Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.

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Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.

I love when they recycle old topics. And by that I mean, wtf are they doing recycling old topics? Come up with something more relevant! Alas, like the many topics before this one, we’re stuck with what we’ve got, so let’s talk about it.

Parts of Speech and Definitions

Nouns – 

Rehabilitation – This is the approach to justice which focuses on helping criminals see the error of their ways and once again making them productive members of society

Retribution – This is the approach to justice which focuses on punishing criminals for the wrongs they have committed

U.S. Criminal Justice System – We know what this is; it doesn’t really need a definition.

Verbs –

Ought to be valued – This is the crux of your case. You must develop a framework which addresses how we determine what a criminal justice system ought to value. Based upon that framework, you need to explain why the U.S. criminal justice system ought to value rehabilitation of retribution

Potential Case Positions


1. Societal Welfare – A society is better off with a greater number of productive members. Prisoners do not do society any good. Therefore, there should be a focus on rehabilitating criminals and releasing them back into society for the sake of making society better as a whole. The recidivism rate is so high anyway that simple punish only creates more problems.

2. Violence Breeds Violence – The punishment environments, particularly for violent criminals, in the United States are terrible places where once must become increasingly adept at criminal activity in order to simply survive. The culture within prison systems is not one which encourages proper and just behavior, but rather one which encourages prisoners to become more immersed in a criminal culture. A focus on punishment only exacerbates this and creates increasingly violent criminals as opposed to solving our problems.

3. Rehabilitation is More Economical – We spend a great deal taxpayer money on punishment systems in the United States, at almost unsustainable levels. The problem is that we really don’t have anything to show for it. All this expenditure on punishment hasn’t resulted in a significant decrease in crime. Rehabilitation costs much less, and if properly executed, it addresses the upstream causes of crime, resulting in a tangible decrease.


1. Governmental Legitimacy – As per the social contract, a government can only be legitimate if it properly enacts punishments for violations of the social contract. If focusing on rehabilitation, the government must inevitably become more lax on punishment. Therefore, we sacrifice true retributive justice in some vain hope of rehabilitating someone who has already proven himself to have disregarded the social contract.

2. Retributive Justice – True retributive justice actually demands that there be no focus on rehabilitation. Criminals violate the social, and therefore, they give up any corresponding rights to those obligations which they violated. They don’t deserve to be rehabilitated and integrated back into society because they had their chance to be a part of that society and chose to disregard its rules.

3. Retribution Accomplishes Rehabilitation’s Goals Better – Plato explains that the only true deterrence to a crime is the threat of punishment, and Hobbes agrees. The reason criminals continue to commit crimes is not because they think it’s OK but because they don’t fear the punishment associated with it. If the justice systems focuses on punishment, this deterrent mechanism of fear becomes much more active.

That should help you get started. Good luck!

Resolved: The United States should prioritize tax increases over spending cuts.

Resolved: The United States should prioritize tax increases over spending cuts.

Wow, what is with all these terrible topics? The vagueness in this topic alone should have been enough for the NFL to reject it, particularly for a PF topic. Not to mention, this topic is horrendously weighted for the Con. Like all the other crap, however, we’re stuck with it, so let’s get down to business.

Important Terms and Definitions

The United States – Don’t let anyone tell you that this refers to anything other than the federal government. That’s what we’re talking about, not state governments.

Should – This is the crux of your case. You must understand how to determine what a government should prioritize, and you must use that understanding to build your contentions.

Prioritize – If you’re on the pro, here is the scenario for you: You have to pick between tax increases and spending cuts. You think tax increases are better. Prove it. This is what prioritization means, end of story.

Tax Increases and Spending Cuts – These terms are so vague. Where are we cutting spending? What does the tax increase look like? The terribad phrasing here not only precludes that all tax increases/spending are equal, but it also asks you to determine a philosophical difference as opposed to a practical one. Has the NFL forgotten that this is PF? As far as a definition is concerned, we all know what tax increases and spending cuts are. Your job is to understand how they manifest in particular segments of the economy (defense, welfare systems, healthcare, energy, etc…) In your case, I would advise against going into specifics regarding particular sectors, but be prepared for abusive arguments which do such things.

