Resolved: The United States ought to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels.

Resolved: The United States ought to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels.

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When did LD become PF? I don’t understand why we keep seeing these types of topics. LD used to be high level debate about moral principles and big questions, but we’re going more and more towards these garbage topics about public policy. Hopefully there’s a shift back the other way because I don’t know if I’ll want to do this much longer if it keeps going in this direction. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Definitions

subsidies for fossil fuels – This is really the only thing that needs to be defined in this resolution. Subsidies are basically some form of governmental incentive or tax break. In the case of the fossil fuel industry, there are a number of different types of subsidies that the U.S. provides. It’s important to note that the specific type of subsidy should not matter to your case. You should be debating the principle of the matter. Here’s a good place to find more information.

Case Positions

Remember here that your case will need to answer the question of how we determine what the United States government ought to do.

Affirmative

  1. Progress – A government’s first goal ought to be to promote societal progress – moral, economic, and otherwise. Civilizations perish because they are drowned by the tides of time. In order to progress as a society, the U.S. must get away from fossil fuels. They are a perishable resource, and eventually they will be too scarce to be reliable. Imperial conquering of resource rich lands will not be feasible in the future, and so subsidies need to be eliminated to direct society away from fossil fuel development into alternative renewable energy.
  2. Utilitarianism – As much as I dislike basic utilitarian position, this resolution provides a lot of room for a utilitarian calculus. A simple cost benefit shows that the U.S. is spending money on subsidies for dying industries that would be better spent elsewhere. Plus, it would be better for everyone due to the economic benefits of investing in clean energy.
  3. Survival – It times of great crisis, it can be argued that all governmental priorities should be directed toward survival. The realities of climate change create such a crisis. As such, the U.S., and all governments, should act in such a way to mitigate climate change and ensure the survival of the human race. Therefore, all subsidies for fossil fuels should be terminated.

Negative

  1. Moral Conflict – Nietzsche argued that the only way to determine the true morality or proper moral outcome was to let all ideologies compete openly, almost like a free market but for ideas. Fossil fuels and clean energy should be the same. We should continue subsidies for fossil fuels while also giving subsidies for clean energy. Let the industries compete, and survival of the fittest will dictate which one wins.
  2. Utilitarianism – There is a utilitarian argument to be made on the negative as well. It can be argued that ending these subsidies would have devastating economic consequences. While we might be moving toward clean energy, we’re certainly not there yet, and the U.S. economy continues to be largely dependent on fossil fuels. As such, it would be far more harmful to end the subsidies than to continue them.
  3. Lack of Timeline Kritik – It can be argued that the resolution is impossible to debate without a timeline attached to it. When should we end the fossil fuel subsidies? How long should we take to phase them out? A proper consequentialist analysis cannot be complete without a timeline because the short term, medium term, and long term consequences are completely different. After the critique, you can present a time-based counter-advocacy.

I hope that helps get you started. I’m sorry you have to debate this garbage topic, but good luck! And don’t forget to visit the Debate Academy if you’re looking for private coaching.

Resolved: In the United States, colleges and universities ought not consider standardized tests in undergraduate admissions decisions.

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Resolved: In the United States, colleges and universities ought not consider standardized tests in undergraduate admissions decisions.

FIrst topic of the year! And wow is it trash. Not only is the topic phrasing awful, but I also don’t understand why it’s an LD topic at all. This topic doesn’t pose interesting clash, and it’s phrased in such a way as to have an agent of action that is incredibly difficult to evaluate as a moral agent. Not only that, we’re skirting around the actual issue of whether or not we should have standardized tests at all. It’s awful, but I suppose it’s what we have to work with. So let’s get to it.

Definitions

Standardized Tests – We all know what standardized tests are. They’re tests given to all students to measure their educational progress. The tests are all the same, with the same questions, given to each member of a particular subset of students. There’s no reason to get caught up in any sort of nuance here.

Every other term in the resolution doesn’t really merit definition. We all know what colleges and universities are. Don’t get caught up in the distinction between public and private institutions; it ultimately doesn’t matter to the moral question, in fact now a days there’s a lot of options, there are even online colleges for military available.

