The Camel's Nose Is in the Tent: Rules, Theories, and Slippery Slopes


Slippery slopes have been the topic of a spate of recent literature. In this Article, the authors provide a general theory for understanding and evaluating slippery slope arguments and their associated slippery slope events. The central feature of the theory is a structure of discussion within which all arguments take place. The structure is multilayered, consisting of decisions, rules, theories, and research programs. Each layer influences and shapes the layer beneath: Rules influence decisions, theories influence the choice of rules, and research programs influence the choice of theories. In this structure, slippery slope arguments take the form of meta-arguments, as they purport to predict the future development of arguments in the structure of discussion. Evaluating such arguments requires knowledge of the specific content of the structure of discussion itself. This Article then presents four viable types of slippery slope arguments; draws attention to four different factors that, other things equal, tend to increase the likelihood of slippery slopes; and explores a variety of strategies for coping with slippery slopes.

About the Author

Mario J. Rizzo if from the Department of Economics, New York University. Douglas Glen Whitman is from the Department of Economics, California State University, Northridge.

By uclalaw