Potential Case Positions


1. Efficiency of Tax Increases – A government’s priorities ought to be determined by what is the most efficient option for accomplishing its goals. Tax increases are more efficient than spending cuts. Pragmatically speaking, they are easier to push through congress because they are not subject to as much quibbling as spending reform. Taxes are the most direct for of revenue for the federal government, and the rich can definitely afford to pay more in taxes.

2. Effectiveness of Tax Increases – A government should do what is most effective in accomplishing its goals. While spending cuts may help us save money, they do not allow us to direct funds toward new initiatives which will help rebuild our economy. The new educational and healthcare initiatives which are now being put into place require money.


1. Tax Increases are Unnecessary – We spend more on defense than the next 27 countries combined. We spend more per capita on healthcare than any other nation, and we’re in the top 10 per capita spending on education. We clearly don’t need more money. We need to spend it more wisely. If we fixed our government programs and allocated money more appropriately, increased taxes would be unnecessary.

2. Tax Increases Harm Small Business – This is a fairly obvious point. If we increase taxes, it makes it more difficult for small businesses to operate. Small businesses are a large driving for economic growth and success, and we really shouldn’t hinder them.

3. Spending Cuts are More Effective – Spending cuts don’t happen often, but when they do, they show remarkable results. The $200 billion decrease in military spending had an immediate positive impact on the economy that few people talk about. Harlem Children’s Zone is another great example of how managed spending can still yield good results and outcomes. Throwing money at problems doesn’t fix them. If stop spending as much money, it forces us to evaluate how to spend it most effectively.

This should be good to get you started. As always, feel free to post comments and such.

Resolved: Developed countries have a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Resolved: Developed countries have a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change.

What is this nonsense? I cannot remember a more terribad PF resolution in recent memory, except maybe the one about NBA uniforms. EFF! Regardless of my feelings, however, it’s what we’re stuck with, so let’s break it down.

Nouns: Developed countries, moral obligation, effects, climate change

Verbs: have, mitigate


Developed countries – Do not fuss over this definition. We all have an understanding of what developed countries are, and we can all list examples of them. The purpose of specifying developed is to avoid the economic/ability argument that the country just doesn’t have the resources to address climate change. Countries like the U.S., UK, China, etc… all have the ability to tackle the effects of climate change. We need to address whether or not they have a moral obligation to do so.

Mitigate – This is a tricky term. What precisely does it mean to mitigate the effects of climate change? There are a number of ways to do this. You can start green initiatives, or you can just find a way to make polar bears and ice caps. I know there will be a lot of quibbling over what mitigation entails, but I admonish you not to fall into that trap. The resolution does not want you to focus on the method. Mitigating the effects of climate change means instituting environmentally conscious economic policies and enforcing them, simple and straight forward.

Moral Obligation – This is the crux of the case, and it will not be addressed in your definitions. Rather, your case needs to develop an understanding of where governmental moral obligations come from and precisely why this dictates a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change. This is very difficult to do in PF because you only have 4 minutes and no overt structure requirement like LD.

Case Positions


1. Protection of the People – Climate change poses and drastic and direct threat to every population. Its effects impact weather safety, food quality, and even resource competition. A government’s primary moral obligation is to protect its people from threats, foreign and domestic. If the government does not do its part to mitigate the effects of climate change, it is falling short of its main obligation

2. Humanitarian Obligations – Developed nations have a moral obligation to contribute to prosperity across the globe. It is incumbent upon those who have more to aid those who are less fortunate. Peter Senger goes on endlessly about this. Climate change has been proven to lead to a number of conflicts which have escalated into tremendous violence and oppression. If developed nations address climate change, it will bring us close to a peaceful society.


1. Climate Change Poses no Direct Threat – Climate change does not pose any significant or tangible threat to human populations. The scientific reality is that, as humans, we are more than capable of adjusting with the climate. The polar bear lovers will try and make you believe that melting ice caps and such threaten your livelihood. This just isn’t true. As such, governments have no obligation to address climate change because a government’s obligations are primarily to its people.

2. Climate Change Policies Violate the Free Market – When it comes to economics, developed nations have a primary obligation to promote free market systems because those systems demonstrably result in better outcomes. Green policies are a direct violation of free markets. Not only does this violate the government’s obligations, but it also sets a bad precedent for developing nations. These other nations cannot develop with green policies as they just do not have the resources to sustain them. If the developed nations decide to introduce international green initiatives, it may actually end up damaging the global economy.

Good luck!

Resolved: The United States ought to guarantee universal health care for its citizens.

Resolved: The United States ought to guarantee universal health care for its citizens.

I hate this topic. This should not be a topic at all, let alone an LD topic. It is all sorts of poorly worded. Nevertheless, it’s what we’re stuck with, so let’s break it down.

Parts of Speech

Nouns: United States, universal health care, citizens

Verbs: ought, guarantee

United States – Obviously we know what the United States is. There is no reason to dwell on this definition. Because of the poor wording of the resolution, however, there is tremendous potential for abuse here. The intent of the resolution is clearly to focus on the national government. The question is whether or not the national government to provide health coverage for citizens. Do not try to be sketchy and argue that the state governments will provide it, or that the government will develop employer programs that will provide it. Focus on the philosophical question of whether or not it is a governmental obligation, regardless of the mechanism by which that obligation is carried out.

Universal Health Care – Again, we all know what universal health care is, but there is still a tremendous potential for abuse. Universal health care is, simply put, complete health coverage at no cost to the individual. Again, the particular mechanisms and costs should be irrelevant. The resolution asks the question of whether or not the government should provide it.

Citizens – Again, we all know what citizens are, as defined by the U.S. constitution and its laws.

Guarantee – In this context, guarantee means provide. Essentially, if you’re a U.S. citizen, you will receive universal health care.

Ought – This will be the crux of your case, or at least, it should be. You must develop a framework which you can use to evaluate what government should or should not do. Like resolutions before this, ought should not be defined using a definition at the top of your case. Rather, your value structure will help you determine how we know what a government ought to do.

Alrighty, with those definitions in mind, let’s talk about some potential case positions.


Distributive Justice – Rawls argues that true justice stems from a proper system of distributive justice. Government policy should be predicated about how rights and privileges should best be distributed for all. This evaluation ought to take place behind a veil of ignorance which ignores socioeconomic factors like income or geographical location because that is the only way to ensure a proper distribution. The argument here is that everyone, if placed behind a veil of ignorance, would agree that universal health care is a good thing. If you could wake up tomorrow and be any person in society, you would want to know that your health needs are taken care of. Therefore, proper distributive justice demands that the government provide universal health care for its citizens.

Rights and Obligations – Rights function in accordance with obligations. This is to say that if someone has a right, they must definitely have a corresponding obligation, or a claim that others have on them to act in a particular way. The U.S. government has the right to determine and enforce health policies across the country. It has the right to monetarily regulate the healthcare industry. Therefore, it must necessarily have the obligation to provide health care for its citizens. Otherwise, the right doesn’t really make sense.

Health Care is a Right – I really don’t like this position, but I suppose many people will try to run it. The essential argument here is that health care is a natural right that goes along with the right to life that the government is obligated to protect. If not that, then health care must at least be a positive right which the government ought to provide in order to contribute to societal welfare.


Health Care is Not a Right – This is the direct opposite of the affirmative position. A government is only obligated, as per the social contract, to protect the negative rights of its citizens i.e. the citizens have protections against infringement by the government. Health care is not such a protection, and therefore, the government has no obligation to provide it.

Universal Health Care Violates Capitalism – The United States economy is predicated upon capitalist notions, theoretically. It operates under the belief that free market forces will result in the best outcomes for consumers and producers. Based upon this reality, the free market ought to dictate how health care pans out in the country. If the government provides it, it will be overstepping its boundaries, and the quality of health care will actually decrease.

Universal Health Care is Unconstitutional – The U.S. constitution does not allow any provisions for the government to actually provide health care. The Commerce Clause does not properly justify such a drastic operation by the government.

I hope these positions help get you started. As always, feel free to comment, and I will get back to you!

Resolved: The United States ought to extend to non-citizens accused of terrorism the same constitutional due process protections it grants to citizens.

Resolved: The United States ought to extend to non-citizens accused of terrorism the same constitutional due process protections it grants to citizens.

Here we go! Another season, another round of topic analyses. If you are new to the blog, I recommend you take some time to look through prior topics so you gain an understandings of how I do things and what I am trying to accomplish. As always, comments and discussion are very welcome 🙂

Parts of Speech

Verbs – ought to extend, grants

Nouns – United States, non-citizens accused of terrorism, citizens, constitutional due process protections


Non-citizens accused of terrorism – This is a slightly tricky definition with potential for abuse. Technically, the resolution does not specify that these people have to be non-citizens of the United States. They could theoretically be non-citizens of any nation. DO NOT use this grammatical mistake to your advantage/disadvantage. It will pollute the debate with all sorts of nonsense. Accusations of terrorism in this context come from the state. It is possible to argue that certain people may be accused of terrorism by the international community (like Omar Al-Bashir). Do not debate the definition of accused, and do not debate the definition of terrorism. The point here is that the U.S. considers these people to be terrorists.

Citizens – We all know what a U.S. citizen is and how a person gets to be a U.S. citizen. Just find a good definition from a credible source, and stick it in your case.

Constitutional Due Process Protections – This is also fairly straightforward, though people will try to abuse this term by defining either too narrowly or too widely what due process protections entail. If you start debating distinctions between procedural and substantive due process and getting into specifics of the U.S. court system, you will stray away from the true clash/conflict of the resolution. Due process in the Constitution is in the 5th and 14th amendments. Read them, distill the protections from them, and stick them in your case.

Ought to Extend – This is the crux of this resolution, and it will be definition through your framework. Why ought the United States do anything? That is the first question you must answer, and that use what you come up with to analyze whether or not the U.S. ought to do what the resolution asks.

Potential Case Positions


1. Human Rights – Due process is a fundamental human right, and therefore, should not be taken away from anyone. If the United States were to rob anyone of these rights, citizen or not, it would be committing a moral crime.

2. Moral Precedent – The purpose of denying these rights would be to more effectively deter terrorism. However, terrorism is more effectively deterred if these rights are protected even for our enemies. The U.S. has the power to set a global moral precedent which has the power to propagate human rights across the globe. The U.S. should lead by example. After all, if we deny human rights, then we are no better than the enemies we so despise.

3. Human Dignity – Nothing of moral significance separates a citizen from a non-citizen. All humans are morally entitled, by default, to fundamental rights. In order to win, the negative would have to prove that something morally significant separates citizens from non-citizens, which is not possible.

4. Innocent Before Proven Guilty – Because these individuals have only been accused of terrorism, there is no ground to claim that their rights are forfeit. It has not been proven that they have committed any crime, let alone a moral one which warrants sacrifice of their rights.


1. Utilitarianism – Human rights are only valuable because of the ends they achieve. In this case, greater good is achieved if we deny suspected terrorists due process rights so that we can perform interrogations and more effectively combat and deter terrorism.

2. Moral Precedent – A “no mercy” policy is far more effective in deterring terrorism. Plato explains that the severity of punishment is what most effectively deters crime. If people become aware of the severity of the consequences, they will be less likely to engage in terrorist operations.

3. Governmental Legitimacy – A government’s legitimacy stems only from its accountability to its own people. The U.S. government’s legitimacy, therefore, stems from its citizens. As a result, the U.S. does not hold any moral obligations toward non-citizens.

That should help you get started. Good luck!

Resolved: A government has the obligation to lessen the economic gap between its rich and poor citizens

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Resolved: A government has the obligation to lessen the economic gap between its rich and poor citizens.  

Another topic about the economic gap? Didn’t PF already beat this dead horse? Alas, such is the way of the NFL, and so shall it be. Let’s continue with the topic analysis.

Term Identification and Definitions

Nouns – government, obligation, economic gap, rich and poor citizens

Verbs – has, lessen

Government – I foresee a lot of abuse potential with this term. We all know what a government is, and we all know that, in the philosophical realm, conceptions of government precedes analysis of its obligations. Based upon this understanding, you should not actually define government, but rather adopt a philosophical understanding of it and use that to argue your point.

Obligation – An obligation is something which someone/something is required to do. This will be the central focus of the debate. Your case should posit an understanding of where governmental obligations come from. Based upon that understanding, you will argue whether or not a government has an obligation to lessen the economic gap between its rich and poor citizens.

Economic Gap – It is obvious what an economic gap is. People make varying amounts of money. However, the important thing you must pay attention to is the effects associated with this gap. Income disparity is coupled with various other differences, which when summed up, comprise the “economic gap.” These differences include health quality, housing quality, food quality, education quality, etc…

Rich and poor citizens – This is fairly straightforward. There are rich people, and there are poor people. Because the resolution is not specific to any nation in particular, do not try to put a number or country on this definition. We all have an understanding of what rich and poor people are.

Potential Case Positions


Rights Correspond to Obligations – Social contract theorists and rights theorists have argued that claim/obligation duality is what comprises rights. The question “what is a right?” is best answered by a joint couple of a claim and obligation. A claim is a restriction which we have on other peoples’ actions, and an obligation is a restriction we have on our own actions. For example, the right to life consists of the claim on others not to kill us and the obligation on us not to kill others. All rights, including governmental rights, function this way. Governments have the right to affect fiscal policy, have a national bank, levy taxes, etc…. Therefore, they must have the corresponding obligation to carry out these powers for the best interest of the people, which includes lessening the economic gap between the rich and poor citizens.

Governmental Legitimacy – The function of government is to protect the rights of its citizens. Because of the damage caused by economic gaps, peoples’ equality of opportunity, autonomy, and rights to life are harmed. Therefore, if the government does not work to rectify the situation, then it is not completely striving towards its purpose of protecting citizens’ rights. The government therefore becomes illegitimate, and an illegitimate government is open to popular revolt.

Progress – Society is only as progressive as its least progressed member. The goal of any society and its institutions, including government, ought to be a utopian ideal. This way, society continues to progress and becomes continuously better. If any institution is not striving or contributing to this ultimate end of progress, then it is violating its chief moral purpose. In order to fulfill this moral demand, it must be incumbent upon governments to work to lessen the economic gap between their rich and poor citizens.

Philosophers to study for the Affirmative: John Locke, John Rawls, Peter Singer, Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Payne, Alexander Hamilton


Legitimacy is determined by the government itself – Conceptions of governmental legitimacy are not universal. Rather, once people surrender their rights to the sovereign, and a contract is established, the terms for that particular government’s legitimacy are established. This legitimacy manifests in the form of civic institutions and their functions, not in the form of abstract conceptions. Therefore, the claim that a government necessarily has any obligation other than to abide by its social contract cannot be affirmed. While a government can have the obligation the affirmative proposes, it does not necessarily have it. Therefore, the resolution must be negated.

Limited Government is the Best Government – Government should be small; it should exist only for the military protection of its citizens. Any other action taken by the government is a violation of individual autonomy, which is the paramount good. When a government attempts to lessen the economic gap between its rich and poor, it must inevitably infringe upon property rights, and maybe other rights as well. Therefore, the government does not have an obligation to do so because such an obligation would violate its primary obligation of protecting its people and preserving their autonomy.

Capitalism – Capitalism is the only morally justifiable economic system. Property rights and autonomy can only be maximized in such a system. Any action which violates absolute capitalism is wrong. A government’s only economic obligation, therefore, is to stay out of the economy.

Economic Gaps Create Conflict – Economic gaps are healthy, and the market should be allowed to resolve them on its own, because that is how a society and economy evolves. Economic actors conflict with one another when the poor become unhappy. When this conflict is resolved, the entire economy is better off as a whole. Therefore, it is inappropriate for the government to intervene at any point, because that will only hinder economic progress. If the government succeeds in reducing economic gaps, that will substantially slow progress and development.

Philosophers to study for the Negative: Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, Plato, Ron Paul, Niccolo Machiavelli, Friedrich Nietzsche

I hope this helps get you started. Feel free to post comments and questions.

Resolved: Targeted killing is a morally permissible foreign policy tool

I’m thinking about writing and publishing briefs. So, before reading the topic analysis, if you could please take a second to answer the poll below, I would appreciate it. Thanks!

Alrighty, another topic to analyze and such.

Let’s start with identifying important terms.

Nouns – targeted killing, foreign policy tool

Verbs – is

Adjectives – morally permissible

Now that we’ve identified the important terms, let’s define them.

Targeted Killing – There is no actual definition of targeted killing you can find in a dictionary. The basic definition is the intentional killing of a noncombatant individual. In short, a targeted killing is an assassination. DO NOT try and be abusive with this definition and attempt to identify very narrow circumstances in which targeted killing takes place. The debate needs to focus on the moral permissibility of the action, so just accept a good general definition of it.

Foreign Policy Tool – Please do not make this more complicated than it has to be. A foreign policy tool is something which is used to achieve something in foreign policy. Essentially, what this is doing is specifying the agent and ends of the targeted killing. The government is carrying out/ordering the killing, and it is doing so in order to accomplish some foreign policy goal. This goal could be victory in a war, preventing a nation from building nuclear weapons, deposing an undesirable regime, etc… The actual end doesn’t really matter, just that it is a foreign policy end. The purpose of including this in the definition is to prevent abusive arguments which say that civilians and private organizations should not be allowed to conduct targeted killings.

Morally Permissible – Like the last topic, this is the most important part of this one. In order to argue the resolution, you must explain how we determine whether or not something is morally permissible. This explanation will occur through your value structure, and it will inform the rest of your case, so it is the most crucial part of the case. It is up to you to develop this definition in your value structure.

Ok, with those definitions in mind, let’s talk about some potential case positions.


Utilitarianism – On utilitarian grounds, targeted killing is morally permissible. Targeted killing leads to more expedient victories in armed conflicts, leading to fewer overall casualties. Not to mention, if rogue regimes are prevented from developing nuclear weapons as a result, then the utilitarian calculus definitely favors targeted killing.

Just War Theory – Traditional Jus in Bello war ethics permit targeted killing. Asa Kasher does a very good job picking apart the principle of distinction in his writing and outlines precisely why traditionally accepted moral criteria in war permit the use of targeted killing.

All is Fair in War – General Sherman argued that everything should be permitted in the context of war as it is the only true way to propel us towards a society which does not approve of war at all. Essentially, if we allow everything to be permissible in war, then people will see how terrible war can be and just refuse to go to war in the first place. Therefore, because everything is permissible in war, targeted killing is permissible.


Utilitarianism – Targeted killings cause more violence. When leaders or important individuals are eliminated, their followers are energized by the fervor of vengeance. Not only that, assassinations often leave a power or authority vacuum which splinter groups try to capture, often violently competing with one another. Furthermore, the threats which targeted killing attempts to thwart are unrealistic and often only speculative.

The Principle of Distinction – It is always morally impermissible to target noncombatants regardless of their involvement in the conflict. If they are not directly involved in fighting, they have not directly threatened anyone’s right to life, and therefore, still retain their own right to life.

Targeted Killing Makes Government Illegitimate – Targeted killings are carried out as unilateral actions, and therefore, violate the rules of morally permissible military actions. These killings do not have the consent of the international community, nor do they have the consent of the people which the government rules over. The government derives its right to defend its people from the people’s consent to be defended. At the point where the government begins ignoring this consent, it becomes illegitimate. Therefore, targeted killing is morally impermissible because an illegitimate government is immoral.

I hope this helps get you started. Feel free to ask questions, and good luck! 🙂

How to Debate: The Fundamentals

The current state of high school debate is deplorable, and the national circuit is doing absolutely nothing to help it. I am sick and tired of seeing students using briefs, arguing

theory, and quibbling over definitions. Our instructors have forgotten what it means to debate well and the techniques which actually educate our students and help them grow into better speakers and thinkers. I want to use this post to give debaters an introduction to good debate practices which well help them develop into better debaters. I hope seasoned debaters who have fallen into the trap of being robots instead of actual debaters will also take the time to read this post and hopefully learn something. I will develop more in-depth guides for specific parts and categories of debate, but these general guidelines should provide a good foundation. Instructors need to start cultivating good debate practices again.

1. Do Your Own Research – Briefs are readily available these days. There are, however, numerous problems with these briefs. Excerpts from articles are taken out of context and misrepresent the actual point of the research. Excerpts do not include research methodology, nor do they include counter argument considerations. The biggest problem, however, is that they remove the incentive for students to conduct their own research, resulting in a much weaker understanding of the major issues concerning the resolution. If you read entire articles, and if you find information on your own, you are far more likely to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the resolution. This way, you actually know the reality, and you can articulate it more effectively for the judge. If your opponents come up with statistics you have never heard before, you will at least know whether or not they correspond to the actual situation in the real world because you have spent two weeks reading everything there is to read on the subject.

