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Small Incremental Change Is Easier To Accept Than Large Changes All At Once

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Thundery wintry showers


My piece of insight for the day: when it comes to the erosion of our freedoms, watch for the "small incremental measures add up" problem. When deciding to curb a freedom, no matter how small, before thinking, "well this loss of freedom is a small price to pay for 'doing something'", we need to think, "are our arguments for this measure case-specific, or can they be used as arguments for curbing most other freedoms?".

Why? Well, typically, we don't accept an "all in one go" curb on 100 activities to legislate for idiots, but we do accept a curb on any one of those activities because it seems like just a small price to pay, and then rinse and repeat individually for the other 99, thus unwittingly achieving the same result as an "all in one go" curb. It just takes longer to get there, that's all, but most of us fail to recognise this.

Arguments like "you don't need Freedom X to be able to enjoy yourself or survive, so what's wrong with banning X?", "X is non-essential so we have no right to complain about its disposal" and of course "prohibition is necessary because that's life" are common arguments with huge "slippery slope potential". The biggest one, though, is probably the rejection of alternatives because they aren't flawless (e.g. "you can't always tell if something's being abused") while not subjecting prohibition to the same "it has to be flawless" requirement on the basis that it's a "necessary evil". Since there rarely is a flawless way of dealing with misbehaviour, this double standard can be used as a basis for prohibiting almost anything. However, if we can show that a particular act of prohibition is probably less flawed than the alternatives, then OK, we do have a good case-specific argument that doesn't lend itself to a slippery slope of incremental curbs on our freedoms.
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