Friday, January 28, 2011

Time Horizons: Broccoli

Tim Kowal writes:
Koppelman argues the “Broccoli Objection,” as he calls it, is just not slippery enough to be a slippery slope. I’m not convinced. First, Koppelman is not coming toe-to-toe with the nature of the objection. The “slippery” element of a slippery slope argument is not a function of likelihood, but rather of the availability of non-arbitrary distinctions. If there is no principled distinction between allowing the government to do something we like and doing something we don’t like, we ought to be skeptical. Slippery slope argument are thus helpful as extrapolation exercises because they help us see what might be coming around the bend if we keep pushing ahead on political rather than legal principles.

But Koppelman isn’t troubled by this because, as he explains, it’s just not likely we’d ever reach the bottom of the slope. Again, I’m not convinced. The federal government might not try to force broccoli on us now, but it’s not conceptually inapposite to a centralized healthcare regime. Precisely the contrary, in fact. Thus, the Individual Mandate is not like the income tax amendment since, as Koppelman admits, a 100% income tax would “wreck[] the economy.” It’s not merely practically unlikely, then—it’s practically impossible. A broccoli mandate, on the other hand, is currently merely politically improbable. Given the administrative demands and practical goals of the new healthcare regime, however, it would be downright prudent if all Americans gorged on broccoli. Moreover, American’s reluctance toward government involvement in healthcare seems to be slowly waning. Thus, it’s hard to take Koppelman seriously that the political likelihood of something like a “broccoli mandate” couldn’t tack sharply northward in the not very distant future.

FLG would like to posit that time horizons are a key distinction here. Koppelman's are shorter than Kowal's, and so "not very distant future" means entirely different things to the both of them.


Tim Kowal said...

That's probably a good guess. Short time horizons certainly helps explain the general sense of exasperation liberals feel toward constitutional conservatism and originalism. Also contributing is the left's general lack of emphasis on continuity. There's the assumption that each generation should be left to deal with its issues unencumbered by the lessons of history, the predictions for the future, or the weight of intellectual tradition. The time horizons problem on the left might not be a problem of short time horizons, but no regard for human timelines at all.

FLG said...

Or, to force my timelines theory's continued existence, they have time horizons of zero.

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