Resolved: The United States should replace means-tested welfare programs with a universal basic income.

‘I’m afraid at times like this with overstretched budgets we all have to make sacrifices…’

Resolved: The United States should replace means-tested welfare programs with a universal basic income.

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The problem with this topic is that there isn’t really enough evidence out there to weigh the two option. UBI hasn’t been tried enough, and we don’t have data to compare it with means-tested welfare programs. That being said, the theoretical debate here is still pretty interesting, so let’s talk about it.

Definitions

Means-tested welfare programs – These are current welfare programs that provide specific assistance to people of low income, such as housing assistance, food assistance, etc… Robert Rector’s testimony before Congress explains it better than I can:

The means-tested welfare system consists of 79 federal programs providing cash, food, housing, medical care, social services, training, and targeted education aid to poor and low-income Americans. Means-tested welfare programs differ from general government programs in two ways. First, they provide aid exclusively to persons (or communities) with low incomes; second, individuals do not need to earn eligibility for benefits through prior fiscal contributions. Means-tested welfare therefore does not include Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, or worker’s compensation.

Universal Basic Income – A universal basic income is a cash payment provided to people each month that is intended to cover their basic needs. The important different that the resolution calls on you to evaluate is that a UBI has no restrictions. While it’s intended for basic needs, it’s just a cash payment, so the recipient can use it for anything they want. Importantly, you shouldn’t get caught up in the amount. The actual amount of the payment is irrelevant to the discussion of whether a UBI should replace means-tested welfare programs.

Pro

1. Means-tested welfare hasn’t worked. It’s time to try something you. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We’ve tried means-tested welfare, and while it may help some people, the programs are an administrative nightmare and do little to alleviate actual poverty. Let’s try something new.

2. Individual needs are not static. We like to think that you can plan a fixed monthly budget with fixed expenses. Means-tested welfare seeks to take care of individual line items on this monthly budget. The issue is that life happens, and things change. Therefore, it’s better to leave it up to the welfare recipient to determine how to use their money, rather than creating programs with restrictions.

3. Utilitarianism – A UBI works for everyone, not just some people. It also accounts for needs like dental care, for which it’s nearly impossible to create an effective welfare program. Since UBI casts the widest net, it’s a better option.

Con

1. Money needs to be used wisely to be effective. You can’t just give people who otherwise don’t have financial literacy or other life skills a sum of money and expect it to have positive results. They need to be taught skills and how to use the money wisely. Many people in poverty don’t have access to or knowledge of basic financial management tools, so the UBI will likely just lead to waste.

2. Why do we need to replace? There’s no reason we can’t do both to see how it works. Or, we can create a program that takes an exclusive either/or approach where a recipient can choose to get a cash payment or have access to a portfolio of specific means-tested welfare programs available to them. We don’t have to choose, so the resolution is posing a false dichotomy.

3. We have evidence that means-tested programs at least have a nominal positive impact. We have no evidence that a UBI works. Replacement would be hasty. We need more data and more evidence to test the efficacy of a universal basic income. Only then can we make an accurate determine.

That should help you get started. Good luck!

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Resolved: The benefits of the United States federal government’s use of offensive cyber operations outweigh the harms.

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Resolved: The benefits of the United States federal government’s use of offensive cyber operations outweigh the harms.

Not only is this topic awful, it’s also impossible to debate because the civilian population has no way of knowing what U.S. offensive cyber operations actually are or what their effects are. I would be shocked if any high school student had intimate knowledge of U.S. cyber operations.

The other big problem with this topic is that it writes the framework for you by demanding that you do a cost benefit analysis. While normally that might not be so bad, it’s not possible to evaluate costs and benefits when you have no way of knowing what they really are.

I’ve never said this before, especially for a PF resolution, but I think running a kritik is the only appropriate way to debate this topic. So here’s what you’ll do for that on either side.

Pro

You can argue that the resolution is impossible for those without insider knowledge to argue because you have no way of knowing what U.S. cyber operations look like. Instead, you can propose an advocacy that assesses what are likely U.S. cyber vulnerabilities and what the U.S. can do to better prepare against threats to those vulnerabilities.

