The Domino Argument

These arguments resemble other slippery-slope arguments in that they depend on a series of small changes. The domino argument does not, however, claim that there is no difference between the first step and later steps—be- tween Vietnam going communist and the rest of Asia going communist. Nor is there supposed to be anything unfair about letting Vietnam go communist without letting other countries also go communist. The point of a parade of horrors is that certain events will cause horrible effects because of their simi- larity or proximity to other events. Since the crucial claim is about causes and effects, these arguments will be called causal slippery-slope arguments.

We saw another example in Chapter 4. While arguing against an increase in the clerk hire allowance, Kyl says,

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The amount of increase does not appear large. I trust, however, there is no one among us who would suggest that the addition of a clerk would not entail allowances for another desk, another typewriter, more materials, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the next step would then be a request for additional office space, and ultimately new buildings.

Although this argument is heavily guarded, the basic claim is that increasing the clerk hire allowance is likely to lead to much larger expenditures that will break the budget. The argument can be represented more formally this way:

(1) If the clerk hire allowance is increased, other expenditures will also probably be increased.

(2) These other increases would be horrible.

(3) The clerk hire allowance should not be increased.

Opponents can respond in several ways. One response is to deny that the supposedly horrible effects really are so horrible. One might argue, for exam- ple, that additional office space and new buildings would be useful. This re- sponse is often foreclosed by describing the effects in especially horrible terms.

A second possible response would be to deny that increasing the clerk hire allowance really would have the horrible effects that are claimed in the first premise. One might argue, for example, that the old offices already have adequate room for additional clerks.


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