545. Enough with the Slippery Slopes!
Freakonomics Radio
Thu, June 8, 2023
Podchat Summary

The Slippery Slope Argument: Examining its Origins and Applications

Join us in this episode as we delve into the fascinating world of the slippery slope argument. This forward-looking causal argument suggests that one action or decision can set off a chain of undesirable consequences. We'll explore the historical roots of this argument, tracing it back to its popularization by the Temperance Movement during the prohibition era.

Slippery slope arguments have become a common feature in public policy debates, especially in contentious areas such as gun control, drug legalization, and smoking regulations. We'll examine how these arguments are often framed in terms of freedoms, warning that the restriction of one freedom can lead to the erosion of others and even government control over various aspects of life.

One notable example we'll explore is the use of slippery slope arguments by opponents of smoking bans. They argued that restrictions on smoking in public spaces would result in job losses, a decline in tourism, and an encroachment on individual freedoms by the government. However, we'll present evidence that suggests these dire predictions did not come to pass, as smoking bans have proven successful without causing significant harm to businesses or individual freedoms.

Slippery slope arguments also find their way into legal discourse, where they are often employed to predict the potential consequences of a court ruling or legal decision. While we acknowledge that some slippery slope arguments may be fallacious, we'll discuss instances where the argument holds merit, particularly when considering the long-term effects of a first step or decision.

Join us as we unravel the complexities of the slippery slope argument, exploring its historical context, its applications in public policy debates, and its role in legal discourse. Tune in to gain a deeper understanding of this intriguing argument and its implications in various spheres of society.

Original Show Notes

Gun control, abortion rights, drug legalization — it seems like every argument these days claims that if X happens, then Y will follow, and we’ll all be doomed to Z. Is the slippery-slope argument a valid logical construction or just a game of feelingsball?

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