dangerous like Etna erupting-
    Or merely a literary trope.