Resolved: Developed countries have a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Resolved: Developed countries have a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change.

What is this nonsense? I cannot remember a more terribad PF resolution in recent memory, except maybe the one about NBA uniforms. EFF! Regardless of my feelings, however, it’s what we’re stuck with, so let’s break it down.

Nouns: Developed countries, moral obligation, effects, climate change

Verbs: have, mitigate


Developed countries – Do not fuss over this definition. We all have an understanding of what developed countries are, and we can all list examples of them. The purpose of specifying developed is to avoid the economic/ability argument that the country just doesn’t have the resources to address climate change. Countries like the U.S., UK, China, etc… all have the ability to tackle the effects of climate change. We need to address whether or not they have a moral obligation to do so.

Mitigate – This is a tricky term. What precisely does it mean to mitigate the effects of climate change? There are a number of ways to do this. You can start green initiatives, or you can just find a way to make polar bears and ice caps. I know there will be a lot of quibbling over what mitigation entails, but I admonish you not to fall into that trap. The resolution does not want you to focus on the method. Mitigating the effects of climate change means instituting environmentally conscious economic policies and enforcing them, simple and straight forward.

Moral Obligation – This is the crux of the case, and it will not be addressed in your definitions. Rather, your case needs to develop an understanding of where governmental moral obligations come from and precisely why this dictates a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change. This is very difficult to do in PF because you only have 4 minutes and no overt structure requirement like LD.

Case Positions


1. Protection of the People – Climate change poses and drastic and direct threat to every population. Its effects impact weather safety, food quality, and even resource competition. A government’s primary moral obligation is to protect its people from threats, foreign and domestic. If the government does not do its part to mitigate the effects of climate change, it is falling short of its main obligation

2. Humanitarian Obligations – Developed nations have a moral obligation to contribute to prosperity across the globe. It is incumbent upon those who have more to aid those who are less fortunate. Peter Senger goes on endlessly about this. Climate change has been proven to lead to a number of conflicts which have escalated into tremendous violence and oppression. If developed nations address climate change, it will bring us close to a peaceful society.


1. Climate Change Poses no Direct Threat – Climate change does not pose any significant or tangible threat to human populations. The scientific reality is that, as humans, we are more than capable of adjusting with the climate. The polar bear lovers will try and make you believe that melting ice caps and such threaten your livelihood. This just isn’t true. As such, governments have no obligation to address climate change because a government’s obligations are primarily to its people.

2. Climate Change Policies Violate the Free Market – When it comes to economics, developed nations have a primary obligation to promote free market systems because those systems demonstrably result in better outcomes. Green policies are a direct violation of free markets. Not only does this violate the government’s obligations, but it also sets a bad precedent for developing nations. These other nations cannot develop with green policies as they just do not have the resources to sustain them. If the developed nations decide to introduce international green initiatives, it may actually end up damaging the global economy.

Good luck!

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

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

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

Term Identification and Definitions

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

Verbs – has, lessen

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

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

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

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

Potential Case Positions


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


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.

Resolved: Targeted killing is a morally permissible foreign policy tool

I’m thinking about writing and publishing briefs. So, before reading the topic analysis, if you could please take a second to answer the poll below, I would appreciate it. Thanks!

Alrighty, another topic to analyze and such.

Let’s start with identifying important terms.

Nouns – targeted killing, foreign policy tool

Verbs – is

Adjectives – morally permissible

Now that we’ve identified the important terms, let’s define them.

Targeted Killing – There is no actual definition of targeted killing you can find in a dictionary. The basic definition is the intentional killing of a noncombatant individual. In short, a targeted killing is an assassination. DO NOT try and be abusive with this definition and attempt to identify very narrow circumstances in which targeted killing takes place. The debate needs to focus on the moral permissibility of the action, so just accept a good general definition of it.

Foreign Policy Tool – Please do not make this more complicated than it has to be. A foreign policy tool is something which is used to achieve something in foreign policy. Essentially, what this is doing is specifying the agent and ends of the targeted killing. The government is carrying out/ordering the killing, and it is doing so in order to accomplish some foreign policy goal. This goal could be victory in a war, preventing a nation from building nuclear weapons, deposing an undesirable regime, etc… The actual end doesn’t really matter, just that it is a foreign policy end. The purpose of including this in the definition is to prevent abusive arguments which say that civilians and private organizations should not be allowed to conduct targeted killings.

Morally Permissible – Like the last topic, this is the most important part of this one. In order to argue the resolution, you must explain how we determine whether or not something is morally permissible. This explanation will occur through your value structure, and it will inform the rest of your case, so it is the most crucial part of the case. It is up to you to develop this definition in your value structure.

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


Utilitarianism – On utilitarian grounds, targeted killing is morally permissible. Targeted killing leads to more expedient victories in armed conflicts, leading to fewer overall casualties. Not to mention, if rogue regimes are prevented from developing nuclear weapons as a result, then the utilitarian calculus definitely favors targeted killing.

Just War Theory – Traditional Jus in Bello war ethics permit targeted killing. Asa Kasher does a very good job picking apart the principle of distinction in his writing and outlines precisely why traditionally accepted moral criteria in war permit the use of targeted killing.

All is Fair in War – General Sherman argued that everything should be permitted in the context of war as it is the only true way to propel us towards a society which does not approve of war at all. Essentially, if we allow everything to be permissible in war, then people will see how terrible war can be and just refuse to go to war in the first place. Therefore, because everything is permissible in war, targeted killing is permissible.


