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April 18, 2013 / compassioninpolitics

Should policy debate resolutions shift to debating the good of humanity

Interesting idea. The premise might even make for a decent classroom debate of if we should change the framework or not (ideally that debate would be something like 3/3/90 sec/90 sec.) Or it could just be a discussion.

Current model allows this to be a focus–but include others (ie the current model subsumes)

Also, it does seem to mute the issue of rights or ethics.

In the real world, we have to compare values and worldviews. The current model allows for this rather than having one prescribed.
Better analysis of values, better analysis of assumptions and interactivity of belief systems.

Also, I don’t think your resolution functionally changes anything….it really just gives us more to disagree about.
1) new burdens entailed by a new format
2) what “humanity” means

Because you could still:
1) K the res….which would get you out of those constraints
2) PIC out of the first part of the resolution

Also, humanity isn’t really how Congress deals. They seem to be constituent & US based. Remember we do give to foreign nations, but thats only 1% of the overall budget. We do try for win/win solutions, but at the end of the day, Congress votes to make constituents happy and money from donators coming in the door….to fuel their next campaign.

1) The “nerd” debates serve a purpose of balancing out resolutions. They give the negative a chance against squirrel affs & affs that are unpredictable. The idea of a backfile debate creates the possibility of a playbook…..even when small or obscure affs are run.
2) Ks would be the aff would still have to defend the choice.
3) FX based interpretation
4) Topicality issues over “humanity” or what portion of humanity had to be helped (if they read a DA is that game over for the aff, because obviously they hurt someone too).

At a minimum, this shift would create more of a focus on topicality as an issue…..I tend to think that is a negative one. I’d rather have “nerd” debates (or backfile debates) than topicality over what humanity is in the resolution.
You’d even have the challenge of explaining how your impact analysis….then relates to humanity. That would shift focus from impact debates. The current model puts debaters in the drivers seat….this model would shift it toward knowing what human good or common good is–I’m not sure those debates are super interesting.

Debaters need to have “nerd” debates…so they understand the arguments and assumptions behind the status quo. (ie the reasons for why things are the way they are).

If you could create the type of change you are talking about (goal) without also
1) denying important debate opportunities
2) re-focusing unnecessarily on topicality

* “Nerd” debates was used by the original author to refer to counter-intuitive backfile check debates.
** As a side note: you would have to add the words “on balance” to make this a fair resolution. Otherwise, affs which didn’t directly encourage the future of everyone would be considered–insufficient and non-topical. Which brings up another issue….its an FX based interp.


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  1. Nathan Ketsdever / Apr 18 2013 8:42 pm

    Here are 2….well really 3 arguments that should be pointed out (in addition to my post above):

    1) Our Constitution has a number of values–particularly the preamble. These values see there way into Congressional (aka real world debates) in a number of ways:
    a) General welfare/Utility
    b] Rights
    c) Community/Union
    d) Fairness/Justice
    e) others…
    This kills those other important real world debates–or slices them off at the knees.

    2) This kills a ton of literature that has other impacts (ie not humanity). Kills education, research, and debate.
    Sure its possible those could be revived in other ways….but in a way that warps how it would be debated in the real world.

    The Alternative:
    If you wanted to outlaw backfile checks you could just outlaw backfile checks—it would be best to specify the arguments you found objectionable obviously–rather than calling them a backfile check.

    Unfortunately, this would have at least two opportunity costs:
    1. We don’t learn both sides of those issues
    2. More aff win skew–which is actually important given the need & desire for fairness in the activity.

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