2. Control Cross Examination – Cross examination is one of the most crucial parts of any debate round. You must be able to control it in order to win. Control involves asking pointed questions. If you don’t know the answer to a question, you shouldn’t ask it in CX (aside from clarifications). You need to listen to what your opponent actually says when they deliver their case. Don’t just tune out after the tag line and pull out your pre-written rebuttal. Your opponent may say something completely different than what you expect, and you need to be ready to address what they’re actually talking about, not what you think they are talking about. Point out logical flaws in your opponent’s case to the judge using your questions.

3. Do Not Make Theory Arguments – Theory is stupid, end of story. It doesn’t matter, and a good stock debater will most often succeed over a good theory debater. Do not attempt to analyze the social situation of debate and pretend like it matters in the round. You are not in the round to debate about debate; you are there to debate the topic you have been given. Your opponent’s definition does not become invalid if it “hinders education which is the purpose of debating.” You know what hinders education? Theory arguments do, because the force us to talk about theory instead of talking about the actual topic.

4. Accept Your Burdens – Every resolution gives each side a particular burden. Do not try to modify your burden to make it easier to argue. Do not be afraid to argue difficult positions. In fact, if you do it well, judges will be more impressed despite their initial reservations.

5. Learn Things – Knowledge is power, and this is especially true in debate. If you just know more than your opponent, then you are already at an advantage. Do not focus so much on figuring out round techniques which will help you win. Rather, develop a knowledge base large enough that your opponent can’t throw anything at you which you cannot counter. You should know all the evidence which is in that giant folder of yours front and back because you should have read it all.

These are some basic characteristics which every debater should develop.

Resolved: Birthright citizenship should be abolished in the United States.

Ok, let’s start with parts of speech.

Nouns – birthright citizenship, United States

Verbs – should be, abolished

Let’s continue with definitions.

Birthright citizenship – Birthright citizenship is the concept that those born in a particular country automatically receive citizenship of that country. In this case, we are concerned with the United States.

Should Be – This is the most central and important part of the debate. If something “should” happen, this indicates that there is a good reason for it to happen. Therefore, it is not enough for you to prove that birthright citizenship is bad, but that abolishing it would be better. After all, alcohol is bad, but that doesn’t necessarily mean prohibition is better.

Abolished – Abolished means ended, permanently.

Preliminary Position Analysis


The Pro must prove that there is a good reason to abolish birthright citizenship. This means they must prove either 1) a U.S. without birthright citizenship would be better than one with birthright citizenship or 2) there is a moral/legal justification to eliminate birthright citizenship regardless of the outcomes.

In order to argue the first position, international comparisons can be useful. Other countries have gotten rid of birthright citizenship. It would be useful to look into these countries and see if it worked out. If it did, then inferential reasoning would dictate that the U.S. ought to follow suit.

As far as the second position is concerned, the legal argument can be made that birthright citizenship allows for aliens to exploit our justice system or that it is not warranted by the 14th Amendment.


Like always, the Con does not have the burden of proving that the opposite of the resolution is true. Rather, the Con must prove that you cannot affirm. Therefore, they have more wiggle room in terms of arguing the topic.

The Con can contend that the cost of abolishing birthright citizenship would cause so much bureaucracy and enforcement costs that any benefits would be invalidated. Essentially, there would be so much spent on policing the new lack of birthright citizenship that we might as well just let immigrants have anchor babies.

The Con can also argue that the benefits don’t matter on moral and legal grounds. It is inappropriate to punish children for the mistakes of their parents, and this contradicts the essential ideals which the U.S. stands for. The child itself did not immigrate to this country, and removing birthright citizenship would force use to put the child through unnecessary turmoil which it does not deserve. Not to mention, the child’s ability to immigrate legally later becomes crippled because of its parents’ actions.

The standard positions exist as well. The Con can always contend that a world without birthright citizenship would be worse than the world with birthright citizenship. Consequently, it shouldn’t be abolished. International comparisons can also be used effectively here.

I hope this helps you get started. Good luck! 🙂

Resolved: It is morally permissible for victims to use deadly force as a deliberate response to repeated domestic violence

I’m thinking about writing and publishing briefs. So, before reading the topic analysis, if you could please take a second to answer the poll below, I would appreciate it. Thanks!

I am surprised to see this topic recycled so soon, and without any current world justification for it. Alas, such is the situation and as such I shall once again provide a topic breakdown.

