Adam Smith describes society, both economic and social/moral, as developing from webs of human interactions. We build our societies from the bottom up by virtue of our unscripted person-to-person interactions. Natural law, on the other hand, defines society in a more top-down fashion. Society does, and should, follow the dictates of a natural law which stands outside of the members of the society.
Richard Thaler, in Slippery-Slope Logic, Applied to Health Care, in Sunday’s New York Times, lambastes slippery-slope logic in general, and how it was applied to the health care debate in particular by the justices of the Supreme Court. Referring to Justice Scalia’s remark that, “Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli,” Thaler notes, “The irony is that Justices Roberts and Scalia are warning of a risk that they and their colleagues have the power to prevent.”
My guess is that just as the natural law is regarded as an outside force that does and should guide how we construct our society, so frequent citation of the slippery slope in argumentation is based on a sense that there is an outside force which does and will govern how our lives unfold. Thaler’s reference to the power of the justices to guide society is a counterbalance to that. We, the citizens of the society, in our myriad interactions with each other, form our society and guide our lives.
This notion of a slippery slope which Thaler rejects fits in well with my previous attempts at a taxonomy of the political mind. As we go about designing and directing our society, who’s advice do we take, that of the wise persons who have gone on before us and whose wisdom has stood the test of time; or ourselves and our neighbors, who are in the midst of this life and society, and should best know its features and our desires?
Congress will not pass a law which requires the eating of broccoli; and if they did, in the reverse of Prohibition, people would refuse to eat it anyway. Maybe that’s the natural law; or maybe it’s just that humans have some sense, and some ability to regulate themselves.