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 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 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!

Resolved: The United States should abolish the capital gains tax.

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Resolved: The United States should abolish the capital gains tax.

This topic isn’t so much bad as it is boring. It’s also heavily weight to the Pro. But, let’s do what we have to do.

Definitions

Abolish – This means to get rid of. Note that the resolution does not stipulate a replacement tax or policy.

Capital Gains Tax – This is a tax imposed on capital gains. A capital gain is money earned through the sale of a capital good, like stocks, property, or artwork.

Should – This is important because your framework has to explain how we determine what the U.S. government should do when it comes to tax policy.

Case Positions

PRO

1. Economic Productivity and Growth – When deciding tax policy, the government should focus on economic growth and productivity. Eliminating the capital gains tax has been shown to increase average household real income as well as economic growth. The tax should be eliminated because it encourages people to use their money, purchase/sell goods, and invest.

2. Societal Well Being – The purpose of taxes is to provide for the public good. Libraries, roads, hospitals, etc… all come from tax dollars. The capital gains tax is the least efficient in increasing this public good. The costs associated with its collection are so high that the benefit gained is marginal at best.

CON

1. Reduction in Revenue – The government collects money from taxes, and it spends that money. If the capital gains tax is eliminated, that money has to come from somewhere. It either means we shrink the budget, or create a replacement tax. Neither of those options are great. It would hurt government income, and therefore, it should not be abolished.

2. Benefits Only the Wealthy – Poor and middle class people generally don’t make much from capital gains. People investing in stocks and things are usually wealthier. In fact, the data shows pretty clearly that the majority of people paying capital gains taxes are wealthier than most Americans. If you eliminate the tax, you don’t actually help people that we would rely on for economic growth, you just help the wealthy. So, there’s no point in eliminating it.

Hope that helps. Good luck!

Resolved: Spain should grant Catalonia its independence.

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Resolved: Spain should grant Catalonia its independence.

I don’t hate the topic as much as I hate the phrasing. Framing it this way asks the question of how we determine what the government of Spain should do, which is a completely different question from whether or not Catalonia should be independent. Rather than tackling interesting questions about autonomy and sovereignty, we are now instead forced to examine the specific benefits and harms to one particular European nation. Ugh.

Definitions

Nothing in this topic really needs to be defined in detail; it’s pretty straightforward. Spain is a country in Europe. Catalonia is part of Spain, namely an autonomous “nationality” within Spain. Independence means being your own sovereign nation.

As mentioned above, though, the important thing to note is you have to address how we determine what Spain should do, not whether or not Catalonia should be independent. There’s a big difference, and students are certainly going to get this confused.

Case Positions

Pro

1. Economics – Contrary to some arguments out there, it may actually be in Spain’s economic interest to let Catalonia go. While the national government does collect taxes, it also spends a significant amount of money for the nationality, and directs a lot of EU funds toward it. It’s possible that without Catalonia, Spain would be in better shape economically. It would also add another nation to the EU, presumably, which could help further bolster the region’s economy. Not to mention, all the efforts Spain has put into suppressing the independence movement are leading many to question Spain’s democratic credentials, so to speak.

2. Democracy! – Spain is ostensibly a Democratic nation, which should ostensibly be governed by the will of the people. It seems pretty clear that the majority of Catalonia wants independence. If that’s the case, then democratic principles dictate they should have it.

Con

1. Economics – This argument can also be made on the Con. Spain certainly collects a lot of taxes from Catalonia, as Catalonia is quite wealthy. To lose all that income may be catastrophic to an already struggling economy. The costs of keeping Catalonia around are worth it.

2. Stability of Europe – With Brexit already having happened, the stability of Europe, and the EU in particular, is already on shaky ground. Granting Catalonia independence could create a substantial destabilization not only by increasing the economic burden of the EU, but also by setting a precedent which may spur other independence movements.

Hope that helps get you started. Good luck!

Resolved: The United States should require universal background checks for all gun sales and transfer of ownership.

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Resolved: The United States should require universal background checks for all gun sales and transfer of ownership.

I was excited after reviewing the LD topic, but this one is unfortunately a disappointment. It’s heavily weighted toward the pro, and evidence against universal background checks is going to be difficult to find. But, let’s see what we can do.

Definitions

United States – In this case, this refers to the U.S. government. The point of this is a) to restrict the debate within the borders of the U.S. and b) to indicate that this requirement would be enacted federally.

Require – Don’t make this more than it is. How does the government require anything? By punishing you for not doing yet, or not allowing you to get what you want. To avoid a stupid debate, you can reasonably assume that the resolution is saying a person will need to pass a universal background check before being allowed to purchase or acquire a firearm.

Universal background check – A universal background check is a check that goes through the NICS system. Basically, the FBI maintains a database of people it has deemed ineligible to purchase firearms and explosives. The background check references a potential buyer against that database to determine if they’re allowed to buy a firearm or not. Currently, only licensed firearm dealers are required to perform such a background check. The resolution is asking if this should be extended to all transactions.

Should – This is the most important word in the resolution. Your framework has to explain how we determine what a government, particularly the U.S. government, should do. Then, you have to extend that to explain why that means the U.S. should require universal background checks.

Case Positions

Pro

1. Security – A government’s primary responsibility is to the security of its own people. Some would even argue that is a government’s only responsibility. Experts generally agree that universal background checks will reduce gun violence and improve overall safety. It’s clear that these background checks should be required to improve the overall safety of the U.S. population.

2. Consent of the People – Governments, particularly democratic ones like the United States, determine their actions through the will of the people. Their is a substantial body of evidence to suggest that the American people favor universal background checks for all firearm transactions.

Con

1. Second Amendment – Such background checks would be too severe of a hindrance to peoples’ right to own firearms. The FBI registry regularly returns false positives and would prevent too many people form freely exercising their rights. It can also be argued that such a requirement is beyond the government’s rights. The Libertarian position would contend that enacting such restrictions stretches the government’s regulatory powers too far.

2. Impossibility of Implementation – This is more of a kritik type position, but one could argue that the solution proposed in the resolution is impossible to implement in the United Sates. It is just not feasible for the government to regulate all gun transactions that occur within U.S. borders, and if something is impossible to do, it should not be done.

That’s it; I hope that helps get you started. Feel free to post questions and comments below, and visit the Academy if you’re interested in personal private coaching!