The Slippery Slope of Rights-Restricting Temporary Measures: An Experimental Analysis



JournalBehavioural Public Policy (Forthcoming, 2020).

Times of emergency often serve as triggers for the creation of new policy. Such policies may involve restriction of human rights, and various mechanisms can be used to mitigate the severity of such restrictions. One such mechanism is the temporary measure. A series of three experiments examined the potential of temporary measures for increasing the likelihood of approval of rights-restricting policy, and the role of time - both prospectively and retrospectively - in the willingness to restrict human rights. 

We find that the behavioral examination confirms the concerns expressed in the literature regarding temporary legislation: participants asked to approve a rights-restricting policy were more willing to approve a temporary measure when it was presented as a compromise, and were more willing to extend a rights-restricting policy when it had previously been implemented temporarily. These findings indicate a possible slippery slope effect in temporary legislation: policymakers can be persuaded to approve measures they would not otherwise approve when those measures are temporary or when they have been previously approved by others.