Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.

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Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.

I love when they recycle old topics. And by that I mean, wtf are they doing recycling old topics? Come up with something more relevant! Alas, like the many topics before this one, we’re stuck with what we’ve got, so let’s talk about it.

Parts of Speech and Definitions

Nouns – 

Rehabilitation – This is the approach to justice which focuses on helping criminals see the error of their ways and once again making them productive members of society

Retribution – This is the approach to justice which focuses on punishing criminals for the wrongs they have committed

U.S. Criminal Justice System – We know what this is; it doesn’t really need a definition.

Verbs –

Ought to be valued – This is the crux of your case. You must develop a framework which addresses how we determine what a criminal justice system ought to value. Based upon that framework, you need to explain why the U.S. criminal justice system ought to value rehabilitation of retribution

Potential Case Positions


1. Societal Welfare – A society is better off with a greater number of productive members. Prisoners do not do society any good. Therefore, there should be a focus on rehabilitating criminals and releasing them back into society for the sake of making society better as a whole. The recidivism rate is so high anyway that simple punish only creates more problems.

2. Violence Breeds Violence – The punishment environments, particularly for violent criminals, in the United States are terrible places where once must become increasingly adept at criminal activity in order to simply survive. The culture within prison systems is not one which encourages proper and just behavior, but rather one which encourages prisoners to become more immersed in a criminal culture. A focus on punishment only exacerbates this and creates increasingly violent criminals as opposed to solving our problems.

3. Rehabilitation is More Economical – We spend a great deal taxpayer money on punishment systems in the United States, at almost unsustainable levels. The problem is that we really don’t have anything to show for it. All this expenditure on punishment hasn’t resulted in a significant decrease in crime. Rehabilitation costs much less, and if properly executed, it addresses the upstream causes of crime, resulting in a tangible decrease.


1. Governmental Legitimacy – As per the social contract, a government can only be legitimate if it properly enacts punishments for violations of the social contract. If focusing on rehabilitation, the government must inevitably become more lax on punishment. Therefore, we sacrifice true retributive justice in some vain hope of rehabilitating someone who has already proven himself to have disregarded the social contract.

2. Retributive Justice – True retributive justice actually demands that there be no focus on rehabilitation. Criminals violate the social, and therefore, they give up any corresponding rights to those obligations which they violated. They don’t deserve to be rehabilitated and integrated back into society because they had their chance to be a part of that society and chose to disregard its rules.

3. Retribution Accomplishes Rehabilitation’s Goals Better – Plato explains that the only true deterrence to a crime is the threat of punishment, and Hobbes agrees. The reason criminals continue to commit crimes is not because they think it’s OK but because they don’t fear the punishment associated with it. If the justice systems focuses on punishment, this deterrent mechanism of fear becomes much more active.

That should help you get started. Good luck!


90 responses to “Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.

  1. I’m having trouble figuring out where to start. I did alot of research on deterence theory and how effective rehabilitation is, but I just can’t find a place to start finding a value and writing my contentions. I think that focusing on something economic would be good for a value with the aff. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Well, what is the general argument you want to make? You’re thinking too far ahead. State your argument in simple terms, and then try to understand what that argument is trying to achieve. That will bring you to your value structure.

  2. Hey Ace,

    Thanks for the Social Contract help above, but is there anything else that you suggest I look at to futher explain why under the social contract they must value retribution?


    • Hi Daniel,

      Plato does a great job explaining the value of retribution in The Republic. Machiavelli’s Prince (or The Prince) is also a helpful text. You can also read Rawls for some counter points, and read Crito by Plato as well. Those texts should help you get started. Good luck! (of course don’t forget the essentials like Hobbes and Locke)

  3. Hi,

    This is my first resolution and we have a huge team. We only have 4 debaters 2 of which are PF they cant really help me because they are focused on them and the coaches cant help because they are focused on everyone else. With that being said, what should I do?

    • Hi Amelia,

      I’m sorry to hear that; I know how tough that can be. I did 4 years of LD without a coach and had to teach myself everything. Have you been taught anything so far? Case structure? Round structure? What is LD? Let me know, and I can help guide you a little bit.

