Slippery slopes are sometimes real

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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“[I]f you let a bully come into your front yard one day, the next day he’ll be up on your porch, and the day after that he’ll rape your wife in your own bed.”

That wisdom comes from LBJ — but it might as well be the NRA’s motto.

Early on, the NRA understood how rights are incrementally lost. Eventually, the agitators always win, because they realize the natural state of life is constant struggle.

Conversely, conservatives love peace. They will sometimes become politically active for a season (usually, in order to defend a traditional right or value), but are anxious to cut a deal, and return to normalcy. And so, they let the bullies on our porches.

The following cycle should sound familiar to anyone paying attention: 1.) The agitators ask for a lot, 2. they settle for less (a common sense compromise!), and 3.) they come back for more at the most opportune time (they never let a crisis go to waste.)

Not to compare the two, but the tobacco industry realized this lesson too late.

First, it was “you must provide a ‘no smoking’ section.” Then it was, “you can smoke at the bar.” And now it’s “you can smoke outside in the cold.” How long before that won’t even be legal?

This isn’t organic gradualism — it’s a strategy. And it works. For this reason, principled conservatives — the ones who are hip to this strategy, and thus, resist it — are easily cast as mean-spirited weirdos.

After all, who could be opposed to “reasonable,” “common sense” gun control? (Or asking the rich to pay a little more, or…?)

As James Taranto notes in an excellent Wall Street Journal piece: “A central reason these gun debates tend to be futile is that gun owners and gun-rights supporters think advocates of gun control will not settle for reasonable restrictions but want to deprive them of their constitutional rights altogether. They are right to think so…”

Refusal to compromise — on even the smallest encroachment of freedoms — of course, looks to the outside world like stubborn paranoia.

And sometimes, it is…overwrought. (Yes, almost all totalitarian regimes begin by slowly rolling back freedoms, but not every new law or regulation passed in America will lead to more laws and regulations.)

Still, the safe assumption is that losing some rights will inexorably lead to losing others. That’s why I’m disappointed to see some conservatives throw their hands in the air.

Friends of liberty should not be so quick to surrender their rights to the government.

Matt K. Lewis