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.

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

  1. I feel like your final point, that economic gaps create conflict, can be used by both the negative and the affirmative. If you remove the assumption that a government intervention to resolve the conflict is somehow less helpful than any other intervention to resolve the conflict, then the development of appropriate government interventions merely becomes one of the many ways in which the desired progress can be achieved, at which point the argument supports the affirmative.

    Also, Ludwig von Mises would be a good philosopher to study for the negative (however much I disagree with his scribblings).

    • That’s a good point. The point, however, is that progress between 2 parties can only be made if a third party doesn’t intervene. Though that is the point for contention I suppose 🙂

  2. Do you think that Utilitarianism would be a suitable value for the aff? I feel like it’s going to be overused…

  3. Hi, it’s me again. I’ve been trying to think of suitable values for the neg, but as far as I know, each one I can think of can be rebutted into oblivion. I really want to refrain from using justice because it’s so obviously overused (and plus, there are countless definitions for it.) I wouldn’t want to use equality because man won’t be equal if there’s a gap between the rich and the poor in the first place! I was wondering if anyone’s social contract theory conforms to the neg’s case…

    • Hi Elisa,

      I would first say that you shouldn’t be afraid to run a value which is common. Remember, values are generally common (justice, societal welfare, morality, etc…). The key is the value criterion. How are you achieving your value? My advice to you is to maybe try and come up with contentions or a larger framework first. What is the point of the negative side? What are you trying to achieve? Why would you negate the resolution at all?

      You should not construct a case with counter arguments in mind. Every case can be argued against, and you can always prepare for objections after your arguments have been developed. Do not try to write the perfect position. Write a position you believe in and one which works together as a cohesive system running through your VC.

      As far as contract theories are concerned, they are not going to help you much on the Neg because they are generally concerned with negative rights. A non-social contract angle will likely suit you better.

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