    • That’s a really broad question Amelia. I’ve outlined some basic advice below. If you want more in depth coaching, I’ll have to charge for that just because it requires a lot of time and effort. If you want case advice or anything, feel free to post, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

      An LD case consists of a value structure and contentions.

      The first part of the value structure is the value. It tells you what is the most important thing you are trying to achieve. Common values include Justice, Societal Welfare, and Morality.

      The next part of the value structure is the Value Criterion. There are two types of criteria that are generally used. The first is the one which is used to get to your value. For example, we use the protection of human rights to get to justice, or we use economic freedom to get to societal welfare. The second type of value is the weighing mechanism. This is used to tell you how much of your value has been achieved. For example, we can use virtue to measure how moral our society is, or we can use standard of living to measure societal welfare.

      The contentions are your actual arguments. They use your value structure to either affirm or negate the resolution. For example, you may argue that the resolution leads to the violation of human rights and therefore damages justice, so you should negate.

      That should help get you started.

  4. Can you tell me which old topic exactly this is recycling, as in what year? (my team has archives of all alumni cases so that would help)

  5. I have a very basic argument, but I dont know if it makes sense. For aff, would it make sense to talk about how criminals deserve to be rehabilitated? Maybe i could talk about how criminals are irrational, and they should be rational. I also remember reading about how its society’s responsibility to “fix” criminals, because criminals are caused by society itself.

    If that makes sense, could you point me to some philosophies/texts to back it up?

    I was thinking of a 2 part case, first part: rehabilitating benefits society
    secondpart: is the above, rehabilitation benefits criminals which they deserve (which honestly sounds a little counter intuitive, but kinda makes sense i think…)

    I was also thinking in the direction of social contract and societal welfare

    • It can make sense if you word it right. You will have to first prove why criminals deserve to be rehabilitated. All contract theorists would disagree with that, so social contract is out. As far as philosophers are concerned, Lawrence Becker is really the only one who talks about the social contract and rehabilitation, but his arguments apply to the handicapped. He’s worth a read anyway.

      Other than that, I’d look up evidence about how rehabilitation is more beneficial than punishment.

      • ok, but i want to be prepared for the Social Contract argument while on aff, so how could i say the Social contract is wrong? or at least jjustify that do criminals deserve rehabilitation

      • Don’t assume that every social contract argument is the same. Pay attention to what your opponent is actually saying and what his/her definitions are. There are always holes. Think about why the social contract was made. If it isn’t accomplishing its purpose, it’s not a very good contract is it?

        As far as justifying why criminals deserve rehabilitation, I answered that in my last response. Look up Becker, and focus on societal welfare.

  6. Hi again! For this topic, I decided to use a value of utilitarianism and a value criterion of benefits to societal welfare for Aff. How does that sound?

    • Hi Damon,

      I’m not sure what you mean by ‘benefits to societal welfare.’ Can you elaborate on your position so I can give you proper feedback?

  7. I have a question, on the neg, Im having a hard time proving why we should look to Ret. I have solid philisophical evidence proving why, but i cant rebute exactley what they said when my own philosopher agrees that we should maximize the state. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Norman,

      I’m a little confused as to what you’re asking. Are you saying that your opponent said that whatever philosopher you used says you should maximize the state? If so, I don’t really understand how that refutes your point. You maximize the state by building more jails, increasing the police force, and controlling the people. That doesn’t contradict your position.

      It would also help if you could tell me more specifically what your argument is and who you are using to back it up. I hope this helps!

  8. Sorry about the email change. What im saying is that how can i prove that retribution maximizes the state when my opp. shows how rehab better maximizes it. im running morality with the social contract

    On a side note, i was reading Robert Nozick, i dont understand the talk about the minimal state. Can you simplify what he was saying?


    • Well, how is your opponent showing that rehab better maximizes the state? You’re assuming that your opponent is right, and you need to find proof for your side. I’m willing to bet your opponent is completely wrong, and your opponent doesn’t have any evidence to prove his/her side. Also, it makes no sense that retribution doesn’t maximize the state. You need police forces, jails, and courts to carry it out.

