Resolved: The United States ought to guarantee the right to housing.

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afford

Resolved: The United States ought to guarantee the right to housing.

Let’s just get right into it. I don’t even want to go on a rant about how terrible this topic is.

Definitions

The United States – This refers to the U.S. government. Whether this is the state or federal government is irrelevant to the topic.

Guarantee – There is an important question about what this guarantee would look like. Does this meant the U.S. provides housing? Does it mean it passes laws to prevent housing discrimination? It’s unclear, but also not central to the question. The idea is that the government should or not guarantee the right, and that’s what needs to be debated.

Right to Housing – The right to housing is the right to adequate shelter for a human being. The definition of adequate is irrelevant. The point is that the housing meets the basic needs of shelter for the person.

Affirmative

1. Categorical Imperative – This makes sense as a universalizable moral question. Do we want to live in a world where everyone is guaranteed a basic standard of housing? Makes sense.

2. Veil of Ignorance – If you could wake up tomorrow and be anybody in society, what kind of social justice policy would you create? You’d likely create one that includes a guarantee for the right to housing.

3. Protection of Human Rights – The right to housing is necessary for adequate protection and guarantee of the right to life.

Negative

1. There is no “right to housing” – Rights function as claims against others not to interfere in what you’re doing. A guarantee of housing cannot function in such a way, and as such, can’t actually be a right. A government is only obligated to guarantee actual rights to its people.

2. Capitalism – Housing guarantees severely damage economic incentive in capitalist societies. Not only that, it diminishes competition and inevitably reduces overall quality of housing.

3. Moral Conflict/Moral Progress – Socioeconomic conflict is necessary for the moral progress of society. If social needs of the lower classes are met, then those classes are placated, and the status quo is maintained. You can see this in countries like Saudi Arabia.

I know this was a short one, but hopefully it’s a good start for you. Good luck!

Resolved: Public colleges and universities in the United States ought not restrict any constitutionally protected speech.

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censorshipbutton

Resolved: Public colleges and universities in the United States ought not restrict any constitutionally protected speech.

Is this a joke? Why do we insist on making our high school students dumber? I hope people understand that public colleges and universities actually legally cannot restrict constitutionally protected speech. You’re allowed to burn a flag on campus if you want, and #sorrynotsorry, it’s legal. What is this topic attempting to do? Have students debate ‘safe spaces?’ Or are we trying to create a debate between the ideas of absolute free speech and politically correct speech? I just don’t understand. The great tragedy is that you’re forcing people to argue for an entirely un-arguable position. But, whatever, I guess that’s just me.

Definitions

Public colleges and universities – These are institutions which are funded primarily through public money e.g. taxes and the like. It’s a pretty simple distinction, and the reason it’s included is because private institutions are basically allowed to do what they want. It’s the same difference between public and private high schools.

Constitutionally protected speech – This resolution should not turn into a debate about what is actually protected under the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court has already made those decisions, and that is the scope we have to deal with. Most speech is protected, so long as it doesn’t cause any imminent danger to any person, or it doesn’t declare intent of violence like a threat to kill someone. If you want more clarification, you can look up the relevant case law, but again, don’t over complicate it.

Ought – This is the more important word in the resolution. You have to determine how public colleges and universities determine what they should do. Unlike most LD topics, the agent of action here isn’t an individual or a government, but rather a public institution. The evaluation becomes a little trickier as a result.

Case Positions

Aff.

  1. Quality of Education – A college’s primary directive is to provide the best education possible to prepare students for the real world. Hindering any free speech diminishes the quality of education a person receives. Free speech is not censored in the real world, and students need to understand how to deal with a variety of different ideas.
  2. Justice – Aristotle said the first virtue of any social institution is justice. Justice demands that freedom of speech not be restricted. Simple.
  3. It’s a Crime – Restricting constitutionally protected speech is unconstitutional! So, obviously, it shouldn’t be done.
  4. Moral Conflict – Moral progress cannot occur without moral conflict. Ideas need to be free to compete, and when educational institutions restrict speech, they restrict that competition. This ensures that destructive ideologies will continue to exist and proliferate rather than being exposed and rejected.

