Slippery Slopes Exist: The Case of No-Fly Lists
I don’t know wherefrom the strange idea comes that a slippery-slope argument is a kind of logical fallacy. It is an institutional or political-economy concept, not a logical one. Slippery slopes occurs in social affairs, and a contribution of economics is precisely to help determine when the logic of institutions—that is, of individual incentives under certain social arrangements—lead to results inconsistent with officially-proclaimed or idealistic intentions; that is, when slippery slopes are likely.
No-fly lists were and remain a slippery accident waiting to happen. We should know. The Patriot Act that has been used to go after suspected drug sellers and to spy on ordinary Americans. The RICO Act has been invoked to prosecute people with no mafia connections whatsoever. Anti-tobacco laws now serve to regulate vaping which does not involve tobacco. And so forth. Except if they are effectively constrained, not an easy feat, politicians and government bureaucrats can be expected to maximally exploit the powers granted to them, because it is generally in their personal interests to do so.
Who would have thought that no-fly lists would be used against crypto entrepreneurs? This just occurred in South Korea as the Financial Times reports (“Workers at Embattled Crypto Operator Terraform Labs Put on No-Fly List,” June 20):
South Korean prosecutors have banned Terraform Labs employees from leaving the country as an investigation into the company and its co-founders deepens after the $40bn implosion of its cryptocurrency.
The Seoul Southern District Prosecutors Office told the Financial Times on Tuesday that the travel ban had been imposed on “dozens” of former and current Terraform Labs employees, declining to give further details.
I don’t know if, in this specific case, any fraud is involved, especially if we define “fraud” otherwise than “anything the government doesn’t like.” But even supposing that there a reasonable suspicion of real fraud, states already have enough (read: too much) power to enforce ordinary laws against fraud, without prosecutors (bureaucrats) resorting to instruments of mass control against a group in which some people are vaguely suspected of something.
Against which sets or groups of people will no-fly lists be used next time?