The slippery slope is real

July 11th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

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So, the playbook over the last 30-40 years or so: set minor policy changes every few years that work incrementally to de-normalise smoking and tobacco. Restrict use in some public places that seem like protection of non-smokers at first, then extend it outwards not to protect non-smokers, but to stigmatise smokers. Eventually smokers are so marginalised that a full ban becomes politically palatable. First you de-normalise, then further regulate, then ban. And, at every step, deny that the next step’s already planned. Until it’s too late to matter.

Now, if you follow alcohol policy, how often have you heard this one: “Alcohol is no ordinary commodity”? Or, that advertising, availability at some event, shops with visible signage, or brand sponsorship normalise alcohol consumption and so should be restricted or banned? There’s a lot of focus on making normal alcohol consumption not seem normal. There might be a reason for that.

A lot of these policy documents will draw the parallel to tobacco before claiming that, unlike in the case of tobacco, they’re just trying to hit heavy or harmful consumption and so full-on tobacco-style restrictions aren’t needed. But every year, we move further through the list of tobacco controls that the anti-alcohol folks want applied to alcohol too.

Richard Edwards’s post helps show that we’re not building strawmen when we warn about slippery slopes. There’s a direct mechanism in which each regulation makes the marginal political cost of the next one a bit smaller, helping to facilitate it. And there’s pretty clearly a planned effort to push through the incremental steps on the way to the end goals: each makes the next seem less radical. Slippery slopes are only logical fallacies if there aren’t these kinds of mechanisms. 

They want to ban smoking, ban sugar and inevitably ban alcohol. It is a , and we ignore it at our peril.

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40 Responses to “The slippery slope is real”

  1. redeye (630 comments) says:

    Yet you support the continued banning of pot?

    [DPF: No I don’t]

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  2. Martin Gibson (247 comments) says:

    Two snap lid buckets, 4.5kg of sugar, 500g of molasses, nutrient salt champagne yeast a jug element some copper line a bung and four weeks later I can have 4.5l of white spirit for less than $30. Every effort at state control has unintended consequences that are often more harmful than the status quo.
    Ah the fruits of my misspent youth . . .

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  3. CharlieBrown (1,027 comments) says:

    Lets face it, National form part of the ban brigade. If it meant staying in power I’m sure John Key would go along with a sugar tax, hes certainly gone along with Tariana’s tobacco tax. I think the only person that is likely to get into parliament that can see the slippery slope is Jaimee Whyte.

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  4. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    We should denormalise smoking – it’s not “normal” to inhale smoke into your lungs. That’s why we cough and splutter till we “learn” how to smoke.

    But we should do that through education, not punishment, banning, and, ironically, profiteering in the name of health.

    The same applies to the ingestion of processed sugar. The only one of the three “evil” substances that can be said to occur entirely naturally (given that tobacco must be dried, flaked, packed together and then ignited) is alcohol.

    But in suggesting such a course we’re fighting against two of the most powerful addictions which can affect a human being and which, when combined, gain a more powerful hold than any opiate.

    I’m talking, of course, of politicians’ addictions to telling other people what to do, while spending other people’s money.

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  5. tvb (4,502 comments) says:

    Alcohol and sugar should be banned. There is very little food value in sugar and alcohol – where can I start. As a non drinker for 10 years I do not miss it at all. I always voted for prohibition and would do so again. And cigarettes well that is a no brainier. The day is coming for prohibition save for a few addicts on a prescription.

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  6. JMS (337 comments) says:

    So, the playbook over the last 30-40 years or so

    Get real.

    The slippery slope began in the West early last century.

    Today’s progressives are doing to tobacco and alcohol, what progressives of yesteryear did to cannabis and cocaine.

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  7. CharlieBrown (1,027 comments) says:

    tvp – we should ban coffee and any product with coffee in it. While we’re at it we should ban people that don’t vote for National or Labour the right to vote, as they are insane. Oh actually, lets ban the internet, or at least put on a big firewall as it leads to nasty things. Lets ban gambling as it wastes peoples money. Lets ban professional sports as lets face it, it leads to nothing good for people. Lets ban cars that can go over 100km, they are complely unnecessary and speeding leads to deaths.

    You’re beliefs are toxic.

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  8. Manolo (14,049 comments) says:

    @tvb: why don’t you fuck off to your own sanctuary and stop prescribing others what to consume?