Your key focus here should be determining how we evaluate what colleges and universities should do. In particular, you need to explain how we determine what factors these institutions should take into account for undergraduate school admissions. Unlike government, the moral imperatives of educational institutions are not well elucidated. Importantly, I don’t think most students will have a preliminary understanding of the philosophy of education, unlike they do with social contract philosophy, for example. I would recommending reading this entry for some background.

Case Positions

Affirmative

  1. Distributive Justice – Research widely suggests that standardized tests have socioeconomic and racial biases. This is to say that people who are poorer and people of color consistently perform worse on these tests than their wealthy white counterparts. Not only that, the entire industry is being shown to be less about evaluating students’ actual competency and instead about corporations making money. Since the first virtue of any social institution is to uphold/promote justice, colleges should do that which promotes justice. Using standardized tests as criteria in admissions directly violates principles of distributive because of the above points. Since colleges are social institutions, this would violate their primary directive. Many different justice theorists like Aristotle and John Rawls can be useful for this position.
  2. Autonomy – One of the most widely accepted theories on the purpose of education is that it is supposed to equip people for becoming autonomously functioning human beings. Standardized tests are the exact opposite; they seek to rob individuals of autonomy by evaluating everyone against the same standards. Since the purpose of education is to promote autonomy, colleges should reject anything to do with standardized tests altogether.

Negative

  1. Economics – Colleges are primarily economic institutions. Their goal is to create individuals who can best contribute to society and its economic welfare and productivity. As such, standardized tests should be a primary criteria for admissions decisions because they are a strong indication of an applicant’s economic viability. If a student has high standardized test scores, they are likely to continue having high test scores throughout college. This is economically beneficial and also a strong indication that the student will have a positive economic contribution once they graduate. Importantly, the most economically productive countries like China and Japan have doubled down on standardized testing, having even more rigorous examinations than the United States.
  2. Justice – The first virtue of any social institution, including colleges, is fairness. Standardized testing is the most fair way we can have of evaluating students. Importantly, upholding the importance of standardized tests sets an objective universal standard of educational justice for the entire system to uphold. This encourages every level of the system to eliminate barriers to students succeeding on standardized tests, which improves fairness across the board.

Well, that’s it for now. Good luck! And don’t forget to check out the Debate Academy if you’re looking for private coaching.

Resolved: The United States ought not provide military aid to authoritarian regimes.

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Resolved: The United States ought not provide military aid to authoritarian regimes.

This topic is an interesting one. On initial examination, it seems stupid and one sided. And to be clear, it’s certainly emotionally advantageous for the Affirmative. That being said, there’s a lot of room for debate here if you can suspend the heartstrings for 45 minutes. There’s great opportunity for clash, and a lot of room for directly competing viewpoints. So let’s talk about it.

Definitions

Military Aid – This is any aid provided to the military of a nation. This includes, but is not limited to, troops, machinery, funding, weaponry, and training. Do not get bogged down in a definition debate about what does and does not constitute military aid. Your case should apply to all forms of military aid. The only distinction that’s important here is that this is not civilian aid.

Authoritarian Regimes – This is more of a “you know it when you see it” type of term. Authoritarian is a poor choice of words, but it refers to regimes which are dictatorial and generally have a history of abusing the rights of their own people. Relevant examples for this resolution include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, etc…

Ought – This means should, and you don’t really need to define it, but it’s important to know that this is the crux of your case. You must first answer the question of how we determine what the United States government should do. Only then can you determine if the U.S. government should provide military aid to authoritarian regimes.

Alright, let’s get to work on possible frameworks.

Affirmative

1. Categorical Imperative – Providing military aid to authoritarian regimes certainly fails all three maxims of the categorical imperative. We don’t want to live in a world where this is universal. It doesn’t seek to not use people strictly as a means to an end, since what humane reasons could there possibly be to provide this military aid, and it definitely doesn’t contribute toward an end in the kingdom of ends.

2. Veil of Ignorance – In a liberal application of the veil of ignorance, it can be argued that, as a citizen under one of these regimes, you would not want foreign powers providing aid to a regime that is trying to oppress you. You would want the opposite. From behind the veil, it’s clear people would construct a world in which these regimes do not receive any foreign military aid.