Neg.

  1. Utilitarianism – Restricting free speech does not eliminate it. By restricting it, we create a world which promotes happiness for a greater number of people.
  2. Virtue Ethics – Aristotelean ethics tell us to find the middle ground between two extremes. In this case, the virtuous course is limited restrictions which allow students to feel safe while still allowing for free and quality education.
  3. Moral Precedent – Restricting speech sets an important precedent that freedom of speech is a responsibility and needs to be treated as such. It creates an educational system which teaches students to be considerate and compassionate, creating a better society.

Hope that helps. Good luck!

Resolved: The United States ought to limit qualified immunity for police officers.

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Resolved: The United States ought to limit qualified immunity for police officers.

The train of garbage resolutions continues. Not only is this topic mired in long and complicated legal doctrines, its lack of specificity also makes for a terrible debate. This could have been phrased much more appropriately as something like, “When in conflict, an individual’s constitutional rights ought to take priority over effective law enforcement.” This resolution does a miserable job of posing what is an otherwise interesting and politically relevant question. Instead, now we’re going to be forced to sit through hours of nonsensical debate about what the word “limit” means. Jeebus! I’m thinking of retiring if they keep this up. For now, though, we have to go through the crap we have to go through I suppose.

Definitions

Qualified Immunity – Qualified immunity protects law enforcement from liability for damages caused. To put it in simple terms, if a police officer destroys stuff or hurts people in the line of duty, he/she isn’t liable for those damages unless clearly established rights that the officer would have reasonably known about were violated. Here’s a good link with the legal background on it. http://www.lectlaw.com/def2/q063.htm

Limit – I can’t even begin to define this. Qualified immunity is already limited to not apply in cases where clearly established rights, which a reasonable person would be aware of, have been violated. How much more could it be limited? Do we put a monetary cap on the damages? Do we limit it to cases where unclear rights have been violated? Not to mention, it’s also only a defense against being sued. If the case goes to court, it doesn’t apply anyway. The way I see it, there are two ways to approach this definition to avoid a terrible debate.

  • The first is to take a theoretical approach and just say the means of limitation are irrelevant. We have to rephrase the question to effectively say, “Is qualified immunity too loosely used?” That way, the moral question of law enforcement liability can be addressed while avoiding the quagmire of how to legislate it.
  • The second is to say that limit means eliminate. This way the question also becomes much clearer and focuses on the moral legitimacy of qualified immunity.

Those seem like the two best options.

Case Positions

Affirmative

  1. Immunity Threatens Tyranny – Qualified immunity allows for a tyrannical and unaccountable police force. Effectively, it allows law enforcement to plead ignorance while obviously violating the rights of the citizens. This is dangerous and harmful.
  2. Security – Qualified immunity actually makes society less safe because it allows law enforcement to operate at a much less stringent standard. Because the shield of immunity exists, it encourages officers to take more risks, leading to decreased security.
  3. Immunity is Unconstitutional – This is a tough position to take, but it can be argued that immunity creates a class of citizens treated as ‘above the law.’ This effectively violated the constitutional doctrine of equality under the law because it affords privilege to certain people. Additionally, it codifies and excuses the violation of human rights, especially with the recent supreme court decision in Pearson v. Callahan which permits local courts to more easily dismiss claims brought against law enforcement.

Negative

  1. Rule of Law – Society breaks down without immunity. Law enforcement would be crippled in modern American society if immunity protection was limited. It would allow criminals to wreak havoc while law enforcement suffered the battles in court to protect themselves and justify their actions.
  2. Categorical Imperative – The question being asked is whether or not a person should be liable for damages caused in the course of performing their work. Taken to its universal moral conclusion, an affirmative answer creates a world in which law enforcement basically no longer exists. This is not a world we would want to live in.
  3. Security – Immunity allows police officers to do their jobs more effectively and creates a more secure society. As security is the primary purpose of law enforcement, it should be prioritized.

That’s it, hope that helps! Good luck!

