I wouldn’t oppose all the measures Randal O’Toole describes in his comment, “Making Incrementalism Work.” Prohibiting a state from diverting fuel tax revenue to general purposes and general revenue to road maintenance and construction would be fine with me. Whether it would lead to privatization of roads is another question. I suspect that special interests would find myriad ways to prevent that, but I see no harm in trying. If gradualism takes the form of tying the politicians’ hands, bring it on! So I guess you can say I don’t oppose all incrementalism, but I never said I did. See my original essay. What I said was that when “steps in the right direction” are proposed, we advocates of stigmergy want to know that the direction is indeed right.
About abolitionism and slavery: As O’Toole notes, slavery might have eventually vanished had the federal government been allowed to buy slaves’ freedom in the 1820s. I’m not sure that qualifies as incrementalism (though it would have been a compromise), since presumably all the slaves might have been freed that way at once. But we should not assume the only alternative to that program was war. (For one thing, Lincoln did not go to war to free the slaves.)
By the way, I would have happily backed one particular incremental step toward ending slavery: the internalization of enforcement costs. As Jeffrey Rogers Hummel emphasizes, “Government interventions that reinforced chattel slavery in the American South … included compulsory slave patrols, fugitive slave laws, laws against educating slaves, and legal disabilities on freed slaves… . These features socialized the enforcement costs of slave labor… .” Removing the subsidies to slaveholders would indeed have been a step in the right direction. And William Lloyd Garrison himself presumably would have approved. As he wrote in The Liberator (1831), “Urge immediate abolition as earnestly as we may, it will alas! be gradual abolition in the end. We have never said that slavery would be overthrown by a single blow; that it ought to be we shall always contend.”