3. Coherence Theory – Truth of a proposition can be examined through examining its coherence with other already established truths. This includes moral propositions. When it comes to established international moral principles, we can look to things like the declaration of human rights to show us that established truths focus around protecting citizens, not military regimes. There is explicit rejection of military oppression of people. It does not cohere with these established truths that the U.S. should provide military aid to authoritarian regimes.

4. Moral Progress – Moral conflict is necessary for moral progress. When the U.S. provides military aid to authoritarian regimes, it prevents the citizens under that regime from creating the necessary moral conflict to help the nation progress. Allowing the military to weaken allows the self-determination of the people to be realized through conflict.

Negative

1. National Security – A government’s primary obligation is to the security of its own people. After all, that’s why government is formed in the first place. If it fails to protect its people, government is worthless. There are several situations in which providing military aid to authoritarian regimes protects the security of U.S. citizens. As long as this is the case, the U.S. should continue providing such aid.

2. National Interest – A government’s primary obligation is to its own people and the interests of its country. Often times, providing aid to such regimes is in the best interests of the U.S. economically and globally. It often allows the U.S. to position itself more advantageously globally or secure access to resources it would not otherwise have.

3. Utilitarianism – The alternative of not propping up certain regimes is much worse. It leads to exacerbated conflict that is often worse for the people of a nation and worse for global stability. Military aid allows for the preservation of a government, though the government may not be the best. An authoritarian government is better than no government at all.

Hope that helps 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: In the United States, reporters ought to have the right to protect the identity of confidential sources.

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Resolved: In the United States, reporters ought to have the right to protect the identity of confidential sources.

Resolved: In the United States, reporters ought to have the right to protect the identity of confidential sources.

Welcome to another debate season! I’m disappointed that we’re starting off with such a bad topic. It’s not that the area of discussion is bad, but the topic is worded terribly. The question that not telling someone a person’s name is or is not a “right” is not a good one. Everyone obviously has the right to say what they want, so to say that a journalist doesn’t have the right to reveal someone’s name is ridiculous and unenforceable. What’re you going to do? Prevent the article from running in the paper if there isn’t a named source? Obviously that can’t happen. But alas, we have to debate what we’re given, not what we want to debate. So let’s get to it.

Definitions

Reporters – Don’t think too much about this. A reporter is basically someone who reports the news. This includes journalists of all types.

Identity – Some people may try to define identity very precisely. Simply put, though, this is an identification of who a person is. It’s not just a name, but can also be a description that points to one particular person. For example, if I said “the attorney general of the U.S.” that would be akin to identifying the person.

Confidential Sources – In journalism, people often provide information to the reporter. The people are called sources. If that person’s identity isn’t revealed, it’s a confidential source.

Ought – This is the most important word of the resolution. Ought means should, and to develop a framework for your case, you’ll need to identify how we determine what the United States government ought to do.

Case Positions

Affirmative

1. Utilitarianism – Allowing confidential sources is the most utilitarian approach. It leads to the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. Otherwise, you end up with a lack of people wanting to come forward with information, and you also end up with people’s lives inappropriately being affected just for telling the truth.

2. Freedom of Speech – It’s actually impossible for source confidentiality not to be a right. What is the option to enforce? Are you going to torture journalists? Are you going to limit what can and cannot be printed in the press? These would all be violations of the freedom of speech the United States is founded upon.

3. Correspondence Theory – Any truth proposition, like the resolution, must be weighed against already accepted truths to determine its truth. When we weigh the resolution against things we already accept to be true like freedom of speech, the value of a free speech, and democratic ideals, we find that the truth of the resolution is evident.

Negative

1. What is a right? – Source confidentiality can’t function as a right. Rights, like freedom to protest, function as claims against others – either claims to not interfere or claims to confer some benefit. Neither of these apply to source confidentiality in journalism. Because it can’t be a right, the resolution essentially doesn’t work. We can’t say something that’s impossible “ought to be.”

2. Moral Progress – There are schools of philosophy which propose that a society’s moral progress is only possible through the most direct moral conflict. Source confidentiality prevents that from happening. Without confidential sources, though, the moral conflict in a society would be exacerbated, thus contributing to more rapid moral progress.

Well, that’s it. I hope that helps get you started. Good luck, and don’t forget to check out the academy if you need help!

 

Resolved: The United States ought to provide a universal basic income.

