A Nice Bit of Slippery Slope Rhetoric,

which I hadn't seen before; it's from Robinson & Warren v. State, 38 Ark. 641 (1882) (Eakin, J., dissenting). The judge is objecting to a majority decision upholding a statute under which owners of stores that sell liquor are held strictly liable for illegal sales by their partners or employees. Here's the passage (paragraph breaks added); the key rhetoric is in the last paragraph:

There is no telling how far reaching the range of the decision, just rendered, may be. The case in judgment is very trifling. But the decision is not confined to dram-shops and their owners. Its immediate effect will be to include every wholesale dealer in the State, who sells by clerk, or by agents in other towns, and those who have interests or shares in the business, whether widows or not, and make each or any, and all of them liable to be dragged before the criminal tribunals and punished, if the lowest sub-agent or employee anywhere, even the porter who sweeps the stores, should some day sell liquor to a minor.

If the mere interest in the liquor sold, fixes the liability, where is the line to be drawn? Why may not a lady, retaining an interest in a deceased husband's drug store, find it necessary to follow her Sunday devotions, by an appearance next day in the criminal court, to be punished for a crime committed whilst she was at prayer, by a good-natured clerk who sold a drink to a boy companion? Will she be told she ought not to be in that business?

The ulterior effects of the decision in unsettling old well-defined safe-guards of liberty, cannot be calculated. Bad precedents are like arrows shot from a bow. They cannot be controlled after they have left the string. Their logical sequence often runs terribly away to consequences never dreamed of. Better stand on the old foundations, and walk in the old ways. I distrust the social advantages promoted by decisions of this nature. Timeo Danaos, et dona ferentes. [I fear the Greeks even if they bring gifts.] They have the fair semblance of hand maidens of morality. They may be wooden horses, unwittingly drawn within the citadel of the Bill of Rights. I think they are.

I guess I wonder why the slippery slope arguments are addressed as "rhetoric" when they turn out so often to be true. I seem to recall some shock from the academy that the slippery slope of allowing free speech to be curtailed in Canada ultimately led to the nonsensical human rights tribunals operating up there. No matter how many times the SS argument proves true, it still amazes the Charlie Browns of the world shocked at the football being pulled away.
7.8.2008 2:32pm
Constructively Reasonable (www):
As someone who took Latin and majored in Ancient History, I fully appreciate Judge Eakin using "Timeo Danaos, et dona ferentes." The following sentences referencing hand maidens and wooden horses adds depth to the Latin phrase.

Nice passage, Professor.
7.8.2008 3:06pm
Amazingly astute. Thanks for the timely 'catch'.
7.8.2008 5:29pm
Sounds like an argument against slippery slopes to me.

This judge is obviously a wacko.
7.9.2008 7:57am
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):
I don't see this as a slippery slope so much as an early argument for LLCs.
7.9.2008 10:05am