      As far as Nozick is concerned, he was essentially a libertarian philosopher. In his view, the state should be as small as possible. So, he doesn’t want the government doing much more that protecting us militarily.

  9. My VC is essentially that rehab benefits societal welfare. I don’t know how else to word it. Also! If anyone has skype and would like to run a practice debate with me, please let me know. No one at my school does Lincoln Douglas and I would love to have a practice buddy to practice with before national qualifications.

    • In that case, I would recommend making your value societal welfare and picking a different VC. Why does rehab benefit societal welfare? That will tell you what your VC should be.

  10. I am running societal welfare, which is defined as the well being of an entire society in the matters of health, safety, order, and economics. In my argument I am stating that rehabilitation does not fulfill the requirements of my value. However, I am not sure what to do for my vc I was thinking about doing upholding retribution but I don’t believe that it doesn’t work. So what if I did utilitarianism? I am not sure what to do.

    • Hi Rachel,

      Why does rehabilitation not fulfill the requirements of your value? Where does it fall short? That will tell you what your VC should be.

  11. I have a question about Virtue Ethics i am considering it on the aff if my current framework doesnt work. Is virtue ethics saying an action is moral based on how virtuous it is or a action is deemed virtuous depending on the Morality of it.

    Another question, I’m having trouble on aff deciding on a contention. here is my framework

    Societal Welfare

    With that, would the contention Prisons are overcrowded or there are a high rate of repeat offenders work.

    • Hi Mike,

      With virtue ethics, an action is either moral or not based upon how virtuous it is. Virtue, as argue by Aristotle, lies in the mean between two extremes. For example, courage is the mean between cowardice and rashness, thus being a virtue.

      I would read chapters 2-4 of Nichomachean Ethics.

      Both of those contentions would work for that value structure; just be sure to explain why/how overcrowded prisons damage societal welfare.

  12. Sounds great David. And to ANYONE else that would like to mock debate, please let me know ASAP. I have a tournament of Champions Qualifications on Friday and need as much help I can possibly get! Skype me: Edward_man

  13. Hey Ace,
    I was having trouble finding evidence for my case and I had a few questions.
    1. In LD, can you have specific examples for evidences, such as the Sandy Hook shooting?
    2. Can you use 2 of the same said examples as evidences in one case?

    • Hi Avery,

      Yes, you are allowed to use specific examples for evidence. However, remember that examples are used to support an argument, not make an argument for you. You still need to explain how the example helps prove your point and why your point is important.

      You can use two of the same examples; though remember that anecdotal evidence is often weak. You should strive to analytically warrant your contentions.

  14. Hi Ace,

    I’m having trouble with my neg case. My main point I’m making is about the social contract, but now I’m not sure how to go about why retribution itself is better than rehabilitation. I feel like I’ve already justified why we need retribution but I can’t seem to find any good sources for defining retribution in a positive way. Could you explain the basics of what Hobbes believed about retributive justice? I’m not really sure from the quotes I have read.

    • Hi Angeline,

      Let me start by saying that you shouldn’t just read quotes, you should actually read Leviathan, Hobbes’s work which defines his political philosophy.

      That being said, Hobbes doesn’t necessarily outline a definition of retributive justice. Rather, he argues that the sovereign is the only one fit to carry out retribution. As far as the social contract is concerned, Hobbes’s main contention would be that the criminals have given up their claim to rights under the social contract by violating it, and therefore, they need to receive whatever punishment the sovereign deems fit under the contract.

      As far as framing retribution in a positive light, you don’t really want to do that if you’re running a social contract argument. The social contract does not mesh well with practical arguments. Instead, figure out how to explain why rehabilitation doesn’t meet the demands of the contract.

  15. Is Societal Welfare a Value or VC, and if its a Value what possible Value Criterions are run under it, and if its a Value Criterion, what values is it run under?


  16. So I’m still trying to figure out what my criterion should be for my neg case. My value is justice… I was wondering if it makes sense to use retribution itself as a criterion for justice?