Resolved: Countries ought to prohibit the production of nuclear power

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Resolved: Countries ought to prohibit the production of nuclear power

I can’t even begin to describe how terrible this topic is. If this is any indication of what’s going to be upcoming, then it’s going to be a terribly rough year. We have to debate it, though, so let’s see what we can come up with.

Definitions

Countries – It’s important to note that this refers to a country’s government. A “country” has no ability to prohibit or permit anything. Rather, its government does. Don’t get bogged down in what this term might mean. It’s pretty obvious.

Ought to prohibit – This is the crux of the case. The resolution is asking a question of what a country should, so your framework must answer the question of how we determine what a country should do, or more specifically, how we determine what a country should prohibit.

Nuclear power – This includes nuclear power in all its forms. The resolution does not specify just nuclear weapons, so if you’re advocating for a prohibition, you’re advocating for a complete prohibition. The neg, however, does not need to fully negate all forms of nuclear power. As long as some nuclear power is permissible, the negative is fulfilling it’s burden of negation.

Case Positions

Affirmative

1. Security – Any government’s first obligation is to the security of its people. Nuclear power has time and time again shown to be destructive, whether used in weaponry or as civilian energy. It does not provide enough utility to offset the security concerns either. Because it harms security, nuclear power ought to be prohibited.

2. Economics – Particularly when it comes to energy productions, government must do what is in the economic interests of the nation. Nuclear energy has proven to be a poor investment. The up front construction costs, along with other costs, are not offset by the energy production provided, especially considering that nuclear reactors do, at some point, need to be decommissioned.

Negative

1. Progress – A government’s obligation is to promote the progress of its society. The best way to achieve progress is through moral conflict, and the promotion of nuclear energy causes just that. Allowing nuclear power production to continue will spur research into alternative and sustainable energy sources by forcing people for confront harsh realities about society’s energy needs and the dangers associated with meeting those needs through the use of nuclear power.

2. Security and MAD – In a nuclear world, the only way to truly ensure security is through mutually assured destruction. As long as everyone has nuclear weapons, nobody will use them because all governments are self interested parties concerned with their own preservation. Therefore, to be the most secure, governments ought to encourage the development of nuclear weapons rather than prohibit nuclear power.

I hope that helps. Good luck!

Resolved: The United States ought to promote democracy in the Middle East

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democracy

Resolved: The United States ought to promote democracy in the Middle East.

The NFL really needs to stop recycling topics. I think this one comes back every three or four years. Although it’s still relevant, the arguments haven’t really changed, and it’s tiring to debate the same thing repeatedly. This is also an awful topic. It is rife with the opportunity for definition debate, an opportunity students jump on all too often these days. I’ll do my best in this topic overview to not get mired in the definitions and give you principles you can apply categorically to the resolution.

Definitions

Democracy – In this resolution, democracy does not refer to the absolute form of democracy that was advocated in Athens. This is referring to most any form of representative government in which the people elect their leaders. In the modern world, constitutional monarchies like England are also considered democracies. Do not get caught up in the nuances of what a democracy is. The point the resolution is trying to get at is whether or not the principles which create and sustain a democracy should be promoted.

Promote – This is another one where there is an opportunity to get confused in the details. Promote can mean anything from dropping flyers to conducting a military occupation and establishing a puppet regime. There are many ways to promote democracy, and if you think of a position, it must be applicable to all of these methods or it will not works.

Ought – As always, this is the crux of the resolution. You must establish a framework which explains how a government determines what it should do, and then apply that framework to this specific context.

Case Positions

Affirmative

1. National Interest – A government’s metric for action should always be what is in its national interest, or the interest of its people. If democracy flourishes in the Middle East, so will stability. This stability will lead to a decline in conflict, reduction in terrorism, and increase in economic prosperity. The result is that the United States will be more secure and will have more economic partners to help secure its interests.

2. Moral Obligation – Every nation has certain moral obligations in a globalized world. These moral obligations come from the common morality that is established by everyone being a human being and being entitled to certain rights and privileges. Those who are able to promote and protect the principles of this common morality ought to do so, and the United States is one such nation. Promoting democracy in the Middle East will help bring human rights to a region of the world which currently is lacking them. The U.S. has a moral obligation to see that happens.

