The Slope Is Rarely So Slippery

In his blog the Art of Advocacy, Baltimore lawyer Paul Mark Sandler suggests a counter to the slippery slope argument: “The ‘slippery slope’ argument falsely assumes that once you take a moderate first step in a particular direction, a catastrophic chain of events will follow. In many cases, a better metaphor would be a staircase with many safe steps along the way.”

I like this metaphor. My problem with slippery slope arguments, is that in real life, slopes are rarely slippery. Looking at this same metaphor through a different lens, George Will wrote earlier this year that life is lived on a slippery slope: taxation could become confiscation; police could become gestapos. But the benefits from taxation and police make us willing to risk that our judgment can stop slides down dangerous slopes.

Believe me, I know plaintiffs’ lawyers have made the slippery slope argument as well. I have myself. But it seems like more of an argument I hear from defense lawyers.

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