Con

The kritik is the same; the resolution cannot be debated because of lack of information. Instead, you can argue that the United States’ cyber apparatus has been turned on its own people, and we’re sacrificing liberty because of it. Edward Snowden is a great place to start when looking for information to support that.

Ultimately, I’m not happy about this topic, and it’s sad that debate is going in this direction. Best of luck, and don’t forget to visit the Debate Academy if you’re looking for private coaching.

Resolved: The European Union should join the Belt and Road Initiative.

Resolved: The European Union should join the Belt and Road Initiative.

This is sort of an interesting topic. It’s also one I think is important for students to learn about because the Belt and Road Initiative is something that will significantly impact global development in the not so distant future. So let’s talk about it.

Definitions

Belt and Road Initiative – This is really the only important term in the resolution that merits definition. This initiative is a large infrastructure project which hopes to link basically all parts of the world. It is an effort to create land and sea routes from China, Southeast Asia, through the Middle East and Europe, all the way into the United States, effectively linking the entire globe. China has proposed it as a project to unite and connect the world, increasing global exchange and trust. Others see it as a ploy for China to implement a stranglehold on the global markets by creating a trade network dependent upon China for it’s operation. An important note for this resolution is that some countries like Italy and Greece have already signed on and agreed to cooperate with the initiative. Another important thing to note is that “signing on” to the initiative is really a meaningless gesture. Each infrastructure project within the initiative still requires its own negotiations and approvals. And like the Paris climate agreement, for example, countries are still free to reject anything they don’t see as fit, or even just not abide by the agreement, after signing on to it.

The framework of your case will depend on addressing the question of how we determine with the European Union should do. What should be the primary factors it considers when making a decision? Once you determine that, you can apply that to the question of the resolution to determine if the EU should join the Belt and Road Initiative.

Case Positions

Pro

  1. Global Exchange – Whether or not China intends to use the initiative as a way to increase its global influence, which it undoubtedly does, this proposal is an excellent way to increase global unity and exchange. These were central reasons for the founding of the EU to begin with, and the benefits are clear. The initiative will help the EU continue its mission, and because China is providing a significant amount of the financial backing, it will be at a relatively low cost. Also, some members of the EU have already signed on, so everyone might as well get on board.
  2. Economic Benefit – Robust infrastructure that fills in global gaps that exist today will help improve economic efficiency across the globe. The primary motivating factor behind the EU was economics. Countries joined to increase their economic strength and resources, and the exchange that came with it was just an added bonus. This is an opportunity for the EU to expand that economic mission to the rest of the world.

Con

  1. Moral Precedent – The EU exists to promote and encourage certain political and moral ideologies like distributive justice, democratic representation, etc… All EU countries have similar political systems, and certain countries like Turkey have been excluded because they are not ideologically similar. China has a history of continuing economic development regardless of political or moral considerations of right and wrong, as is demonstrated by its propensity of working with authoritarian regimes that Western democracies don’t work with. Signing on to China’s initiative would signal that the EU is more concerned about economic gain than about things like promoting human rights. It would allow China to spread its power and authoritarian regimes to have access to unprecedented resources.
  2. Security Risk – The first goal of any governmental body, like the EU, is to provide for the security of its people. China’s initiative poses a tremendous security risk. Increasing infrastructure links to rogue states and parts of the world that are home to radical groups and ideologies affords new opportunity for these dangerous ideologies to spread. It gives new avenues for terrorist to utilize. Not only that, China has a history of hacking and other technological warfare. The initiative would likely exacerbate those types of incidents, posing a significant security risk.

Alright, that’s it for now. I hope that helps get you started. Good luck! And don’t forget to visit the Debate Academy if you’re looking for private coaching.

Resolved: The United Nations should grant India permanent membership on the Security Council.

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Resolved: The United Nations should grant India permanent membership on the Security Council.