3. Perpetual Peace – Democracy is the only form of government which can sustain a perpetual peace. Every nation ought to prioritize establishing a global peace because that is better for the world. Therefore, the United States has an obligation to promote democracy everywhere, including the Middle East.

Negative

1. Self Determination – Regardless of how the U.S. operates, people in the Middle East need to be free to determine their own form of government and societal structure. This is true not only because it is a fundamental human right, but also because it is the only way to lead to a self sustaining and successful country. Historically, nations which have been deprived of self determination do not fare so well.

2. Security – A nation’s first obligation is to the security of its people. That is the primary reason governments are formed. Promoting democracy in the Middle East, or trying to, has damaged the security of the American people by creating resentment and conflict. Foreign interference has historically been destructive and caused severe backlash, so the United States should not promote democracy in the Middle East.

3. Governmental Legitimacy – When it comes to action, especially with regards to foreign policy, a government must need an impetus in order to legitimately act. This impetus must correspond to an obligation a government has to its own people. Otherwise, the action violates its social contract. Promoting democracy in the Middle East does not correspond to any obligation the U.S. government has to its own people, therefore, it ought not do so.

That should provide a good start for you. As always, please post comments if you have questions or want to discuss anything. Thanks!

 

Resolved: In the United States, private ownership of handguns ought to be banned.

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Resolved: In the United States, private ownership of handguns ought to be banned.

This a great topic, and a relevant one as well. It’s good that students will get thinking about this issue. I’m a little confused, though, as to why it’s an LD topic. It seems more like a PF one. It will be tricky for debaters not to get bogged down in the practical nuances and focus on the value debate, especially with the increasingly terrible judges on the debate circuit these days. In any case, let’s do it.

Definitions

Private ownership of handguns – This is individual people privately owning handguns. Don’t get caught up in the nuances of what this means, but rather the principle behind it. Keep this definition simple.

Banned – This means that said private ownership will not be legally permitted. Again, the nuances of what the punishment will be and how it will be enforced are irrelevant.

Case Positions

Aff.

1. Utilitarianism – Gun ownership is bad. It leads to people being harmed. Empirically, countries all around the world have demonstrated that restricting gun ownership leads to less death. Therefore, we should ban private gun ownership.

2. Veil of Ignorance – I know I use this a lot here, but it’s a great position. If you put everyone behind a veil of ignorance, then people would vote that nobody has any guns.

3. The Categorical Imperative – Gun ownership violates 2 of the 3 maxims of the categorical imperative. Therefore, it should be banned.

Neg.

1. The Constitution – This is a fairly weak argument in my opinion, but it’s on here because a lot of people will be running it. The right to bear arms is in the U.S. Constitution, and that is the document which should determine what the U.S. government ought to do.

2. Property Rights – Banning private gun ownership is a violation of individual property rights. The government does not have the authority to violate these individual rights.

3. Mutually Assured Destruction – Banning private gun ownership exposes a population to dangers. MAD theory dictates that, if everybody is armed, then nobody will fire the first shot because everyone else will be prepared to destroy them.

I hope that helps, good luck!

Resolved: In the United States criminal justice system, jury nullification ought to be used in the face of perceived injustice.

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Resolved: In the United States criminal justice system, jury nullification ought to be used in the face of perceived injustice.

I think I like this topic. I say think because I’m not entirely sure. This one could either be really good and offer debaters a great playground to carry out some wonderful debates, but I worry that modern debate has become so bogged down with nonsense that such a thing may not happen. Alas, we forge ahead regardless.

Definitions

Jury Nullification – This is when a jury intentionally returns a verdict of “not guilty” despite the defendant actually being guilty of breaking the law. In doing so, the jury effectively nullifies the law.

Perceived Injustice – Literally, this is saying that some moral wrong has been perceived. In the context of the resolution, this means that the jury perceives an injustice has taken place. This can include, but is not limited to, an unjust law, evidence planting, legal technicalities, etc…

Case Positions

Negative

1. Legal Positivism – There are two possible extensions to the positivist theory. This is the first, and the second is mentioned below in the affirmative case position. Positivism, if accepted as true, allows for the law to be fallible, meaning that it can work against the morals of the people. This realization lends credence to the normative claim that we ought not to obey every law, especially if it is unjust. It allows morality to supersede law as it does not inform that law.