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Resolved: The United States ought to provide a universal basic income.

This is a good topic. It’s phrased how topics should actually be phrased, and it isn’t weighted heavily toward one side. There is actually a debate to be had here. So let’s talk about it!

Definitions

Universal basic income – A UBI is an unconditional amount of money guaranteed to people designed to cover their cost of living. The money is given without any additional requirements placed on it.

Ought – Remember that your job is to explain how we decide what the U.S. government ought to do, id god,so you need to make sure your framework accounts for that.

Affirmative

1. Veil of Ignorance – Rawls developed a model of evaluating social distributions known as the original position or veil of ignorance. He argues that all such decisions should be made by a body which has no biases. Basically, you must pretend like you could wake up tomorrow and be anyone in society, with any socioeconomic status.best fake id, From behind this veil, a universal basic income seems like a great idea. Who wouldn’t vote for that?

2. Utilitarianism – There’s a pretty obvious utility argument to be made. A UBI provides the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people because it takes care of those who are most in need.

3. Aristotelian Virtue Ethics – Aristotle described cultivating virtue as central to having a just society. Virtues exist as the mean between two extremes. One could easily contend that a UBI is the virtuous course of action, lying between the extremes of providing people nothing or a lot.

Negative

1. Economic Justice – All types of justice rely on the idea that people get what they deserve, or ought to of. Contending that people deserve an income just because they exist is difficult. What gives them the right to a universal basic income?

2. Property Rights – The UBI needs to come from somewhere; money doesn’t just materialize. It would likely require higher taxes on everyone else to provide for this. This is a direct violation of property rights. Unlike other things which taxes are spent on,id chief. most taxpayers will not see a benefit from the UBI. It’s also tough to claim that a UBI can function as a claim on others.

3. Moral Conflict – This is more of a complicated position. Basically, the argument here is the only way to get U.S. society to provide a UBI is to not provide a UBI. It will force the necessary moral conflict to get society into a place where a UBI becomes acceptable. Providing a UBI does not allow for the development of society’s morality to be able to accept the change. Moral conflict is good for moral progress, and income gaps increase moral conflict.

Resolved: Plea bargaining ought to be abolished in the United States criminal justice system.

plea bargaining cartoon

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Resolved: Plea bargaining ought to be abolished in the United States criminal justice system.

Unbelievable – plea bargaining again. This topic, in one form or another, has been used an absurd amount of times. There’s so much to talk about; why can’t they come up with something? I don’t believe the world of moral philosophy has run out of interesting dilemmas to be discussed and debated, but apparently whoever comes up with these topics has. Anyway, we’re stuck with what we’re stuck with, so let’s do what we have to do.

Definitions

Plea Bargaining – This is a process in which the defendant pleads guilty in order to receive something in return. fake id,Usually, they get their charge reduced, sentence diminished, or something similar. The actual terms of the agreement are largely irrelevant to the debate, so don’t focus on those.

Ought – This means “should” and is the focal point of your case. You must explain how we determine what we should do in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Case Positions

Affirmative

1. Retributive Justice – Plea bargaining allows people to get away with being charge for less than what they actually did.fast Fake ID, Naturally, this means that the punishment no longer fits the actual crime. According to the principles of retributive justice, this should not be permitted as people should be punished according to the crimes they’ve committed.

2. Social Contract Theory – Plea bargaining is an affront to the legitimacy of the social contract. The ideas of reciprocity and tacit consent to be governed are thrown out the window because rights claims no longer matter since people can violate those claims and circumvent the punishments outlined in the social contract through a plea bargain. The practice should be abolished to preserve a legitimate social contract.

3. Categorical Imperative – The three maxims apply pretty well here. You can definitely argue that plea bargaining shouldn’t be universalizable, that it treats people as means rather than ends in and of themselves, and that it doesn’t strive toward an end in the kingdom of ends. Therefore, it should be abolished.

Negative

1. Veil of Ignorance – Imagine a world where you’ve been charged with a very serious crime. Would you want the option to plea bargain? Even if it meant everybody else was allowed to do the same? Certainly! Under Rawls’s thought experiment, how to get a fake id,if you were to strip away all your defining characteristics that contribute to your bias, and determine social policy accordingly, you’d be in favor of a world with plea bargaining. So it shouldn’t be abolished.

