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Monday, October 16, 2006 

Today's Volokh Events

Thankfully, I had recovered enough from my illness to go to school today. Of course, today was the day that Prof. Eugene Volokh visited the law school. I attended both of the events today. The first was a small lunch and presentation about legal writing. Prof. Volokh has published a book on the topic Academic Legal Writing. He should know a little about it too, considering that he's written over 50 law review articles. Compared to my zero, that's pretty good. Prof. Volokh gave us some good advice on how to test our claims, focus our papers, and write something that will get published. I wish I had heard much of this advice before I began writing my seminar paper (which I sincerely doubt will be publishable).

The big event of the day was the Boden Lecture delivered at the Pfister. I'm a sucker for going to classy places (that's my inner rube talking), so I knew I wasn't going to miss out on this. The title of the lecture was The Mechanisms of Slippery Slopes. Prof. Volokh has written about slippery slope arguments in the past in contexts like gay marriage. The main focus of this talk and its accompanying paper is gun control (there is a shorter version of the paper here that the lecture was based on). After about 30 seconds, I gave up on taking notes. The substance of the lecture was fairly heavy, so I had to focus all seven of my brain cells on paying attention. The professor's main points were that slippery slopes do exist. There are times when a very small concession, whether it is for gun control, abortion rights, or free speech, will lead to greater restrictions later on. This can happen even when the supporters of the small concession oppose the greater restrictions. This often happens because of perceived shifts in political power, changes in political momentum, changes in attitudes by the public following the small concession, and a handful of other factors. Prof. Volokh left us with one rule of thumb about slippery slope situations: If a small concession only gets you a small benefit, you will want to oppose it. If a small concession gets you a great benefit, then you may want to support it. The small benefit may not be worth enough when compared to the greater future restrictions imposed as we slide down the slope.

Overall, I enjoyed the lecture. I wish it had been a bit longer though. It seemed like there was so much for Prof. Volokh to cover in such a short amount of time that we only touched the surface of the subject. I suppose this will force me to sit down and read his full article. Clever guy.

This speech has me wondering about the Hallows Lecture in the Spring. Prof. Volokh was a pretty big name lecturer. Hopefully, that pattern continues with our next guest. I don't envy the next Hallows Lecturer though. Judge Sykes will be a tough act to follow.

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  • I'm Steve
  • From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
  • "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke
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