2. Instrumentalism – The law is an instrument to achieve particular ends. Those ends are not morality or some concept of justice, but rather social order. To allow jury nullification would be to deny these ends, and therefore, damage social order.

3. Coherence Theory – Coherence theory holds that the truth of any proposition is determined by its coherence with a set of other propositions. This set derives from what the largest number of people currently hold to be true. It is therefore inappropriate for a small jury to arbitrarily decide truths, moral or otherwise, that do not cohere with the established law.

Affirmative

1. Legal Positivism and Moral Fallibility – This is a more philosophically dense affirmative position. Positivism contends that the existence of law depends upon the fact of its existence, not from the extension of its morality. Basically, whether or not a law is moral or immoral, just or unjust, does not change the fact that it is a law, and by extension, ought to be obeyed. To nullify the law would essentially be to take it out of existence.

2. The Categorical Imperative – Kant’s categorical imperative provides an excellent framework for assessing this issue. The three maxims can be used to argue that jury nullification is the preferred policy.

3. Governmental Legitimacy – A government exists to protect the rights of its people. If it does not meet that end, such as by enacting unjust laws, then it is no longer legitimate, and the people have the right to act against it. Jury nullification is one such method to act against the government.

I hope this helps. Good luck!

Resolved: Adolescents ought to have the right to make autonomous medical choices.

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Resolved: Adolescents ought to have the right to make autonomous medical choices.

Welcome to a brand new debate season! Who’s excited?! I’m excited that, maybe, for the first time in nearly 5 years, the NFL will go back to the glory days of LD Debate, when topics were broad and philosophical and not stupid….or more stupid. Yay! Let’s get into it.

Definitions

Adolescents – This is the group of people who are no longer children but not yet adults. The specific ages differ depending on where you are, but the age should really be irrelevant. You’re arguing the principle of whether or not these people, however society decides to define, should be able to make autonomous medical decisions.

Autonomous Medical Decisions – These are decisions one makes about his/her medical care free from outside influence or coercion. This is to say that a person can freely and independently make their own medical decisions, as an adult would.

Ought – Ought means should. Your job here is to explain how we determine what rights people should have.

Right – This is also your job to define. There are a lot of rights theories out there which explain rights in different ways. While we conceptually know what rights are, it’s important to elucidate exactly what you’re arguing for/against.

AFF

1. Veil of Ignorance – The argument here is that, from behind a veil of ignorance, all people would choose to have control over their own medical decisions. Ergo, any just social policy would dictate that adolescents have the right to make autonomous medical choices.

2. Self Determination – The right to self determination corresponds to one’s ability to be self-determinant. All beings who have such a capacity have a de facto right of self-determination which extends to medical decisions. Adolescents are self-determinant, and therefore, should have the right to make autonomous medical decisions.

NEG

1. The Categorical Imperative – Such autonomy is not universalizeable. We cannot reasonably say that all adolescents, or even all people, should have the right to make autonomous medical decisions. Therefore, we cannot say that, in general, adolescents should have the right to make autonomous medical decisions.

2. Utilitarianism – Adolescents are short sighted and prone to mistakes. Allowing them to make autonomous medical decisions would often result in harmful choices with long term consequences that they will not be able to foresee. Allowing parents to make their decisions for them is the more utilitarian approach.

I hope that helps get you started. Good luck!

 

Resolved: Just governments ought to ensure food security for their citizens.

What’s with all these social justice topics? This one is almost identical to the last one, except that it’s much worse. I don’t know how anybody thought this topic could actually be debated. Food security does not look the same in any two places in the world, whether the government is just or not. Not only that, this topic is nearly impossible to debate on theoretical grounds. Of course, if the government can, it should ensure food security. The debate rests on how the government should do that, and if the how, isn’t appropriate, only then does the answer become that it shouldn’t. The trouble is that the resolution provides no context for the how. I don’t understand why people don’t see these things. Who the hell is voting for these topics, and why haven’t they been fired? In any case, the topic must be debated, so let’s see what we can do.