This is an interesting resolution. Ultimately, it’s not one which has huge impact points one or the other, but it’s interesting to consider how the UN should make decisions. To that point, it’s important to remember that that is the central question of the resolution. How does the UN determine what it should do?

Definitions

You don’t really need to define anything for this resolution as all the terms are pretty self explanatory. What you do need to make sure you do, though, is have a framework which explains how the UN should make its decisions. Then you need to apply that framework through your contentions to address the resolution.

Pro

1. India is a super power – Security council seats should be determined by a country’s influence on global security. India is a nation that has a dramatic influence on global security. Not only has it been involved in repeated military conflicts with Pakistan, but it’s geographic location in South Asia puts it right between China and the Middle East. It is a necessary cross through for trans-Asian trade and military movements.

2. Military strength and contributions – Few nations contribute more “peace keepers” to the UN than India does. Additionally, India is a nuclear power, which immediately puts it into contention for the security council seat. FDR’s original intent for the security council was to be a police force for the different regions of the world. South Asia and the Middle East lack a representative warden on the council. India is the best candidate for the seat.

**Note: I will make an additional point here that affirming the resolution doesn’t mean other countries should be excluded. You’ll get a lot of, “Why not Japan, Germany, or Brazil?” And you should be comfortable saying, “Sure, give them seats as well.” The same criteria apply to those countries too.

Con

1. The UN Security Council should be dissolved – This resolution affords a great opportunity for a counter plan or kritik (in PF, I know right?!). We can argue that the UNSC is an outdated body that might have made sense after WWII to address fears of another Hitler, but it is actually a barrier now that the political landscape has change. The allied empires are long gone, and though Russia and China might have helped the allies in WWII, their political growth has been dramatically opposed to democratic ideals. Ultimately, the result is that India should not be granted a permanent seat, nobody should. The UNSC should just go away.

2. India has a bad track record – India does not have a good record of security. Terrorist attacks, military conflicts, and even genocide are present within the country’s recent history. Seats are limited, so a country like Germany or Japan will be much better suited to take one of the permanent seats. While their histories may be similarly negative, they have made great strides and progress in changing, while India has not.

Like I said, ultimately this is a low impact theoretical discussion, but hopefully these points help you get started. Good luck!

Resolved: The United States should promote the development of market rate housing in urban neighborhoods.

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Resolved: The United States should promote the development of market rate housing in urban neighborhoods.

Oof, what is it with these terrible topics? I don’t understand what people are thinking anymore. What is there even to debate here? So little research has been done, and available data is so limited, that the debates on this are going to devolve into emotion battles about which side the judge feels is right. On the bright side, you’ll probably learn things you didn’t know before, but the resolution is worded so poorly that all of that will probably be lost. But alas, it is what we are given, so let’s do the best we can.

Definitions

Market rate housing – This is housing that is build without rent restrictions. Often, in urban neighborhoods, rent restrictions will be put on housing construction. The owner can only rent it for so much. This has historically been one solution to creating affordable housing.

Urban Neighborhoods – The word “urban” here doesn’t necessarily mean within a big city. Rather, it refers to poor, often minority, neighborhoods within any greater metropolitan area. It will be important to define this properly to prevent bad debate.

The most important part of your definitions is going to be determining how we determine what the U.S. should do. The trouble here is that there isn’t a clear agent of action. The government can enact policies, sure, but the U.S. contains many more actors like housing developers and citizens. They are also relevant. Your framework will need to clearly define an agent of action and then explain how we determine what that agent of action should do. The easiest agent of action to talk about is the government, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.

Pro

1. Societal Welfare – The government’s entire purpose is to promote societal welfare. If it fails to do that, then what’s the point of having one? Market rate housing promotes welfare. Areas where there are market rate developments fare better economically than areas with rent controls. Additionally, market rate housing attracts developers to build more because they can more easily sent rents. Urban neighborhoods have severe housing shortages, and this will promote new construction to end those shortages.