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  9. mandk (1,017 comments) says:

    “we ignore it at our peril”

    Isn’t that just a bit histrionic? I’m much more concerned about the stuff that is becoming normalised.

    Like killing pre-born babies and geronticide.

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  10. JMS (337 comments) says:

    Like killing pre-born babies and geronticide.

    Now that’s histrionic.

    Abortion and Euthanasia is more accurate.

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  11. jp_1983 (225 comments) says:

    @tvb – Always voted for prohibition
    You must be real old
    The last vote for prohibition in NZ was in 1917…

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  12. JMS (337 comments) says:

    The last vote for prohibition in NZ was in 1917…

    It was actually 2011.

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  13. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,917 comments) says:

    Funny thing is, these same techniques have been used for the last thirty years to brainwash people into accepting the ‘nomalisation’ of deviant sexual behaviour.

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  14. tvb (4,502 comments) says:

    There are social costs with both alcohol and cigarettes. Sugar is less obvious except for those obsess people in their ill fitting clothes. Just revolting and sadly they know it.

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  15. mandk (1,017 comments) says:

    “Abortion and Euthanasia is more accurate.”

    No it’s not. We’re talking slippery slopes here.

    We’ve already had people proposing that women should be allowed the right to kill their babies after they have been delivered.

    And we’ve already had doctors in the Netherlands and Belgium arguing that they should be able to decide when someone dies.

    Moreover, many geriatric care practitioners are concerned that allowing euthanasia will encourage grasping relatives to coerce mum or dad into requesting it. A lot of people really are that evil.

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  16. CHFR (234 comments) says:

    tvb you are allowed your opinion but you are not allowed to wad it up in a little ball and ram it down others throats as you are doing now.

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  17. Huevon (223 comments) says:

    The slippery slope is real…no shit, we just legalised gay marriage last year

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  18. tvb (4,502 comments) says:

    Geoffrey Palmer got rid of the referendum on prohibition in the later 1980s. I lovedr the opportunity to vote for prohibition instead of national continuance or state control

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  19. Scott (1,817 comments) says:

    Good – let’s accept the “slippery slope” is real. We can all agree on that.

    However the slippery slope has been actively used by progresses to undermine our western Christian based civilisation for the past 30 or 40 years. 1st we decriminalised homosexuality, then we made it normal, then we put in place civil unions and now we have gay marriage. Now we start prosecuting anybody who stands in the way of the gay agenda and doesn’t accept homosexuality as completely normal. Now we start going on about transgender issues and we have bearded ladies winning song contests.
    Over time we may end up like ancient Greece where men married a woman to have their children but their real object of sexual love was a boy. And when I say boy I mean “boy”.
    Isn’t it time that somebody stood up and said “stop”!

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  20. JMS (337 comments) says:

    We’ve already had people proposing that women should be allowed the right to kill their babies after they have been delivered.

    Red Herring.

    Abortion has nothing to do with post birth.

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  21. mandk (1,017 comments) says:

    Red herring?

    Absolutely not: http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/03/01/medethics-2011-100411.full

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  22. JMS (337 comments) says:

    Red herring?

    Absolutely not:

    Check the definition of Red Herring.

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  23. SGA (1,139 comments) says:

    @DPF

    It is a slippery slope, and we ignore it at our peril.

    Well… looking from the days of six o’clock closing, if there has been a “slippery slope” regarding alcohol, then the evidence suggests it’s tilted the other way. Drinking ages, hours of opening, Sunday trading, beer and wine in supermarkets.
    Looking at the big picture, if anything it’s been the reverse of what’s happened to tobacco over the same period. Not sure that I see prohibition on the horizon anytime soon. Just saying…

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  24. stephieboy (3,388 comments) says:

    Huevon (175 comments)

    Blame Gay marriage for this.?,

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/10253051/Attack-leaves-shopkeeper-unconscious

    Utter garbage.!!

    tvb, the referenda on drinking was abolished because the vote over the yeas was overwhelmingly for continuance.!

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  25. CharlieBrown (1,027 comments) says:

    SGA- we drink less per capita now than we ever used to. Alochol de-regulation reached its peak around 10 years ago and its been a slippery slope the other way again towards the dark ages of irrational beliefs ruling society.

