Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


September 17, 2013

WE THE PEOPLE: Stuck on a slippery slope

CROSSVILLE — We’ve all seen the commercials. A guy subscribes to cable. As a result, a series of unfortunate events occurs and ultimately he ends up in a ditch with an eye patch, falling through a glass ceiling into a dinner party, selling his hair to a wig shop or spending an unusual night with Charlie Sheen. The moral of the story is to get rid of cable and get satellite. Amusing, but ridiculous, right?

Right! These ads are examples of the classic “slippery slope” argument — a false logic often used to block change.

The slippery slope fallacy goes like this: If A happens, then eventually B, C … X, Y, Z will happen, too. It assumes Z is the same as A. So, if we don’t want Z to happen, A must not be allowed to occur.

Let’s take the example of gay marriage. Despicably, Rick Santorum argued that it would lead to unnatural acts involving humans and dogs. There’s no evidence that we would think it’s OK to go down that path. Another slippery slope argument claimed that allowing gays to marry would destroy all marriage as an institution. The end, point Z (destroying all marriages), is not at all like the starting point, A (allowing gay marriage). In fact, those who support gay marriage could just as well have said that banning gay marriage would lead to a ban on all marriage, every bit as ridiculous and erroneous.

We see the slippery slope fallacy used ad nauseam. We can’t do background checks for firearm purchases or ban assault weapons because that would lead to taking away hunting rifles, probably even BB guns.

Or, we can’t help working folks earn enough to make a living, say raising the minimum wage to $10.55 to get us back to where we were in 1968 because, as Rush Limbaugh ranted, “Why not $15, or $25, or $50, or $100 an hour?” Because, Rush, nobody thinks it should be that high. We just think it would be fair for working people to make what they did in 1968.

Those who attack the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) have conjured up some particularly slick and steep slopes. Of course, the ACA would lead to socialism — probably a totalitarian government takeover. Justice Scalia warned that we would all be required to eat broccoli. Palin said we would murder our grandmothers — a slope that is also created when considering legalizing assisted suicide.

And Syria? That’s a tough one for us, but slippery slope arguments don’t help. Those opposed to air strikes maintain that we would be forced to continue down the slope to manned combat or we will be seen as weak. Those favoring strikes warn we’ll be seen as weak because we didn’t stand up to Syria. Iran and others will be emboldened to act rashly. Similar arguments led to war in Iraq 10 years ago and, of course, that went well, right?

The slippery slope argument is bogus and dangerous. It hampers intelligent decision making by giving false choices.

Popular culture is enamored with the rant from Jeff Daniels’ character, grumpy anchorman Will McAvoy, in the television series “The Newsroom.” McAvoy maintains that our country used to be great because, “We stood up for what was right…  We passed laws, struck down laws, for moral reason.” There are obvious contradictions to that assertion, e.g. slavery and child labor. But McAvoy has a point. Let’s get off the slope and try harder to engage in principled arguments leading to honorable decisions.

• • •

This column represents alternative thoughts to other published columns in the Crossville Chronicle. “We the People” is published each Wednesday. Opinions expressed in “We the People” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact John Wund, editor, at

Text Only
  • LION AND THE LAMB: Four ways to demonstrate opposition

    Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan mention in their book, “The Last Week,” that Roman-occupied Palestine during the first century was under the control of Pontius Pilate who lived in the coastal city of Caesarea. Each year at the beginning of the Passover observance when Jews celebrated their liberation from Egypt, Pilate feared that they might be getting ideas about revolting from Rome, so he would come with additional soldiers on horses to beef up the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. 

    April 15, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Is it (new) party time?

    The Democratic and Republican parties are toast, according to Joe Trippi. The Republican Party is coming apart at its Tea Party seam. Democratic candidates struggle to celebrate President Obama’s health care successes, while responding to criticism of his failed promises, e.g., government transparency.

    April 15, 2014

  • TIDBITS: I found it at the library

    I have such fond memories of going to my local library as a child, searching through shelf after shelf and finding a book that would make me a Little Princess in World War II England, or bring me along as Nancy Drew solved the Secret in the Old Attic.

    April 14, 2014

  • STUMPTALK: The reason words have meaning

    If words did not have accepted meanings we would not be able to communicate effectively and civilized society would not exist.

    April 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Do we really believe in democracy?

    The recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is in a long line of debates about power in a democracy. Should power be in the hands of all the citizens or should it be in hands of those who have greater wealth and social position?

    April 8, 2014

  • We the People: Public education or business opportunity?

    A month ago, we followed the money trail left by a ‘think tank’ to the major sources funding an attack on our traditional, locally controlled public schools. We saw that a handful of billionaires provide major support to many organizations lobbying for change.

    April 8, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Just another government lie?

    There is a vault located in Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was built in 1936 and encased in 16 cubic feet of granite and 4200 feet of cement. The door is made of 20-inch thick material that is immune to drills, torches and explosives.

    April 7, 2014

  • GARY'S WORLD: The chance to speak your mind

    Are you tired of hearing people complain about the way things are run in Cumberland County? Or, do you like the way the county government is run and operated in our beautiful county?
    Are you happy with the way things are, or would you like some change?

    April 3, 2014

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Digging beneath the headlines

    Our media have been focusing on two important events that have taken place overseas during the last several weeks.

    April 1, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: SNAP, health and work

    A recent letter from Representative Diane Black to me states that she voted for the farm bill (with $8 million in Food Stamp (SNAP) benefit cuts) because she, like me, is a supporter of food stamp benefits for Tennessee families who qualify. That’s a lot of families, as most recipients are families with children and the elderly. Now, recall that there was already a major cut to the food stamp program back in the fall. But for some Republicans, that was not enough.

    April 1, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice