Of ratchets and slopes, slippery or otherwise

Crossbow and the crank/ratchet for cocking it medieval period, WikiCommons

As commented on before I pay attention to Scott Adams of Dilbert fame as an interesting thinker with a fairly well defined but undefinable political gestalt. Uber liberal realist Trump supporter is maybe the best description.

One of his mantra’s is that Slippery Slopes are Not a Thing.

The following is my interpretation of his position.

A point of view/policy item with a broad ‘option space’ and supporters on both ends, say like gun control, will slide in a direction that is acceptable to the general polity (something like the Overton Window) until some point it will no longer be acceptable. Those who wish to push the policy towards one end or the other will eventually meet resistance and be unable to move the policy further ‘their way’ until some change occurs. That change may move the policy ‘back’ or ‘forward’ but it is acceptability that controls. This says that the idea of a ‘slippery slope ‘with its imagery of reaching a point where you lose control and slide to some end point it false on its face.

Having thought about this I agree with the premise in a general sense.

Two, I think important, quibbles:

1) That in a highly emotional and very dynamic situation such as one might have in the ancient Demos of Greece, or say a Constitutional Congress, a French State Committee…, the slippery slope appears to me to be a real threat. The whole of the polity is in the fight as it were and there is no stable base of opinion to dampen high flights of rhetoric and emotion. In such situations you have a tendency to move to the end state without the intermediary and if this is then enforced on the outside world the results are likely to be calamitous if the topic is one with a high degree of emotional attachment with the broader public. The Demos were tiny isolated city states and they killed a few important people and destroyed themselves but it was in the end fairly evolutionary. The US constitution was very conservative in its basis and while the result was ‘liberal’ it was not that crazy and was in line with most of the populous, plus it was a huge area with a tiny population, where malcontents could often go west if they wanted. The French Revolution was a bloody multi decadal disaster because it didn’t have any other damper than time and blood….To a large degree I don’t see this as that active other than in a Social Network Today…to some degree it explains some of the crap that goes on in odd corners of the web.

2) More important than 1) is the fact that the ratchet is IMO real. That once a law or regulation is in place it tends to create a new baseline and constituency. If the issue is fairly hot there will be pushback but in general people are for stability and a law or regulation will become entrenched. It only takes time for that to then be the jumping off point for a new effort to extend whatever policy. This may not be very logical on its face but it is a reality and is one of the reasons that any human system tends to atrophy with time. So the party who tends to desire more law and regulation have a tendency to have the edge here and they will turn the crank on the ratchet whenever they get the chance.

While England is not the US in any sense one should look at it as a bit of a case study, though the lack of the 2nd Amendment is a huge factor. A century ago guns were rare more because of their cost than anything else. Then regulation started to build up. Because of no 2A and it was very gradual there was not much push back. Today not only is any kind of firearm in private possession effectively illegal so are any edged/pointed device inclusive of scissors. The ratchet is real…the slippery slope is a thing only in very constrained cases.

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