The slippery slope

May.26. 2016

You’ve probably heard of the ‘slippery slope.’

The Merriam Webster defines it as “a course of action that seems to lead inevitably from one action or result to another with unintended consequences.”

In current usage, the two words are often used in the context of defending some right-wing agenda (such as that of ‘traditional’ marriage).

Lately, however, the words have taken on an entirely new meaning for me.

Take those stoplight cameras.

Are they there as a safety deterrent or are they just revenue enhancers?

I’m sure the original intentions behind them were good until some lawmaker discovered that the financial benefits were not too bad either.

How did a safety issue turn into a revenue bonanza?

Through the slippery slope.

I read about some prison guard association in some supposedly enlightened state in the country. For the past thirty years, they’ve been at the forefront of getting more people incarcerated for life, even for non-violent crimes, like shoplifting.

Why? Because they need inmates. Without inmates, they’d be out of a job.

Job security over people’s lives—criminal justice, American style.

The slippery slope.

You start out with one set of intentions (usually good but not always) and end up in a completely different outcome.

A few more examples.

Perhaps you’re a doctor, and you want added convenience for your patients, so you buy an X-ray machine and install it in the back room. But now you’re stuck with those monthly payments for the machine. What to do but to require all your patients to have an X-ray whether they needed it or not.

What started out as an added convenience is now a potential hazard for the patients—radioactive and financial.

Or maybe you’re in academia, you’re a college professor and you can’t wait to share your incredible wealth of knowledge but soon you find out that if you don’t have enough students, you might lose your position so what to do but to get students to take your classes whether they needed it or not.

(Sad but true and it happens more than you might expect.)

From sharing your knowledge to preying on unsuspecting students.

Or maybe you’re a woman (or man), and you feel empowered by your new sense of freedom, so you give yourself freely to everyone, because it’s fun, and plus, you have a right to use your body in any way you choose, and then one day you realize, hey why not charge them for it instead of giving it away free?

Personal emancipation that leads you on the fast track to the world’s oldest profession.

(What’s wrong with the world’s oldest profession? Nothing wrong. Just ask a certain politician who believes in selling herself to anyone who can pay the quarter million speaking fees she commands.)

Or you’re a manufacturer—your specialty—combat killing machines.

But world peace is bad for your bottom line so what to do but find a good excuse to create some combat zones in some far off corner of the world.

Shock and awe that quickly turn into skyrocketing stocks and profits.

Never mind the collateral damage, as long as you’re making those big bucks, it’s all good.

But no, those far off conflicts are still not enough, you need more customers. Why not market those killing machines as sporting goods! And of course, you have a certain amendment on your side too. (Never mind that the amendment was passed at a time when those killing machines have to be loaded one projectile at a time.)

You can probably see a pattern emerging. All these examples have one common denominator.

Yes, you guessed it.

Money makes the world go round. (And sometimes down a slippery slope).


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