A Tale of Two Paragraphs: Watch that Slippery Slope!

Ian MillhiserIan Millhiser has found a slippery slope, um, sloping in two directions.

Writing about the Hobby Lobby case just now on Think Progress he describes two slippery slopes—in very different terms.

Paragraph 1:

Justice Anthony Kennedy thinks gay people are fabulous. All three of the Supreme Court’s most important gay rights decisions were written by Justice Kennedy. So advocates for birth control had a simple task today: convince Kennedy that allowing religious employers to exempt themselves from a federal law expanding birth control access would lead to all kinds of horrible consequences in future cases — including potentially allowing religious business owners to discriminate against gay people.

Paragraph 2:

Kennedy did something different, he did not weigh in on the question of whether non-abortions can count as abortion — indeed, he seemed to understand the difference between birth control and abortion. Nevertheless, he looked at the government’s requirement to provide birth control coverage and envisioned a future law compelling Hobby Lobby to pay for actual abortions — just as he once gazed upon a requirement to buy health insurance and imagined the government forcing everyone to buy broccoli. In Justice Kennedy’s Courtroom, the government doesn’t have to defend the law it actually passed, it has to defend the worst law Kennedy can imagine them passing — even if that law would never make it through Congress.

What do these paragraphs have in common?

  • They both use the slippery slope argument to make a point.

How are they different?

  • Paragraph 1 invalidates the religious conscience claim because a win for Hobby Lobby could, in the future, quite possibly lead to discrimination against gay people.
  • Paragraph 2 invalidates the (potential) reasoning of Justice Kennedy in overturning this regulation—because, in Millhiser’s words, Kennedy “doesn’t have to defend the law it actually passed, it has to defend the worst law Kennedy can imagine them passing — even if that law would never make it through Congress.”

Which, of course, would be a slippery slope argument.

So you see, slippery slopes are valid if they validate the worst-case nightmares of the provide-me-my-birth-control-at-any-cost people.

But invalid if they validate Justice Kennedy’s reasoning.

Whatever that may turn out to be.

Update

Progressives have never comprehended how analogies work.

Or simple linear logic for that matter.

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