The "Slippery Slope" anxiety is ubiquitous. During the Bush Presidency, left wing blogs, and occasionally liberal media outlets, considered the Patriot Ac to be tantamount ot the arrival of Fascism in America. Criticism of liberal/left verbal excesses were taken to mean that Free Speech was under assault. (In an ironic way, these charges were most commonly uttered by people who simply refused to stop talking.)
Now that Barack Obama is President, the specter of socialism is threatening the land. His attempts to socialize American healthcare is seen as the camel's nose that will lusher socialism, complete with its traditional limitations on Free Speech, gun Rights, and an eventual inevitable dependence on re-education camps for counter-revolutionary capitalists.
Even if Barack Obama is an ideological socialist (and as I have noted int he past, I do not se him as having an organized ideological approach but rather of a left wing attitude, which often masquerades as ideology.) the idea that Socialism is going to come to America is absurd. We have a cacophonous, vibrant, and self-correcting polity and the kinds of excesses that would eventuate in a Socialist dictatorship are unlikely to the extreme. Just as enough Republicans refused to convict Bill Clinton of Impeachable Offenses over his perjury, I am convinced that were we to find ourselves in extremis, enough centrist Democrats would refuse to accede to fundamental abrogations of our rights in t he name of party unity. The vote against the public choice option in the Senate Finance Committee yesterday should be adequate evidence that the Democrats are not in thrall to the desires of their left wing base.
Nonetheless the "Slippery Slope" fantasy is tempting for those on the outside who oppose government policies especially during times of stress and societal regression. Ed Morrissey discusses a fascinating example of convergent evolution, as a fantasist on the right and a fantasist on the left, come together in their fevered imagination:
In case anyone thinks that one side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on paranoid ranters, we present today’s offering from Gore Vidal (Left) and John Perry (Right) on the coming American military dictatorship. Both men agree that it’s a likelihood, and both men blame Barack Obama.
One fears a military coup while the other yearns for it. Both have allowed their anxiety to overwhelm their rationality. Neither realizes he is writing out of anxiety rather than a realistic assessment of our present fortunes.
We all can be prone to the Slippery Slope fallacy. Sometimes there is good reason for such concern. I would suggest that concerns that "hate speech" laws would eventually lead to considerable abridgments of our Free Speech rights are eminently reasonable. The Europeans and Canadians, who do not have our legacy of reverence for Free Speech, have already shown us that such laws lead inexorably to the loss of basic rights.
At other times, concerns can be understandable but experience should mitigate such concerns. A reasonable argument could have been made that aspects of the FISA laws allowing the interception of voice communications treaded close to the limits of acceptable intrusion into privacy. Yet when the civil liberties absolutists continued to insist that such transgressions were unacceptable under any circumstances, despite no evidence of abuse, they showed themselves to be as irrational as Vidal and Perry.
There are many situations in life when the boundaries between acceptable/tolerable and unacceptable/intolerable are blurry; these situaitons stand in contrast to situations where infringements that set us off on the Slippery Slope are genuine risks and must be zealously identified and reined in. Differentiating the two states and where the lines of demarcation must be maintained is the tricky part. Vidal and Perry show what happens when the distinctions are lost.