    • Hi Lola,

      Retribution does make sense, but I need more detail before I can help you out. What is your framework? What are you arguing?

  17. I start off by saying that the highest aim of the criminal justice system must be to give justice, so therefore it’s my value. I’ll define it as giving each their due. Since delivered with the criterion of retribution justice is achieved, then the criminal justice system must value retribution above rehabilitation. I haven’t written out my contentions yet, but i was thinking that I’d do :
    1.) Criminals make the choice to commit a crime so its only fair they receive the consequences
    2.) retribution is needed for a just society…. i think i’d use some form of the social contract here to explain and
    3.) rehabilitation does not give each their due, because the people who stay in it longer might have committed smaller crimes than people who stay in it shorter

    I guess I was just hesitating to use retribution as a criterion because it’s stated in the resolution.

    • This is a great case Lola. I do not see a problem with use retribution as a criterion here. It’s alright if it’s in the resolution.

  18. Hi, as I was reading your suggestions on positions your take your violence breeds violence perfectly summed up what I was thinking of doing. However, I’m not sure how to make that support a value. Could you perhaps suggest some?

    • Hi Kat,

      Think about what you’re trying to achieve. Why is violence breeding violence a bad thing? It harms peace, security, peoples’ safety, etc… Any of these would be suitable components of a value structure.

  19. Sorry for all the questions, but would it be okay to use multiple criteria of retribution and rehabilitation? That way it would let me make arguments against rehabilitation with there still being a link to the criteria.

    • No need to apologize, that’s what this place is for.

      I’ve never seen multiple criteria used, though I don’t see a problem with it. It’s creative, and it will definitely catch people off guard. You could also use a VC like “an effective justice system” and argue that you need both rehabilitation and retribution, just another suggestion.

  20. Do you have any good counter plan ideas ? also framework ideas this would be really helpful mainly because im so lost right now ! thank you so much

    • Hi Yash,

      I do not provide counter plans, and I also strongly advise against using them. They are built in logical fallacies and very easy to take apart.

      I’ve outlined a number of frameworks above in the post. Read through to get some ideas. If you want feedback about particular ideas you have, feel free to post them here, and I’ll be happy to help.

  21. Hi, I was trying to find a good definition for societal welfare and all that I found were definitions for social welfare. Forgive my ignorance, but are they the same thing?

    • Hi Kelly,

      Just define it how you want it to be defined. People often make the mistake of thinking that things like societal welfare have a written out definition somewhere that should be used. That isn’t the case. What do you think societal welfare is? Better yet, what do you want your value to be? Use that type of thinking to write your own definition.

      Societal welfare and social welfare can be the same thing, depending upon how you define them.

  22. Hi Ace, well I was trying to use it has my value with a VC of number of functional members of society. So could I simply define it as doing things for the good/betterment of society/community?

    • Yes, you could define it that way. The good/betterment of society is fine; just make sure you know exactly what that entails. The first questions you’ll get in CX are “What’s good/better for society?” “Who decides?” and such.

      By the way, I love that value structure.

  23. Hello! Just a question, is there any evidence showing how rehab is better? I show why ret. is bad but what can i say to show that rehab is good?

    • Hi Mike,

      What do you mean by “better?” Evidence exists to support arguments, not make them for you. Unless you can analytically explain why/how rehabilitation is better, no amount of evidence will help.

  24. Hi there, I was trying to work on my neg case and I’m kind of stuck. I want to run the type of case that says retribution and rehabilitation are equally valued because you can recieve rehabilitaion through/with retribution. Does the value oof societal welfare somehow fit into that? and can retribution then be my vc? Also my 1st contention is :Retribution includes the same rehabilitative treatments as well as holds criminals accountable for their crime and thus the two are equally valued. does that make sense?
    COuld you offer any advice or suggestions?

    Sorry for all the questions!

    • Hi Kate,

      When thinking about your value structure, you need to think about what you’re trying to achieve. You want to argue that you should use both retribution and rehabilitation. Why? What does that achieve in the end? Safety? Peace? Security? a better society? That will tell you what your value is. Retribution is fine as a VC, but since you’re arguing for both, I’d try to come up with a VC that incorporates both.