2. Progress – How do we make things better than they are now? Market rate housing will help urban neighborhoods accelerate their development. A society is marked by how well it provides for the least advantaged members of its society, so the U.S. should promote market rate housing in the least advantaged neighborhoods.

Con

1. Market rate housing promotes poverty – Rent controls don’t just appear out of thin air. They appear because landlords charge exorbitant rents to exploit the citizens in an area, particularly in areas with housing shortages. Remarkably, there is no shortage of housing for people who have money. The shortage exists for those people who don’t. Instead, the government should invest in affordable housing initiatives. Developers aren’t attracted to urban neighborhoods anyway, and market rate housing won’t solve that. After all, not every urban neighborhood has rent controls, but new construction is still sparse.

2. Market Freedom – The U.S. government should not interrupt the free market. Let the market decide what rent should be and where development should occur. That will result in the best situation for everyone.

3. U.S. Constitution – This type of economic regulation is beyond the constitutionally permitted powers of the U.S. government. It is not an exercise necessary to regulate interstate commerce, and therefore, should not be permitted. It is a violation of property rights and economic freedom.

There you go. That’s a start at least. Good luck!
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Resolved: The United States should end its arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

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Resolved: The United States should end its arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Hey! Here’s a topic that’s interesting and politically relevant. It creates some good direct clash, so let’s talk about it!

Definitions

Not much to define here; you pretty know what all the terms in the resolution are. Arms sales are the sale of any military arms. Other than that, the most important word in the resolution is “should.” You’ll need to establish a framework that explains how we determine what a government should or should not do, then use that framework to evaluate the resolution.

Case Positions

Pro

1. National Security – Saudi Arabia is a known state sponsor of terror and demonstrably had a hand in 9/11. Selling arms to the Saudi regime not only arms a regime which is clearly antagonistic towards the U.S. but also inserts dangerous arms into a region of the world where terrorists could easily gain access to them. Historically, such arms deals have only armed those who harm the U.S. later.

2. Democratic Ideals – The United States should carry out actions which promote democratic ideals across the world. Saudi Arabia oppresses its people, suppresses basic human rights, and is rife with corruption and violence. Selling arms to a regime like this allows them to stay in power and carry out genocidal military actions like the attacks on Yemen. The U.S. should not enable such things to happen.

3. Arms sales come at the opportunity cost of energy independence – Arms sales with Saudi Arabia allows the relationship between the two countries to continue to exist. A part of this relationship is the oil the U.S. purchases. A conflict limiting the supply of oil would push the U.S. toward energy independence out of necessity. This is the direction the country should be moving anyway, so it would be for the best if the U.S. began severing its ties with Saudi Arabia.

Con

1. National Security – Arms deals with Saudi Arabia help protect U.S. interests in the Middle East. It ensures the maintenance of a cooperative military partner and bolsters a relationship that maintains U.S. access to critical oil. Despite the Saudi regime’s history, it’s better for U.S. security interests to continue arms deals.

2. Economics – The U.S. should make decisions that promote economic welfare for is own citizens. Saudi arms deals provide a large source of income and promote U.S. trade and influence in the Middle East. They are economically better for the country and should therefore continue.

Alright, that’s what we’ve got for now. The con side is going to be a little more difficult for this resolution, but it’s still doable. I hope this helps. Good luck, and please post your comments and questions below!

Resolved: The United States federal government should prioritize reducing the federal debt over promoting economic growth.

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Resolved: The United States federal government should prioritize reducing the federal debt over promoting economic growth.

This is a pretty annoying topic. It lends itself to a lot of speculative analysis that it will be difficult to find evidence to support. It also poses a false dichotomy. More often than not, reducing the federal debt and promoting economic growth are not mutually exclusive. Let’s get into it and see what we can come up with.

Definitions – We don’t really need to define anything for this topic. It’s all pretty straightforward. The important thing to note, though, is that the resolution is only concerned with situations in which promoting economic growth and reducing the federal debt are in conflict, meaning that you must pick one over the other. What should the government do when it has to pick?

