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

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

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

Parts of Speech

Nouns: United States, universal health care, citizens

Verbs: ought, guarantee

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

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

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

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

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

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

Affirmative

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

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

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

Negative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parts of Speech

Verbs – ought to extend, grants

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

Definitions

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

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

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

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

Potential Case Positions

Affirmative

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

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

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

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

Negative

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

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

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

That should help you get started. Good luck!

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

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

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

Term Identification and Definitions

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

Verbs – has, lessen

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

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

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

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

Potential Case Positions

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.