      I would just make your first contention read, “Retribution and rehabilitation should be equally valued,” or something like that. It’s more concise. It does make sense, though.

      As far as advice and suggestions, you can read through my post for case frameworks and a starting. For additional advice, feel free to post more questions or check out my coaching services.

  25. Okay, so I changed my entire case actually. I’m now using justice as my value and I’m trying to use the protection of society or societal welfare. Do either of those work? Also, I’m not sure I really need to provide a definition for protection of society, but what would I say about it. Could I just say something like “Protection of society upholds my value because…..” well I don’t really know how to say what it does. I guess it gives the criminal what he is due when he is punished and then society is protected from him, and its the governments job to protect the citizens in society by serving justice???? Did that make any sense what so ever?

    • Lol, alright Kate, my first piece of advice is to chill. Your absurd number of question marks tells me you’re a little stressed about this 😛

      That being said, you need to first ask yourself how you’re defining justice. Is it giving each their due? If so, you need to determine what everyone is due, and how we get there. Protection of society makes sense if your argument is that the people in society are first and foremost due security/protection.

  26. Hi Ace,

    This is my first time doing LD and it took me a while to figure out my value and value criterion. Could you take a look at them and see if they sound good?

    Value is social progress. Value criterion is utilitarianism.

    Value is retributive justice. Value criterion is consequentialism.

    I hesitated to use consequentialism and utilitarianism because I don’t really know if they fit in with the value. When I looked their definitions up, it basically said they both are the same thing. So if they are the same thing, would it still be okay to use them against each other?

    Also, are the contentions the arguments you use to support your case? How many should I have to be safe?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Emma,

      In order for me to give you proper feedback on your value structures, I’ll need more detail. What do you mean by social progress? What is your definition of utilitarianism? There are many philosophers with many different ideas of what retributive justice entails. Which definitions of these elements are you using?

      Consequentialism and utilitarianism are not the same. Consequentialism is a category of moral philosophies which argue that the consequences of an action determine whether or not that action is moral. Utilitarianism is a consequentialist philosophy which argues that the action which leads to the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people is the moral action (there are different versions of this).

      It’s fine to use similar value criteria on opposite sides. In fact, I’ve used the exact same value structure on both sides of a case. It all depends on how you build your framework.

      Contentions are the actual arguments you make which explain why you should affirm/negate the resolution. Numbers of contentions vary. I’ve run between 1 and 4 contentions on the Aff, and I generally ran 1 or 2 on the Neg. My advice is to focus on the quality of the contentions rather than the quantity. It’s always better to have 1 amazing contention than 4 crappy ones. Generally, most people run 3 contentions on the Aff. and 2 on the Neg.

      I hope that helps. Feel free to post again if you need additional help.

      • My definitions of the following according to the case context-

        Social progress- a value that promotes that any practice or belief that promotes progress is good.

        Utilitarianism- a philosophy which states that actions which provide for the greatest number are morally correct.

        Retributive Justice- redressing grievances and handing out punishments to those who have broken laws in society.

        Consequentialism- a philosophical perspective which argues that an act or rule is acceptable or moral because of the outcomes incurred by that act or rule.

        Do these fit with each side of the case? Most people used morality for the affirmative value and justice for the negative. I chose something less common since I didn’t want to have the same values as my opponent.

        One last question (Sorry for so many. This is my first time and I don’t want to mess up at all), I made my affirmative case and I timed myself reading it out loud. I finished it in around 4-5 minutes. I know the first affirmative speech is 7 minutes long so is it okay for me to not use up all 7 minutes? What am I supposed to do with my leftover time?

        Thanks for reading and responding. This really helps!

      • Hi Emma,

        Don’t apologize for the questions, that’s the whole point of this place.

        You have a slight misunderstanding of how the parts of a value structure should be defined. Let me give you an example of how to redefine your structure for your Aff.

        Social Progress – The continuing improvement or betterment of society.