2. Virtue Ethics – Aristotelean virtue ethics seeks to find the proper course of action by trying to find the median between two extremes. The two extremes here are letting criminals go free, or always giving them the harshest penalty possible. Neither of those seem great, so a proper course of action would be the middle ground of allowing plea bargaining.

3. Utilitarianism – If you want to be gross and run a practical case, you can argue that plea bargaining is in the best interests of everyone. Without it, the U.S. justice system would not be able to handle all the cases that need to be prosecuted.Scannable Fake ID, There would be a significant backlog that would cause our system to come to a grinding halt, and that’s bad for everyone. Sure, plea bargaining might allow some people to get off with a lighter punishment, but overall it’s better for everyone.

Resolved: Wealthy nations have an obligation to provide development assistance to other nations.

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Resolved: Wealthy nations have an obligation to provide development assistance to other nations.

Resolved: Wealthy nations have an obligation to provide development assistance to other nations.

This is a very relevant topic in today’s political climate. It’s an interesting one, and should lend itself to some good debates. Hopefully students don’t try to turn it into a definition debate or take abusive positions focused strictly on the meaning of development assistance. Regardless, let’s get into it!

Definitions

Wealthy nations – This is a relative term. Wealthy nations can also be translated in the context of the resolution to mean “wealthier nations.” The intent is basically to make a delineation between countries that can provide assistance, and countries that need assistance.

Development assistance – This is basically foreign aid designed to help a nation develop a particular part of its society or government. It can come in many forms including but not limited to money, resources, and personnel. The thing to focus on here is that the assistance is designed to help the development of the country, so it is distinct from things like humanitarian aid or military assistance during armed conflict.

Obligation – What’s interesting here is that the resolution doesn’t state “moral” obligation. So, your case must explain how nations determine what obligations they have, period. This can include legal obligations, moral obligations, or other obligations you can think of. The resolution isn’t limited to the realm of moral theory this time.

Frameworks/Case Positions

Affirmative

1. Categorical Imperative – The categorical imperative, all three maxims, work pretty well to argue for this resolution. It is easy to conceive of a world where every wealthy provides assistance as a desirable one to live in. Not only that, the act of providing such assistance can reasonably be thought of as an action which strives toward a number of different ends in the kingdom of ends. This is a strong framework for the affirmative of this resolution. Read more about the categorical imperative on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy here.

2. Veil of Ignorance/Original Position – Everyone has defining characteristics which impart biases onto their political and moral reasoning. Ideally, if we could, we should develop social justice policies without these biases because that will yield the most objectively reasonable outcome. This state of deliberation, in which actors are free from the influence of any personal bias, was dubbed by John Rawls as the original position. One could contend that, when evaluated from the original position, it is easy to see that wealthy nations have an obligation to provide development assistance to others. After all, you could wake up tomorrow and be a member of one of those “other nations.” Read more about Rawls’s original position here.

3. Virtue Ethics – Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean would establish providing assistance as the proper course of action between the two extremes of doing nothing and taking over/doing everything. It is the moderate approach to helping other nations develop, and as such, is the virtuous course of action. Read more about Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean here.

Negative

1. Social Contract Theory – The social contract, and government, are formed primarily to protect a nation’s own citizens. Therefore, any government primary obligation is to its own people. One could argue that no government in the world, however wealthy, has sufficiently met this obligation. Even in the United States, we have yet to have proper due process of law and equal protections for minorities. Providing assistance to other nations must come at a price; the money has to come from somewhere, and that is money that could be used to solve domestic issues. The opportunity cost of providing assistance for any nation is too high. Read more about contractarianism here.

2. International Law – The only obligations that exist between nations are legal ones. There is no global social contract as citizens have not formed or consented to a global government. Nowhere in international law does it specify an obligation for wealthier nations to provide development assistance, and as such, an obligation like that cannot exist. It should be noted that this position will require a clear distinction to be made between humanitarian aid and development assistance because international law is rife with obligations for humanitarian aid.

