Friday, March 6, 2015

Slippery Slopes

The list of Golden Retreiver Rules I put on Facebook yesterday is one of the coolest things I've run across in quite some time. It's so funny precisely because it is so true. When Lucy arrived we too had all sorts of noble plans. This time it was going to be different. THIS golden wasn't going to take over not only our house, but our lives too. Five months later she strides around here like she owns the place...because she does!

The gist of this list of rules is the infamous "slippery slope" argument. This is the line of reasoning, usually employed by politicians when losing an argument, whereby it is contended that if a relatively benign and insignificant thing A is allowed to pass, it will slowly but surely lead to catastrophic plague B. We heard it most recently in the Net Neutrality debate. Now that the camel's nose of government regulation is under the tent, surely censorship of content and rate hikes will follow. We also heard it with regards to the gay marriage debate. Allow gay people to marry one another and before long people will be rushing down the aisle to marry their parakeets.

However, despite the overuse of the device, slippery slopes do in fact exist. No one can seriously argue that there isn't a ton more vulgarity on television than there used to be. Today in prime time, there is more profanity, graphic violence, and nudity than there was in R rated movies from forty years ago. So, it was a slippery slope from the censors allowing the sound of a toilet flushing on All in the Family in the 70's to Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Some will argue that this is a good thing. But just like the famous frog and the pot of boiling water, the American people would have melted down the phone lines if an episode of Family Guy had been aired in 1970. But now, we don't bat an eye.

My point is that it is true that every society evolves, and in doing so we constantly test the limits of things. Sometimes little compromises, small, seemingly minor decisions do lead to unintended consequences. We can argue about what leads to what, but we can't argue that actions taken today will never have unforeseen consequences tomorrow. There's a phrase for it....the slippery slope.

Will Net Neutrality lead to excessive government meddling? I hope not. Will Fred marrying Fido be commonplace in ten years? I think not. But this I do know. There isn't a person alive today who was born before 1960 who ever would have believed that a President of the United States could survive getting caught having oral sex in the Oval Office with an intern. But he did. Imagine how long Harry Truman would have lasted under the same circumstances? 

Slippery slope indeed.