        Utility – The greatest good for the greatest number of people.

        Do you see the difference? Your value structure should be comprised of things you want to achieve. Your value is the most important thing, which in your case would be the progress of society. You need to tell me what that entails. You would get there by promoting the greatest good for the greatest number of people, hence the VC of utility. You shouldn’t define your V and VC as philosophies because you can’t really achieve a philosophy. Let me know if that makes sense.

        Your value structures are fine, except for your Neg. VC. How do we determine what a good/bad outcome is? Consequentialism, as I mentioned in my last reply, is a category of philosophies which talks about the consequences of actions. So, you need to pick a particular consequentialist philosophy.

        The first affirmative speech is actually six minutes (unless they changed it). And yes, it is a problem if you do not use the entire time. It’s OK to stop around 5:30/5:45, but anything shorter than that will probably lose you points.

        That all being said, you are going to mess up your first time; it’s bound to happen, so don’t stress about it. You’re going to make the entire experience more difficult on yourself. Just take it easy 🙂

  27. Thank you so much! I don’t really have a good coach so I have to google everything. Is it okay if during the tournament I flow on my laptop instead of on paper? I feel like I type faster than I can write.

    • It’s up to you. I didn’t let my students use laptops. Flowing on paper teaches valuable skills and makes you a better thinker.

  28. I just have a question. What does the Social Contract tell us about Justice? Does it say that the gov’t is obligated to provide for a just society?

  29. I want to have justice as my value, but i can’t think of a criterion. Im pretty much trying to prove that valuing rehab will give the victim, convict, and society each what they are due. So the only criterion that makes sense is “giving each his due” which is Justice, so my V/C is circular. Any advise on what im doing wrong? Or would it make sense if i value something else like individual rights, and achieve it with the criterion of Justice?

    • The way your case seems to be structured, I think Justice should be your value criterion. As for your value, think about why you want to give everyone their due. Why is that a desirable goal? The answer to that will tell you what your value should be.

  30. Get this. I want to run a negative case the confuses the affirmative. The definition of Retribution is essentially giving each a just punishment. So I am going to show that rehabilitation is just because society distorts autonomy, and by the retributive principle, rehab is the just way to punish an individual which fulfills my burden. How does this sound? Risky?

    • I’m not sure what you’re trying to argue. What do you mean by society distorts autonomy? Also, you need to be careful about impact. If you prove rehabilitation is just or better, regardless of why it’s better, then the impact goes to the aff.

  31. But I am arguing the 2 as ideas instead of systems. The affirmative can’t say retribution means jail, so I argue that the 2 are motives of punishing. Rehab being the motive to punish to help the criminal, retribution being the motive to punish because it is just. the SYSTEM of rehab can be a just punish, but I argue the aff doesn’t defend the system, solely the idea of rehab.

    • Ok, so how do you win the resolution then?

      If you define the two as ideas, and then argue that the affirmative defends the idea, the affirmative takes the impact.

      If you define the two as systems, and then argue that the affirmative defends the system, the affirmative still takes the impact.

      Either way, you end up prioritizing rehabilitation, whether it’s the idea or the system. I’m confused as to how you’re claiming that rehabilitation shouldn’t be prioritized.

  32. Im just arguing that the afirmative has to answer the question “Why should we help people” and the neg has to answer “Why should we give just punishment” And which question has higher priority. But if someone on the aff says “Rehab is better than jail” I just say that under the umbrella of retribution, rehab can be a JUST form of punishment, since I am arguing for retribution, not against the SYStem of rehab. Rehab has to defend the fact that a criminal deserves help, whether that help be just or unjust. Does that make anymore sense?

    • Ah I see, your argument makes sense now. The only problem is that your initial framework is incorrect. The questions the affirmative and negative have to answer are not what you stated. They affirmative has to answer “Why should the United States value rehabilitation over retribution?” and the negative has to answer “Why should the United States not value rehabilitation over retribution?” That being said, you’re still going to end up arguing that rehabilitation is good, regardless of how you define it.

