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slippery slope fallacy

The slippery slope fallacy occurs when one asserts, without providing any evidence to support the assertion, that an event or chain of events will follow the taking of some action you object to. The slippery slope fallacy is a type of begging the question: the arguer assumes that the event or chain of events will occur, but offers no proof.

This fallacy is usually combined with an appeal to fear. The more horrible the event or chain of events described, the better the chance that this fallacy will work on uncritical minds.

Slippery slope arguments are common in politics when arguing against a proposed law. For example:

  1. They’re at it again. The regulators want to control our lives. Today, it’s smoking. Tomorrow will it be our right to free speech? Our right to read what we want? Where will it stop? Eventually, the regulators will try to control everything. We’ll have no freedom, then. So, vote NO on proposition 10. Don’t let them regulate smoking today or they’ll be back tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow....

  2. (Former California State Senator John Briggs made the following argument concerning an initiative proposed to California voters that would have forbidden homosexuals from teaching in the state’s public schools.)
    “If the initiative is defeated, then all of those [homosexuals] are going to be asked to come out of the closet and declare themselves, and then what we have done is placed in front of our children those legitimized role models for our young children to emulate. And I think it just portends a period of moral decay in this country that is going to lead to the carrying out or bearing out of the prediction of Gen. MacArthur, who stated that no civilization has ever been recorded as having survived when it falls into a period of economic decline and moral decay. We are certainly in both periods right now . . . .The thrust of the gay liberation movement is to have males reject females in favor of another male and females reject males in favor of the female. Well, if you follow that to its logical conclusion, and since every group wants to multiply many times over, we would breed ourselves out of existence as a country over a long period of time.”

Other examples include Democrats arguing that the elderly will be abandoned if Medicare is privatized and that workers will end up bankrupt in retirement if allowed to control their own 401k plans, so Social Security should be expanded to make investments for them. And Sara Palin famously opposed Obamacare because it would lead to death panels.

Our final example is provided by George Kollitides, formerly a partner in Cerberus Capital Management. Kollitides was the Cerberus partner who oversaw the acquisition of more than a dozen gun and ammunition manufacturers that became Freedom Group. (Now, there's a swell name.) He's now Freedom Group's chief executive officer. In a podcast done before the 2012 presidential election with the National Rifle Association, Kollitides worried that Barack Obama would win and appoint liberal Supreme Court justices.

It is pretty scary. I worry about my kids and my grandkids' future. All of our freedoms will be at risk. The liberal courts and liberal politicians believe they know what's best for Americans. They're going to tell us when we have to get health care. They're going to tell what time we have to get out of bed every day. They're going to tell us where we have to go to work. They're going to take our money and redistribute it. This is an issue that every American needs to worry about, but in particular those who are incredibly supportive of the Second Amendment.

One thing Kollitides wasn't worried about was that one of his company's weapons--the Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle--would be used to kill 20 children and six educators at an elementary school a few months after the election.

See also logical fallacies.

Last updated 28-Jan-2014

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