Case Positions

Pro

1. Must prioritize debt to prioritize economic growth – In order to promote the greatest economic growth, the U.S. must prioritize reducing the federal debt. Interest payments continue to rise, drastically reducing the capital the U.S. government has available to spend on economic growth initiatives. In a strange twist, ignoring the national debt will prevent the U.S. from being able to promote economic growth moving forward.

2. National Security – A government’s first priority is to protect its citizens. That’s why government is created in the first place. A high federal debt is a national security risk, particularly since other competing world powers hold the majority of the debt. It threatens the ability of the U.S. to protect itself from threats should the debt be called.

3. Impending Economic Collapse – A growing U.S. debt balance threatens the stability of the global economy, and the U.S. is in no position to withstand a global collapse since it is not longer primarily a producer. A country like China, because of its continued industrial production infrastructure, can certainly withstand such a collapse. Global markets rely on trust and solvency of the U.S., and a growing national debt threatens both of those.

Con

1. National Debt is Meaningless – There is no such thing as “too much federal debt,” since the debt is essentially meaningless. No global power would call on the U.S. debt, and the U.S. would not fail to make interest payments. The debt can continue to grow or remain steady, and it won’t be an issue. The notion that other countries will stop buying U.S. debt anywhere in the near future is spurious.

2. Economic Growth Allows Debt Reduction – The U.S. needs to focus on economic in order to eventually reduce the national debt. A growing economy allows for a surplus and allows the U.S. to make more payments toward reducing the federal debt. When the two come into conflict, the U.S. should prioritize growing the economy because it’s the only way to reduce the national debt in the long term.

Hope that helps get you started, good luck!

Resolved: The United States federal government should impose price controls on the pharmaceutical industry.

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Resolved: The United States federal government should impose price controls on the pharmaceutical industry.

Finally! A good topic! It’s about time. Let’s talk about it.

Definitions

Should impose price controls – This means that the government controls what pharmaceutical companies are allowed to charge for medications they provide. This is common practice in countries with socialized medicine. This case will require you to determine how the U.S. government determines what it should do, and then explain how that framework means that the government should impose price controls.

All the other terms don’t really warrant definitions. We know what the U.S. federal government is, and we know what the pharmaceutical industry is.

Case Positions

Pro

1. Societal Welfare – Government’s exist for the welfare of their citizens. This is why they provide roads, schools, libraries, etc… To fully accomplish this purpose, the government should also do its best to provide for the health of its citizens. Drug prices are astronomical, to the point of being prohibitive for certain people who need to receive treatment. In order to contribute to the welfare of everyone, the government should impose price controls.

2. The Free Market Has Failed – The simple fact is that the population doesn’t have the negotiating power that the government does. Pharma companies are certainly willing to let people die for the profit. If one person has to die so they can charge 10,000 people $100 more, then that works out for them. People cannot make their voices heard by just not buying the medicine because it’s a choice between life and death. The government isn’t faced with this choice, so it has the ability to negotiate on behalf of the people.

3. Life Above All Else – The right to life is the most important right a person has because it is a prerequisite for all other rights. You can’t have other rights if you’re dead. In this case, price inflation is causing direct harm to the right to life of individual citizens. As such, the government should step in to protect those citizens.

Con

1. Free Market – In a capitalist economy, price controls are direct violations of property rights. Additionally, government interventions usually make things worse. We’ve seen historically that price controls don’t actually lead to reasonable prices, but instead companies just find ways to circumvent those controls, and citizens end up paying just as much.

2. Universal Healthcare Counterplan – Price controls are unnecessary in a socialized medicine system. The government can negotiate directly with drug producers because it’s the entity paying for those drugs. Introducing price controls is a bad stop gap measure that will only delay the conflict necessary for a dramatic push toward socialized medicine. Universal healthcare solves the problem, and price controls will hinder the progress toward universal healthcare.

That’ll help get you started. Good luck!

Resolved: The United States should accede to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea without reservations.

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Resolved: The United States should accede to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea without reservations.

