It’s that time of year again…voting is open to determine NCFCA’s 2019-2020 debate resolution! Before you cast your ballot, read up on what Josh Hu and Joel Erickson have to say about the LD options.
A. Resolved: Individuals have a right to health-care.
This resolution gives the debaters the opportunity to examine the nature of rights and the obligations of government. Debaters will primarily engage in philosophical argumentation articulating justifications for a certain conception of rights, and can draw heavily from authors such as Locke and Rawls, and sources such as the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Pragmatic argumentation may be interwoven depending on what “tests” or “standards” debaters use to evaluate if something may be deemed a right.
Pick this topic:
- If you want to grow in your ability to understand and advocate philosophy-centered cases in rounds.
- If you want to tackle a new topic area which has been left unexplored.
- If you want to go in-depth into your argumentation throughout the year.
Don’t pick this topic:
- If you wish to avoid a topic which will have the strongest judge and competitor bias of all three topics.
- If you want a more broad and open topic with more areas to explore.
Verdict: 6/10. An opportunity for really interesting and deep philosophical debates, but extensive judge bias and narrow focus bring down the desirability of the topic.
Meet the latest exhibit in NCFCA’s perennial preoccupation with the relationship between the individual and the government. Even if you’re looking for something a little more avant-garde, this resolution’s specificity does demand some philosophical acumen. Finally, we have an opportunity to overturn our standard series of assumptions about rights and critically engage questions of their origins, construction, nature, extent, and applicability beyond quoting the Declaration of Independence and dropping the mic. Are rights actually self-evidently bequeathed by our Creator? Are they merely social constructions which codify certain transcendent principles? This gets really hype really fast, until you remember that LD basically constitutes a kind of flirting with your judge’s worldview and their beliefs about (a) rights and (b) healthcare are so deeply entrenched they’re effectively intransigent.
Verdict: 7/10. Because if you’ve been competing in this format, you’re already accustomed to bias, right? Besides, the snazziest thing about this rez is you can engage with critiques of the liberal democratic project, like Patrick Deneen’s.
B. Resolved: Preventive military strikes are ethical.
This resolution allows debaters to delve into the ethics of the state, warfare, national defense, decision-making, intent, consequentialism, and much more. The topic provides ripe ground for both philosophical and application-based argumentation, and a potential for a rich metagame as the year progresses. Debaters will reckon with the concept of burden (what or how much do I have to prove to win?) and justifying a general principle (what is sufficient to prove the resolution as a principle? How do I engage with outliers?) as they craft their arguments, allowing for exploration of more complex ideas as well.
Pick this topic:
- If you want to have a broad topic that allows for deep progression over the course of the year.
- If you want to have options in your argumentation: philosophy-heavy, application-based, etc.
Don’t pick this topic:
- If you want a completely new type of topic area to explore.
- If you want more philosophy-centered debates.
Verdict: 8/10. A solid choice with the opportunity for development over the course of the year and an interesting topic area.
Human history is characterized by a staggering amount of military conflict. That’s excellent fodder for applications. We’ve also thought extensively about the morality of war. War is the apotheosis of applied ethics — you receive the unparalleled opportunity to translate pristine abstract ethical theories into complicated real-life scenarios. However, the prospect of debaters invariably butchering the nuances of just war or deontology in four-minute rebuttals amounts to the same cringe effect of nails scraping a blackboard. The opacity of “military strikes” screams another season of definition debates. Additionally, many students in NCFCA simultaneously believe that (a) the Bible provides the basis for ethics and (b) biblical references are inappropriate in debate rounds. Something seems amiss about watching those students talk about ethics while neglecting the salient Christian tradition of political thought about war (for instance, Augustine and Aquinas ground their philosophical extrapolation about war in Scriptural precedent).
Verdict: 7/10. At any rate, Stoa tried this already. With better wording. It didn’t work so well.
C. Resolved: Deliberative democracy is ineffective.
This resolution tries to examine the “effectiveness” of cooperative decision-making in determining policy, action, and laws and optimal institutions in society. Unfortunately, it falls short. I see debates on this topic devolving into 1) infinitely difficult debates in determining proper standards for “effectiveness”, 2) having to try to win arguments about country applications regarding effectiveness which have alternative causes that are incredibly difficult to identify, and 3) whether or not effectiveness ought to be viewed in a vacuum or absolutely. Yes, it’s complicated. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound appealing to me.
Verdict: 1/10. It’s up to you, but I would advise against choosing this topic.
Do you like moral arguments?
Yeah, me too. Efficacy is a morally neutral concept, though. If something achieves its outcome — regardless if it’s a political system or a torture chamber — it’s effective. Which means that you get a value-neutral resolution for Lincoln-Douglas Value Debate. Just master and synthesize all the information about deliberative democracies and you’ll win. You’ll be nitpicking solvency cards for an entire season.*
Verdict: 0/10. This is the kind of resolution on which IBM’s AI Project Debater could easily beat a human. However, the very reason we debate LD is because through it we garner a glimpse at what makes us truly human — our moral agency. A computer can tell you whether a preemptive military strike or particular healthcare policy would be effective, but it can’t determine whether they’re morally justified. Why? Because ascribing values uniquely occurs within a human context. Save this resolution for a parli round and opt for one that best exercises your moral deliberative faculties.
*Admittedly, there’s some degree of value debate within the standards for effectiveness and which standards are most salient for the debate. Nonetheless, these arguments will have passed their expiration date long after Ziggy Online Debate concludes its pre-season tournament.
Josh’s Final Verdict: Content-wise, I prefer A. If I was competing in the NSDA with a two-month topic, I would choose A. But for a year-long topic in NCFCA, I think I would prefer B.
Joel’s Final Verdict: Vote A to watch the world burn. Then, win the LD qualifier your TP partner can’t attend.