Paul Jacob

The Constitution is a boardwalk over the mud of politics. Any step off of it, and you become mired in the most dangerous toil, always struggling for footing, always in danger of being sucked under.

The usual metaphor for this is “a slippery slope,” but you don’t need an incline to fall prey to the internecine in the modern “churning state.” All you need is mud, the usual muck from the unconstrained push and shove of politics.

One step in, and the likelihood of getting out is much less. Often, the best you can do is lose your boot. You always come out smelling worse than when you entered.

To what events do we owe this extended metaphor?

Michael Bloomberg’s latest crusade: his campaign against our alleged over-use of salt. He says (using old and contested evidence) that the nation is using way too much salt, to our serious detriment. That’s why he’s pushing New York City government to take the crusade against salt nationwide.

I kid you not.

In another venue — my Common Sense radio program and email letter — I mulled over Bloomberg’s audacity:

This would have been a strawman example — a reductio ad absurdum — a generation ago. Back then, when some of us objected to, say, regulation of cigarettes, arguing that next government would be regulating the salt on our French Fries, earnest nanny-state proponents would sniff. No. They wouldn’t do anything that absurd.

I had countless arguments like this when I was young. I used the example of salt on French fries — and similar “absurdities” — often. And I was just as often rebuked.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.