  33. By the way, how much would it cost for me to be able to communicate on skype an hour a day for 5 days? I have my district competition Feb 3rd and really want to go to nationals.

  34. I looked into Rawls, and want to use justice. However, I face a dilemma. I can do any of these 3 and have things ready for them, just, what pair sounds better? V: Morality & VC: Justice, V: Justice & VC: Retribution, or V: Justice & VC: Preservation of Human Autonomy & Dignity?

    • You need to tell me how you are defining justice, morality, retribution, and autonomy. That will determine whether or not the value structure can work. Remember that different philosophers define things differently, so I need more information to give you proper feedback.

  35. Hello, I am doing this debate for my school and since this is the 5th debate, all novices will now be JV, as am I now. My coach told me to put Morality as my Value and Deontology as my Criterion. Can you help me come up with Contention Tag Lines and ideas for the substance in each contention?


    • Hi Archangel,

      I do not provide people with contentions or evidence on my blog. The reason is that I am not your coach, and I firmly believe in students conducting their own research. That being said, feel free to post ideas, and I will be happy to give you feedback. Also, if you’d like to discuss further coaching services, let me know.

      I can start by giving you some feedback on your value structure. I would strongly recommend against using a VC of deontoloy. It doesn’t actually refer to anything specific. Deontology is just the counter-position to consequentialism. It describes the category of philosophies which argue that the consequences of an action do not determine its morality. I’d advise you to actually pick a specific philosophy or deontological theory to construct your case.

      Let me know if I can provide any additional help.

      • I changed my aff criterion to The Social Contract. Would you be able to tell me a couple ways how I can tell my opponent that my criterion uphold my value (Morality) better than their does? Thanks

      • Below are both my value and criterion, both with definitions straight out of my case.

        The Value for this debate is Morality. Morality refers to some code of conduct put forward by a society. Morality represents the difference between right and wrong bet by society (

        The Criterion for this debate is the Social Contract. My criterion of social contract is justified first because people give up rights to the government in exchange for protection, which requires government to protect them. Second, the social contract legitimates the government. The idea of the social contract is in place today to make sure that a government can be agreed upon by all citizens to avoid civil tyrannies.


      • Ok, now we have something to work with.

        For your value, you state we just want some code of conduct. Well, what if that code of conduct is bad? Hitler had a morality according to your definition. My advice would be to develop a definition which makes morality something desirable. We don’t really want any sort of code of conduct; we want one that’s actually good or right.

        As far as your criterion, where do you link it to morality? Remember, a VC is designed to either get you to your value or to measure your value. You don’t explain how the Social Contract does that. You also haven’t told me what the Social Contract is or what it means. Different philosophers had different ideas of what a legitimate social contract entails. I would advise reading Hobbes and Locke to gain an understanding of contract theory. Also, go to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (linked in the third column) and read the article on Contractarianism.

        From the way it sounds, you may also want to consider a value of Governmental Legitimacy; it may fit better with the way you want to use the Social Contract.

  36. I was thinking of using Societal Welfare for my V for aff but I’m having trouble thinking of a VC. I know I want to use that it is cost effective, reduces rates of revidicism, and that it is empirically sucessful as my contentions but I’m not sure of a good binding VC. I was thinking of maybe utilitarianism but I don’t know.

    • sorry, scratch that last contention. Instead I would like it to be that it ensures “equality of oppurtunity” instead of empircally because many criminal come from poor backgrounds without options and are undereducated. ( I have statisitics that show criminals with college degrees have the lowest revidicism rates).
      would utilitarianism work here? Thanks!

      • Hi SW,

        Let me start by saying that your case is very evidence and pragmatism heavy. With that, you want to be sure that you actually impact your points. Why does it matter if rehabilitation is more cost effective, or if it ensures equality of opportunity? Why should I care about that? I’m not saying they’re bad points; you just need to be sure to actually impact them.

        As far as your VC, utilitarianism would work, but you would need to make it clear that each of your points shows how rehabilitation contributes to the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Also, I recommend using “utility” instead of “utilitarianism.” The second is actually a philosophy rather than a thing. It doesn’t really matter, just a small distinction.

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