Slippery slope updates

A few more from a very nice array that has arrived. Original post here.

Serious:

"With the exception of the birth-death sequence of life, our notion of free will tends to negate the unavoidability of the slippery slope - to our great benefit, I would have thought."

Serious in a different way:

"Trying is the first step towards failure."
Homer Simpson, The Simpsons

A powerful real-world example:

"The birth-to-death suggestion is not a valid example of a "slippery slope," in that it is not so much "slippery" as perfectly smooth. Mortality is an inevitable straight-line progression missing the essential element of choice. There is no option to "back up" the slope, to pause, or to go faster. In principle, the reader's example is no different than that of striking a match in a windless room, something that will inevitably turn the match to ashes. Nothing slippery about that, although matches flame out quicker than lives.
 
"The best example of a "slippery slope" in the realm of public policy may be the American journey toward racial equality. It's taken more than 100 years. There have been pauses along the way, with some temporary backtracking. We've gone from the Emancipation Proclamation, to the Anti-Slavery Amendments, to the Jim Crow era of "Separate but Equal," to Brown v. Board of Education, to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to improvements in these statutes, to the Supreme Court's abolition of antimiscegenation laws (Loving v. Virginia). Focusing only on the "de jure" aspects of this, African Americans have traveled the complete journey, beginning as the lawful property of white men and ending with full legal equality. "

I think there is a lot to this last point. (Indeed, to all of them.) In American history the  slippery-slope Cassandras whose worst fears have been most vividly realized were the segregationist hard-liners of the pre Civil Rights-legislation era. They warned that once you blurred the racial barriers you'd have race-mixing of all sorts, including intermarriage. And once you headed down that road, you'd have these mixed people all over the place... in the extreme nightmare version, even at the White House.

More in the queue. And later today, a long-promised update on whether slippery-slope thinking applies to the Chinese tire tariffs.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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