The late Marshall Fritz often said, "The devil has no brakes." Others have said, "Give a prosecutor an inch, and he'll take a mile."
Some call it "The Foot in the Door." I call it the Slippery Slope Law of The State.
If you give The State a specific power, those who run The State WILL find "creative" ways to broaden that power.
Judges, administrators, and bureaucrats all believe they could do more good if only they had more leeway. So they constantly attempt to stretch their existing powers. For instance . . .
A prosecutor wants to punish someone, but the laws, as written, impede his efforts. So he cooks up a novel approach. He literally stretches his power. He drags the reputation of his victim through the mud, compels the victim to spend gobs of money on lawyers, and maybe even the charges somehow stick.
Politicians do the same thing. They are constantly stretching the power of The State. Each liberty lost, each tax increased, paves the way for the next.
Thus, today it's a stricter drunk driving law. Tomorrow, it's a sobriety check-point. Then, it's a national security check-point. Before you know it, you're being inspected before you can enter a public facility; government agents are making sure you aren't bringing a recording device to a sporting event or a concert.
Or, it started with a public service announcement. Then, every time you were stopped by police, they could give you a modest ticket if you weren't wearing your seat belt -- little more than a warning to incentivize safe behavior. They promised, at the time, they'd never pull someone over just for failure to lock the seat belt properly. But it only took a few more years before they did exactly that, and upped the fines by three or four times what they were at first. Now that they're in your personal cockpit, perhaps next they'll rule it illegal to smoke in your car.
Overreach is always a problem. Lord Acton was right, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." But the worst kind of corruption is the self-righteousness felt by those who want to use State coercion for what they deem to be the good of others. "If only everyone was just like me," they cry.
When overreach is committed by an individual, a private institution, or a commercial enterprise, a little public shaming can go a long way toward correcting the problem. Few can afford to be despised, and the customer is always right.
But a coercive monopoly, such as The State, needs more than a little shame to correct its behavior. Those who rule The State may use their coercive powers to harm the individuals who shed light on their deeds, or they may merely do a half-step retreat, where they temporarily cede a particular power, and wait for a better day to grab that power again.
So if you were issued a Social Security number during the first few decades of the program, you were told by the sponsors that these digits could never be used as identification or for commercial purposes. Frankly, given the Slippery Slope Law of The State, you should expect that a) these numbers would be so used, and that then, the resulting identify theft would give b) someone the "brilliant" plan to make you carry a more "secure" Social Security card. That's what is happening right now!
Or if so-called "airport security" reaches the point that, in order to fly in our free country, you must choose to be either a) severely radiated, so that your naked image is exposed to the eyes of others, or b) have someone fondle or grab your private parts, well then you can safely say, "That devil called The State, has no brakes."
These are but examples of a widespread rule. We shouldn't be surprised to see coercive, political power expanded AND abused. The Slippery Slope Law of The State is one of the reasons we should be suspicious of, and even in opposition to ANY new, or expanded government powers.
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Copyright (c) 2010 by Jim Babka. Permission to distribute this blog post for educational purposes is granted, if done with attribution to the author and the Downsize DC Foundation. Permission to use for commercial purposes is denied.