I don’t understand why this topic was chosen. It’s like 20 years out of date. Gotta do what you gotta do I guess. Let’s get to it.

Definitions

I’m going to forego the specific definitions for this one, because they’re pretty obvious, and talk more about the history of the Law of the Sea. Historically, a nation’s territory in the sea extended 3 nautical miles outside it’s national land borders. In the 80s and 90s, however, that needed to be changed. Nations had unilaterally extended their territories to claim fishing and mineral rights, among other military rights. The original guidelines were not clear or comprehensive enough. So UNCLOS (the international UN body responsible for sea things) met and ratified the Law of the Sea. Notably, the U.S. did not ratify because the measure did not pass the Senate. Objections included national security concerns and concerns about the law’s formation for a new committee that would process claims to resources on the deep sea bed. So the question before us now is whether or not the U.S. should ratify this international law.

In order to establish and appropriate framework for your case, you must first determine how we determine what the United States government should do.

Case Positions

Pro

1. Globalization – Globalization is a positive force for all nations, and the U.S., as a leading economic power, should promote policies that promote globalization. The Law of the Seas is on such policy. It will help regulate international commerce, allow the U.S. military increased naval access, and allow recourse for other nations overstepping their bounds.

2. Economics – Without ratifying, the U.S. doesn’t have a voice in UNCLOS, which makes international maritime commerce more challenging. For example, U.S. telecom companies that need to lay cable in the ocean need to find foreign governments to advocate on their behalf in UNCLOS. That’s a pain and makes for a challenging economic climate for U.S. companies.

3. National Security – With a voting seat on the body, the U.S. could have significant influence over naval military policy. Additionally, the Law of the Seas allows for clearer definitions of international waters and reduces the potential for conflict in those waters.

Con

1. Anti-globalization – The notion of an international government is in itself bad. It places limits on national sovereignty that should not be there and does not allow for future flexibility. The U.S. should not participate.

2. Discrimination against U.S. – UNCLOS creates tremendous opportunity for discrimination against the U.S. when it comes to deep sea resources rights. It also lends legitimacy to any nations that want recourse against the U.S. for expanding its international waters influence.

That’s it for now, good luck!

Resolved: The United States federal government should increase its quota of H-1B visas.

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Resolved: The United States federal government should increase its quota of H-1B visas.

Instead of definitions this time around, I’ll just explain what an H-1B visa is and how it works. The visa is used to allow companies to hire foreign workers to come work in the U.S. for specialty occupations that require advanced knowledge. Engineering, software development, IT, chemistry, etc…. are all good examples. The idea is to encourage and allow foreign talent to come to the United States.

Every year, there is a quota of a visas that’s allowed to be given out. For 2018, that quota is 85,000, including Masters student exceptions.

In order to debate the resolution, you must first explain with your framework how we determine what the U.S. federal government should do. What is it’s priority? Why does it exist? Using that understanding, you can explain whether or not the government should increase the quota of H-1B visas.

PRO

1. Promoting prosperity – A government’s chief function is to help promote the prosperity of its people. The government should enact policies that contribute to economic welfare, security, and progress of society. H-1B visas do just that. They draw the most talented individuals from around the world to our education and work system, helping increase the talent pool of skilled workers. This directly contributes to a better economy and technological innovation.

2. Global Competition – A government needs to ensure it remains globally competitive. In order to do that, a country needs to have a highly skilled workforce. The United States is lagging behind other developed nations on education, and so it should look to importing talent from other countries in order to stay competitive in the global market.

CON

1. Security – A government’s purpose is to provide security for its people. That’s why a government is formed. The H-1B process is easily exploitable and poses a security risk to the United States. Many foreign workers are imported from regions of the world home to active terrorist organizations which could use the process to send recruits into the United States.

2. No reason – The burden of proof is on the affirmative, and the affirmative cannot actually provide a compelling reason to increase the quota. There is not a skilled labor shortage in the U.S., and companies really just want to be able to hire cheap compliant foreign labor. Previous increases in the program have not had any significant benefit.

That’s it. Good luck!