Definitions

Food Security – Food security is the idea that you don’t have to worry where your next meal will come from, or if you will even have a next meal. You have a constant and reliable source of food that you need to survive.

Just Government – This will be defined through your value structure. In order to address the resolution, you must provide a framework to assess what a just government should do.

Citizens – This is pretty straightforward and shouldn’t actually impact the debate. I suspect people will try to debate the validity of providing food security for illegal immigrants and such, but that’s not the point of the resolution. For the sake of a good debate, this should be defined simply as anyone legally residing within a country’s borders.

Case Positions

Aff

1. Veil of Ignorance – I hate to keep using this position on every topic, but it’s quite applicable. Behind a veil of ignorance, everyone would choose a policy which allows for food security for all of society.

2. Maslow’s Heirarchy – The base level of Maslow’s heirarchy includes food. Only if food is provided can a government move on to providing safety for its citizens. Since government is formed to protect its citizens’ safety, it must provide food security.

Neg

1. Rights and Obligations – Rights function as claims on other people or entities within the social contract. What this means is that, for every right I possess, someone else has a corresponding obligation. In this way, I have a claim on that other person to do, or not to do, something. There is no human right which functions has a claim to food security. Therefore, a government need not provide food security in order to be just.

2. Moral Progress – Moral conflict is at the heart of moral progress. Food security, by reducing moral tension in society, reduces moral conflict among different classes. This results in slower moral progress of society. Therefore, a just government, in order to truly be moral, must not interfere with the moral landscape of its society by providing food security.

There you go; I hope this helps. As I said, it’s a terrible topic, so good luck debating it!

Resolved: Just governments ought to require that employers pay a living wage.

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Resolved: Just governments ought to require that employers pay a living wage.

This is such a broad and open topic since there isn’t a direct clash between two competing values. Creativity will be your friend here, so take the time to think of unique positions. This is also an incredibly one sided topic, so it will be important to have a well formulated framework.

Definitions

Just governments – This is something that will be defined in your value structure and will be the focal point of your case. What does it mean for a government to be just? How do we determine if a government is just? These are questions you will need to answer.

Ought – Like all debate resolutions, ought means should. Along with defining what a just a government is, you will also need to determine how we figure out what a just government should do.

Living Wage – A living wage is the wage necessary for a person to meet his/her basic needs. Don’t make it more complicated than this. The intent of the resolution is not to debate what a living wage is. We’re not debating if the government should increase the minimum wage either.

Case Positions

Aff.

1. Societal Welfare – A central component of justice is protecting the positive rights of people and providing for societal welfare. Healthcare, voting, etc…. all fall under this umbrella. Similarly, a living wage must also be protected in order to achieve societal welfare. Therefore, if a government is to be just, it must require employers to provide a living wage.

2. Security – The reason the social contract is formed is for security. People sacrifice the absolute freedom of the state of nature to have their security protected. A living wage is a necessary requisite for security. It allows for food security, personal security, and shelter as well. In order for a government to fulfill its obligation to security under the social contract, it must require the employers provide a living wage.

3. Distributive Justice – A just government is one which distributes social benefits appropriately. Form behind a veil of ignorance, all rational agents would choose to have a living wage provided. Therefore, a just government must require that employers provide a living wage.

Neg.

1. Economic Freedom – A just government must allow for economic freedom. It shouldn’t be setting any wage, let alone a living wage. The free market will determine the appropriate wages for workers. Therefore, a just government ought not to require a living wage.

2. Property Rights – A living wage is a claim on the property of the employer. Since the money is theirs, it is at their discretion to determine how it is spent. The government exercising a claim on an individual’s property on behalf of another is an unjust act, and therefore, a just government will not require a living wage.

3. Virtue Ethics – The government should not set a living wage because it is the extreme of one end of the decision. A living wage is too taxing on employers, while complete free market wages are destructive to workers. Instead, the government should set a minimum wage which is slightly below a living wage in order to maintain proper economic stability. A just government will find the median between the two extreme options and exercise only that median.

I hope that helps get you started. Good luck!