Sunstein: Don’t Buy the Slippery-Slope Argument on Guns

Cass Sunstein

…The federal government shouldn’t require background checks for gun purchasers because, if it does, it will be on the path toward banning gun ownership. The Supreme Court shouldn’t force states to recognize same-sex marriages because, if it does, it will have to require states to recognize polygamous marriages.

Barack Obama’s administration shouldn’t intervene in Libya because, if it does, it will turn the U.S. into the globe’s policeman, intervening whenever it likes. The government shouldn’t require people to buy health insurance because if it does, it will eventually require people to exercise and buy broccoli.

The problem with slippery-slope contentions is that despite their occasional rhetorical force, they are often silly. To appreciate the problem, it is important to see that these arguments come in two quite different forms. Some versions are purely logical. The claim is that if you undertake Reform A, you are logically committed to Reform B, as well. Other versions aren’t logical but empirical. The claim is that if you undertake Reform A, you will probably end up undertaking Reform B, as well, not because of logic but because of the likely unfolding of events.

As a matter of logic, slippery-slope arguments can be convincing…


The complete article is at Bloomberg.



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