3. Utilitarianism – For any action to be good, and therefore reasonably be considered obligatory, it must provide the most good for the greatest number of people. Often, development assistance does not do that. There is evidence to suggest that it can actually harm the countries receiving the aid. Often, such countries are ruled by destructive regimes which do not actually direct the assistance towards its intended goals, and instead use it to carry out their own agendas. Additionally, this assistance means that there is less available for the wealthy nation’s own citizens.

That’s it, hope it helps you get started. Feel free to post comments and questions below, and check out the Academy if you want personal private coaching!

Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.

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Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.

This is a topic I like. I actually debated it for one of the tournaments I did PF, fun times. Let’s get into it.

Definitions

Civil Disobedience – Civil disobedience is when someone refuses to obey a law as a means of protest. Think Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus. The key to civil disobedience is that it is a nonviolent form of protest.

Democracy – A democracy is a system of government where people vote on laws and/or elect representatives. Some people will probably try to turn this into a definition debate where they limit the scope of “democracy” to only absolute democracy. Don’t let them do that. Democracies include representative forms of government like we find in England, France, and the United States. In the modern world, an absolute democracy does not exist anywhere.

Morally Justified – This is the crux of your case, and it’s up to you to define. You must use your framework to explain what it means for something to be morally justified. How do we determine what is morally justified? And how does that framework of evaluation apply to the resolution?

Important Point – The resolution must presuppose that the law being is unjust. Otherwise, there’s no point in debating. I am sure people will try to weasel their way out of that, but you need to corner them into actually debating. Obviously, we can agree that civil disobedience to protest an already just law is not morally permissible; it would be difficult to argue otherwise without taking an anarchist position. Don’t let people use abusive definitions and frameworks to turn this resolution into a definition debate tipped in their favor.

Case Positions/Frameworks

Affirmative

1. Justice is the Highest Value – A democracy is not automatically just. Like any other government, a democracy is subject to the moral arbitration of the principles of justice. Because justice is the first virtue of any social institution (Aristotle), all such institutions must ultimately answer to the principles of justice. Therefore, civil disobedience is morally justified, even in a democracy. If the government is being unjust, then the people have the right, and arguably the moral obligation, to disobey the government.

2. Right to Civil Disobedience – Dworkin argues that people have a right to civil disobedience when the government is unjust. This is an extension of his framework of rights. The government’s right to govern is contingent upon the consent of the governed, particularly in a democracy. Therefore, people must also have the corresponding right to dissent when injustice occurs. Otherwise, consent can never truly be meaningful, or even exist really.

3. Virtue – A virtue position, based upon Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean, concludes that civil disobedience is the most virtuous course of action. You can therefore argue that it is morally justified. In short, civil disobedience is the middle ground between the two extremes of doing nothing and violently rebelling.

Negative

1. John Rawls’ Alternatives – John Rawls argued that, if there are multiple options when trying to reach a just end, the one that gets you there in the best way possible is the only just course of action. The others automatically become unjust because they are worse. You can argue here that violent revolution is a significantly better option. If we look at the tolls that civil disobedience movements have taken, like those in India and the United States, we can see that people have endured decades of punishment and injustice. In fact, death tolls over the course of entire civil rights movements are remarkably less than death tolls in violent revolutions, historically speaking. Violence also ends the injustices more quickly and actually punishes the oppressor, which civil disobedience does not.

  • If you want to take a safer approach, you can also argue that democratic avenues of recourse and other nonviolent protests methods are also better options, because they don’t involve breaking the law.

2. Rule of Law – In order for the social contract to remain legitimate, the rule of law must be respected. Thomas Hobbes argues that people forfeit their rights when they enter into a social contract because the state of nature is so much worse to be in. As a result, they must respect whatever rights they are afforded and the laws of the government. Even an oppressive life under a government is vastly preferable to a life in the state of nature, so people must respect the rule of law under the social contract.

3. Moral Precedent – Civil disobedience sets a dangerous moral precedent which eventually leads to more violent forms of disobedience and a degradation of respect for the law. It would be a dangerous precedent to admit the moral justification of civil disobedience because you cannot do so while at the same time arguing that people should obey the law. The two are, by definition, mutually exclusive.

I hope that helps get you started. Good luck!

Remember to leave a comment if you have questions or want to discuss anything, and remember to visit the debate academy website if you’re interested in private coaching.

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

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

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

Definitions

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

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

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

Affirmative

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

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

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

Negative

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

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

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

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