Utilitarianism – Targeted killings cause more violence. When leaders or important individuals are eliminated, their followers are energized by the fervor of vengeance. Not only that, assassinations often leave a power or authority vacuum which splinter groups try to capture, often violently competing with one another. Furthermore, the threats which targeted killing attempts to thwart are unrealistic and often only speculative.

The Principle of Distinction – It is always morally impermissible to target noncombatants regardless of their involvement in the conflict. If they are not directly involved in fighting, they have not directly threatened anyone’s right to life, and therefore, still retain their own right to life.

Targeted Killing Makes Government Illegitimate – Targeted killings are carried out as unilateral actions, and therefore, violate the rules of morally permissible military actions. These killings do not have the consent of the international community, nor do they have the consent of the people which the government rules over. The government derives its right to defend its people from the people’s consent to be defended. At the point where the government begins ignoring this consent, it becomes illegitimate. Therefore, targeted killing is morally impermissible because an illegitimate government is immoral.

I hope this helps get you started. Feel free to ask questions, and good luck! 🙂

Resolved: It is morally permissible for victims to use deadly force as a deliberate response to repeated domestic violence

I’m thinking about writing and publishing briefs. So, before reading the topic analysis, if you could please take a second to answer the poll below, I would appreciate it. Thanks!

I am surprised to see this topic recycled so soon, and without any current world justification for it. Alas, such is the situation and as such I shall once again provide a topic breakdown.

Let’s begin with terms and definitions.


victims, deadly force, deliberate response, repeated domestic violence (remember how nouns are constructed in debate)


is, use (not important to define)


morally permissible


Victims – The definition for this term seems obvious. Naturally, the person getting beaten or attacked is the victim of the domestic violence. However, in the past, people have attempted to argue that children and other family members can also be included in the definition of “victims.” Therefore, the affirmative must defend the position that other people can also kill the attacker. DON’T DO THIS! This is stupid and abusive, not to mention against the intent of the resolution. It is also a very easy argument to counter and not very convincing to judges in general. The victim is the person being attacked, end of story.

***As another note, some people attempted to point out that the resolution never specifies the target of the deadly force. The abused woman could go kill the bartender that served her alcoholic husband. What then? Again, please don’t do this. The resolution intends the target of the deadly force to be the abuser, however poorly worded the topic may be.***

Deadly Force – Deadly force is force that kills. Do not fall into the trap of debating the eventualities when the target doesn’t actually die, like a gunshot to the leg or shoulder. Just assume the force will kill. Otherwise, there is really no point in debating.

Deliberate Response – The purpose of making the force deliberate is to eliminate accidental killings due to self defense. If a victim reacts to being attacked and kills the attacker without actually intending to do so, then the situation falls outside the resolution. The victim must intend to kill the attacker. Therefore, the deliberate response is intentional and controlled.

Repeated Domestic Violence – Do not make this more complicated than it has to be. Like “in need,” we all have a basic understanding of what repeated domestic violence is. A person in a relationship is continually beaten and abused time and time again. Just find a legitimate source which corresponds to the common understanding of the term, and stick the definition in your case.

Morally Permissible – This is the most important definition in the debate, and it will not be defined with the rest of the terms. Rather, you must use your value structure to show how we determine whether or not something is morally permissible. Like the previous resolution asked you to determine where our moral obligations come from, this one asks you to determine how we determine the morality of an action.

With the definitions addressed, let’s talk about some potential case positions. Remember, the crux of any position is a solid framework which provides a way to evaluate the morality of actions.


Self Defense – Our morals come from the rights claims we agree upon when we form the social contract. According to Hobbes, the only right which we cannot sacrifice completely is the right to self defense. If one’s life is threatened, he/she has the absolute right to defend, and the aggressor effectively sacrifices their right to life by threatening that of another. Repeated domestic violence can be said to actually threaten the victim’s life. It traps them in such a cycle of physical and psychological damage, that it effectively robs them of their life. Therefore, their deliberate use of deadly force to escape the situation is morally permissible. To make it more explicit, suppose the person has been captured by a serial killer. The serial killer continually rapes and beats the victim for several years before killing them. Would we not admit that it is morally permissible for the victim to use deadly force to escape the situation? Why is repeated domestic violence any different?

Vigilante Justice – It is morally permissible for individuals in society to react accordingly when government fails. In the case of repeated domestic violence, it is impossible for government to come up with an adequate response because this violence occurs in the private domain. Justice systems the world over have failed to develop appropriate recourse systems which efficiently and adequately respond to domestic violence. It is impossible to record the goings on in every home to protect against this crime. Therefore, it falls upon the victim to react. This is the same reason we retain the right to bear arms.


Alternatives Exist – Options which harm people become morally impermissible when less harmful options exist. Victims of repeated domestic violence can seek recourse to the legal system or escape through the use of non-deadly force. Debilitating non-deadly force can be used as an effective method for the victim to incapacitate the attacker and escape to seek the help of authorities.

Disproportionate Rights Violation – Our moral system exists because of the rights claims we make against each other. According to John Locke, the social contract develops as a result of people wanting to coexist with one another and therefore agreeing individually that they will not violate rights in exchange for not having their own rights violated. Therefore, the only appropriate retribution is that which is equivalent to the rights which have been violated to begin with. Taking life is not proportional to the rights violation which occurs as a result of repeated domestic violence. Though the victim may be robbed of liberty and happiness, they still have the opportunity to regain it because they are alive. Life provides the opportunity to exercise all other rights, and therefore, it is more valuable than all other rights. A victim’s use of deadly force would therefore be disproportionate and morally impermissible.