Resolved: In the United States, current income disparities threaten democratic ideals.

This topic is similar to the current topic in that it is fairly narrow and doesn’t allow for much significant impact. Therefore, the teams which develop the best framework and best impacts will have the biggest advantage. That’s how it should be anyway, but sometimes the amount of evidence can outweigh framework analysis in public forum. This topic doesn’t really allow for that. So, let’s begin with the first step of breaking down every topic, grammatical analysis and identifying the important terms.

Nouns: current income disparities, democratic ideals

(United States is also important, but doesn’t need to be defined. Just remember that the resolution is U.S. specific.)

Verbs: threaten

As I mentioned in the LD topic breakdown, nouns in debate are constructed differently. This means that it is inappropriate to construct a definition of “democratic ideals” based upon the separate definitions of “democratic” and “ideals.” Instead, “democratic ideals” becomes a separate ontological entity which requires its own definition. That brings us to the next step of the breakdown, defining important terms.

Current Income Disparities: I already anticipate several teams focusing on this definition as the crux of the debate. Teams will inevitably try to find statistics and evidence which demonstrate that the income gap isn’t as bad as Occupy Wall Street would have you believe, or that there is a decent dispersion of wealth, etc… DON’T DO IT!! The intent of the resolution is not for you to demonstrate that the economic situation in the U.S. isn’t that bad. Instead, the resolution is asking you whether or not the crappy economic inequality we have threatens the principles upon which our country is built. So, just accept that the income gap is huge, since 1% of the population controls 70% of the wealth, or whatever the absurd statistic is. Both sides need to admit this, or the debate will suck.

Democratic Ideals: I further anticipate a severe misunderstanding of this term. Teams will attempt to argue that certain things such as “equality” do or not fall into democratic ideals and will attempt to find odd definitions which separate the economy and governing the people. Again, DON’T DO THIS!! Democratic ideals do not necessarily entail that a country is a democracy, but rather that it is founded upon principles of equal representation, liberty, freedom, human rights, etc… We all know what democratic ideals are. Just find a legitimate source with a good sounding summary of it, and stick it in your case as the definition.

Threaten: This is probably the toughest term to define. We can accept most definitions for the previous two because we all have a general understanding of what they mean, and there is no need to distinguish the intricate nuances of them. However, in order to properly understand the resolution, we must know what it means to threaten democratic ideals. I also advise against trying to be abusive with this definition. Don’t take a position which says something like, “Since our country won’t turn into a dictatorship, democratic ideals aren’t threatened by income disparities.” The idea of the resolution is that income disparities harm equality of opportunity, freedom of political participation, freedom of speech, etc… Because of lack of wealth, many people may have a difficult time having a political presence. Therefore, I think an appropriate definition of threatening democratic ideals would be preventing their complete fulfillment or realization.

Potential Case Positions


1. Money = Power – This is a fairly obvious and straightforward position. It’s no secret that people with more money can have a larger political presence. They can run more effective campaigns and eventually get more votes, not to mention have more leverage with political interests and such. So, if the vast majority of wealth is concentrated to such a few people, then we are effectively left with an oligarchy, with only a select number of people continually inheriting political dominance (Bush family, Clinton family, Kennedy family). This system threatens democratic ideals because it harms everyone else’s right to speech, right to political participation, right to equality under the law, and effectively the right to choose their leaders as well.

2. The Institutions of Democratic Mechanics are Threatened – With money becoming more concentrated, political mechanics occur less and less in democratic ways such as through town hall meetings, open elections, debates, and actual merit based politiking. Instead, economic institutions and factors such as interests, media campaigns, and political contributions become more important because they lead to demonstrably more political success. Citizens, therefore, engage in the political process through lobbying, donating money, or not doing anything because they feel as if they cannot make a difference. This threatens democratic ideals because it damages the fundamental operational foundations of a democratic government and society.


1. Free competition is a Democratic Ideal – Obviously, a democratic society encourages property rights, liberty, and open competition. Inevitably, this leads to income disparities because some people will be more successful than others, and they should be rewarded for that success. It therefore becomes sort of oxymoronic to say that open competition threatens democratic ideals, because it is the same as saying democratic ideals threaten democratic ideals.

2. In the Internet Age, Finances Become Less Relevant – Democratic ideals rest upon the idea that everyone can have their voice heard, and everyone can engage in the political process. We live in an age of blogs, facebook, and open communication. Therefore, to claim that money is a significant hindrance to democratic participation is absurd. Even those without money have avenues through which their voices can be heard. This position can be particularly powerful if you use examples of successful bloggers, independent filmmakers, etc… who have managed to have a significant political impact without lots of monies at their disposal.

These are just a few thoughts to get you started. I hope they help, and good luck 🙂

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