Slippery Slope Arguments

Fourth Trimester Abortions (Updated)

One question that pro-lifers often pose to pro-choicers is how can they reconcile permitting abortion while still prohibiting the murder of newborns?  To put it differently, what is the substantive difference between a newborn child and a child in the latter stages of pregnancy?  For that matter, what is the difference between an unborn child at any stage of development and a born child?  Evidently this logic hit a Canadian judge pretty hard and she recognized the contradiction in distinguishing the born from the unborn. Continue reading

Perry Vs. Santorum on Gay Marriage

At this early stage of the game, I’d say that my top  choices for the GOP nomination are two Ricks: Perry and Santorum.  The latter has as much chance as I do of actually getting the nomination, but he’ s also the one who I am most sympathetic to ideologically.

I say this all as a preamble because I’m going to disagree with parts of both of their comments from this past weekend.  Rick Perry had this to say about New York’s decision to permit gay marriage:

Perry, who is considering running for president, at a forum in Colorado on Friday called himself an “unapologetic social conservative” and said he opposes gay marriage — but that he’s also a firm believer in the 10th Amendment, the Associated Press reported.

“Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me,” he said to applause from several hundred GOP donors in Aspen, the AP reported.

“That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.”

Perry’s argument on behalf of federalism is completely legitimate.  For now I’ll leave that specific debate aside and focus on the tenor of Perry’s statement.  While one can argue that a state has a right to do x, it does not follow that the state should be free from criticism.  This is similar to something that Rudy Giuliani said, and which I criticized last week.  All that federalism means is that individual states have wide latitude to formulate their own laws, free from interference by the federal government.  Federalism does not mean that citizens of other states cannot criticize these decisions.  This idea that federalism entails complete silence on the doings of other states is akin to those who hide behind the first amendment when they say something silly and earn public ridicule.  Just because you have the right to do something or say something it doesn’t mean that you should do something, and citizens of other locales absolutely have the right to speak out against these decisions and perhaps persuade the citizens of the state in question to change their mind.

That said, I have a slight issue with Santorum’s response:

That prompted a response from Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who tweeted overnight: “So Gov Perry, if a state wanted to allow polygamy or if they chose to deny heterosexuals the right to marry, would that be OK too?”

It’s not unfair to employ the logic of  a slippery slope argument.  There are already rumblings from polygamist groups who want to legalize polygamy now that the floodgates have opened.  That said, there are a couple of problems with this rhetorical strategy.  To me the slippery slope argument is the last refuge when all other arguments fail.  It doesn’t really address the actual issue at hand, and in fact there’s a subtle implication that the subject under consideration is not all that serious a concern.

I guess what bothers me about Santorum’s tweet is that it doesn’t tackle the issue of gay marriage head on.  I acknowledge that this is just a tweet, and Santorum has no doubt argued well on behalf of traditional marriage before.  But this smacks too much of a dodge, as though gay marriage isn’t that bad – but polygamy and the outlawing of heterosexual marriage, now that’s bad.  If the issue under discussion had been abortion, would Santorum have raised the specter of something semi-related?  I doubt it.

I’ll admit I might be nitpicking here, and that Santorum is simply mocking the absurdity(in his view) of Perry’s federalist stance.  Again, you’re not going to capture a lot of nuance in a single tweet – which says something about the nature of twitter, but that’s for another rant.  I just fear that too often defenders of traditional marriage rely upon the slippery slope argument too facilely.  If gay marriage is as bad for society as we think it is, we should argue against it on its own merits (or demerits) instead of attacking semi-related subjects.

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