Let’s begin with terms and definitions.


victims, deadly force, deliberate response, repeated domestic violence (remember how nouns are constructed in debate)


is, use (not important to define)


morally permissible


Victims – The definition for this term seems obvious. Naturally, the person getting beaten or attacked is the victim of the domestic violence. However, in the past, people have attempted to argue that children and other family members can also be included in the definition of “victims.” Therefore, the affirmative must defend the position that other people can also kill the attacker. DON’T DO THIS! This is stupid and abusive, not to mention against the intent of the resolution. It is also a very easy argument to counter and not very convincing to judges in general. The victim is the person being attacked, end of story.

***As another note, some people attempted to point out that the resolution never specifies the target of the deadly force. The abused woman could go kill the bartender that served her alcoholic husband. What then? Again, please don’t do this. The resolution intends the target of the deadly force to be the abuser, however poorly worded the topic may be.***

Deadly Force – Deadly force is force that kills. Do not fall into the trap of debating the eventualities when the target doesn’t actually die, like a gunshot to the leg or shoulder. Just assume the force will kill. Otherwise, there is really no point in debating.

Deliberate Response – The purpose of making the force deliberate is to eliminate accidental killings due to self defense. If a victim reacts to being attacked and kills the attacker without actually intending to do so, then the situation falls outside the resolution. The victim must intend to kill the attacker. Therefore, the deliberate response is intentional and controlled.

Repeated Domestic Violence – Do not make this more complicated than it has to be. Like “in need,” we all have a basic understanding of what repeated domestic violence is. A person in a relationship is continually beaten and abused time and time again. Just find a legitimate source which corresponds to the common understanding of the term, and stick the definition in your case.

Morally Permissible – This is the most important definition in the debate, and it will not be defined with the rest of the terms. Rather, you must use your value structure to show how we determine whether or not something is morally permissible. Like the previous resolution asked you to determine where our moral obligations come from, this one asks you to determine how we determine the morality of an action.

With the definitions addressed, let’s talk about some potential case positions. Remember, the crux of any position is a solid framework which provides a way to evaluate the morality of actions.


Self Defense – Our morals come from the rights claims we agree upon when we form the social contract. According to Hobbes, the only right which we cannot sacrifice completely is the right to self defense. If one’s life is threatened, he/she has the absolute right to defend, and the aggressor effectively sacrifices their right to life by threatening that of another. Repeated domestic violence can be said to actually threaten the victim’s life. It traps them in such a cycle of physical and psychological damage, that it effectively robs them of their life. Therefore, their deliberate use of deadly force to escape the situation is morally permissible. To make it more explicit, suppose the person has been captured by a serial killer. The serial killer continually rapes and beats the victim for several years before killing them. Would we not admit that it is morally permissible for the victim to use deadly force to escape the situation? Why is repeated domestic violence any different?

Vigilante Justice – It is morally permissible for individuals in society to react accordingly when government fails. In the case of repeated domestic violence, it is impossible for government to come up with an adequate response because this violence occurs in the private domain. Justice systems the world over have failed to develop appropriate recourse systems which efficiently and adequately respond to domestic violence. It is impossible to record the goings on in every home to protect against this crime. Therefore, it falls upon the victim to react. This is the same reason we retain the right to bear arms.


Alternatives Exist – Options which harm people become morally impermissible when less harmful options exist. Victims of repeated domestic violence can seek recourse to the legal system or escape through the use of non-deadly force. Debilitating non-deadly force can be used as an effective method for the victim to incapacitate the attacker and escape to seek the help of authorities.

Disproportionate Rights Violation – Our moral system exists because of the rights claims we make against each other. According to John Locke, the social contract develops as a result of people wanting to coexist with one another and therefore agreeing individually that they will not violate rights in exchange for not having their own rights violated. Therefore, the only appropriate retribution is that which is equivalent to the rights which have been violated to begin with. Taking life is not proportional to the rights violation which occurs as a result of repeated domestic violence. Though the victim may be robbed of liberty and happiness, they still have the opportunity to regain it because they are alive. Life provides the opportunity to exercise all other rights, and therefore, it is more valuable than all other rights. A victim’s use of deadly force would therefore be disproportionate and morally impermissible.