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 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: 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 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!

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!