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  26. kowtow (8,758 comments) says:

    Same for abortion an euthanasia.

    Progressive agenda.

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  27. SGA (1,139 comments) says:

    CharlieBrown at 2:14 pm

    SGA- we drink less per capita now than we ever used to. Alochol de-regulation reached its peak around 10 years ago and its been a slippery slope the other way again towards the dark ages of irrational beliefs ruling society.

    I made no value judgment concerning the changes over the last 60 years – only pointed out that for the most part they’ve been in the opposite direction of those concerning tobacco over the same period. I’m certainly not advocating a return to “the dark ages of irrational beliefs ruling society” (LOL).

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  28. stephieboy (3,388 comments) says:

    kowtow, I see as a likely Conservative Party voter prospect you’d no doubt like to see the reintroduction of prohibition. public hangings, closing of licensed restaurants , back to 6 O’clock closing , no shopping on Sunday’s…..”

    What else.???

    SGA, do you believe along with the Tobacco lobby that smoking is harmless.??

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  29. Manolo (14,049 comments) says:

    I would add Obama’s impeachment to the list. :-)

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  30. stephieboy (3,388 comments) says:

    Manolo, when next visiting your Doctor consider all these treatment options,

    http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx11t.htm#drugs

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  31. SGA (1,139 comments) says:

    stephieboy at 2:23 pm

    SGA, do you believe along with the Tobacco lobby that smoking is harmless.??

    I am genuinely surprised that even the Tobacco lobby still maintains that smoking is harmless. Do you have a source for that claim (just curious).

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  32. stephieboy (3,388 comments) says:

    SGA, I found this comment by you rather confusing,

    “I made no value judgment concerning the changes over the last 60 years – only pointed out that for the most part they’ve been in the opposite direction of those concerning tobacco over the same period.”

    Moderate drinking of alcohol is I would of thought be harmless compared to the same for Tobacco.?

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  33. SGA (1,139 comments) says:

    @stephieboy at 2:35 pm
    I’m referring to the changes in alcohol accessibility over the last 60 years, not consumption.

    Added – Again, do you have a source for that claim?

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  34. Changeiscoming (198 comments) says:

    Now DPF, what were the excuses/reasons you gave when we advised you of the “slippery slope” arguement, in the same sex marriage debate.

    You were all for that slippery slope.

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  35. Nukuleka (346 comments) says:

    Interesting article in recent Daily Mail about a Dutch pro- euthanasia campaigner who has rethought his attitudes and is warning about proposals to legalise euthanasia- using the exact words ‘slippery slope’. He points out that there are no such things as safeguards when we come to matters such as euthanasia and abortion. Once you move the line in the sand you’ve opened the floodgates. Beware Maryann Street and her cohorts. That’s why I was so disappointed with John Key’s most recent comments about euthanasia ‘with safeguards’!!

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  36. goldnkiwi (1,519 comments) says:

    So it was apple cider not an apple that Eve tempted Adam with. It seems that alcohol is now mankind’s original sin.

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  37. ShawnLH (5,727 comments) says:

    All societies allow some things and ban others. That will always be the case.

    The real issue is whether or not the case can be made on specific products or issues. I don’t disagree with the slippery slope analysis in the article, but it is a little simplistic, as is DPF’s commentary, in setting up an “allow everything” vs “ban everything” duality.

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  38. nasska (11,797 comments) says:

    As a social liberal I fit happily into the “allow everything” category. I can still see the humorous irony in a pack of conservative Godpimpers squealing like stuck pigs at the thought that their social lubricant of choice is up for eventual banning.

    Alcohol good…..marijuana bad. The simple logic of simple minds steeped in the mores of Conservatism.

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  39. hj (7,063 comments) says:

    tvb (4,164 comments) says:
    July 11th, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Geoffrey Palmer got rid of the referendum on prohibition in the later 1980s.
    …….

    I heard Geoffrey Palmer going on about referendum, the gist of it was :public opinion no good Geoffrey’s opinion tops.

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  40. ShawnLH (5,727 comments) says:

    “Alcohol good…..marijuana bad. The simple logic of simple minds steeped in the mores of Conservatism.”

    In terms of the general public most opposition to legalizing marijuana comes from people who are really neither conservative nor liberal, but parents concerned for their children and the kind of environment they grow up in.

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