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 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: In a democracy, the public’s right to know ought to be valued above the right to privacy of candidates for public office.

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Resolved: In a democracy, the public’s right to know ought to be valued above the right to privacy of candidates for public office.

I get the importance of debating current topics and issues, but we really need to stop when we start struggling to put current issues into “debate terms.” This topic is trash, probably the worst one I have ever read. Not only is it worded poorly, but it relies upon presumptions of rights that may not necessarily be true. It’s also very open to being debated in narrow real world contexts which provide opportunity for abusive positions. Let’s get to it then.

Definitions

Democracy – There is no absolute democracy in the world today, we know that. And that doesn’t make a democracy definition critique of the resolution valid. The word democracy here can be replaced with “democratic society.” Democracies share certain characteristics like popular representation, people being able to run for public office, and a certain level of freedom enjoyed by citizens of the society. Don’t belabor the point about what  democracy is; we all know what this is referring to.

Right to Know – This refers to the peoples’ right to have access to information, personal and political, about a candidate running for public office. Yes, you can debate whether or not this right actually exists, and yes, this does make for a valid critique of the resolution.

Right to Privacy – This is also pretty straightforward. It’s the right of a person to keep information about themselves private. Once again, don’t belabor the point about what exactly is covered within this right.

Candidates for Public Office – Anybody who is either running for or appointed to a government office. Yes, this does include people who are in non-elected positions like cabinet members and justices. These are still public offices even if not directly elected.

Ought to be Valued – This is the most important part of the resolution. It asks us this question: when a candidate’s right to privacy is in conflict with the public’s right to know, which one wins? Should the candidate reveal information? Or should they be allowed to keep all that information private?

Case Positions

Affirmative

1. Utilitarianism – Public knowledge promotes the greatest good for the greatest number of people. When all information about a candidate is publicly available, it allows people to make the most informed decision about a candidate for public office. This ensures that the public opinion holds the character and behavior of these candidates accountable.

2. Rights are not absolute – A person’s rights only extend as far as another’s rights begin. This is why we can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. That is an exercise of free speech that puts other people’s lives at risk. Therefore, that right is limited. Similarly, the privacy of candidates for public office puts the rights of the people at risk. They are at risk of electing a candidate that could damage their rights significantly, or if given undue power, could continue violating the rights of others. Therefore, when it conflict, the public’s right know should be prioritized.

3. Governmental Legitimacy – All governments, and democracies in particular, are only legitimate if they are accountable to the citizens which they govern. This accountability is not possible in a world where candidates are allowed privacy. It prevents the public from fully evaluating and judging the candidates for public office.

Negative

1. Right to Know Doesn’t Exist – Rights must exist as claims of people against each other. Under a balanced social contract, it is not reasonable to contend that people would have a claim on each other to reveal information about themselves. Quite the opposite. People have a claim on each other not to interfere with their privacy. As such, it’s impossible to affirm the resolution.

2. Public accountability happens anyway – The public can hold a candidate accountable without them divulging requested information. The simple act of holding back information is enough for a public indictment of the candidate’s character. We’ve seen this happen across the United States repeatedly over the past few years. The right to privacy can still hold priority, because the right to privacy doesn’t matter in cases where it’s in conflict with the public’s right to know.

Hopefully that helps get you started. Good luck!

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

Definitions

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

Pro

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.

Con

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: 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

Affirmative

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

Negative

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.