Resolved: In order to better respond to international conflicts, the United States should significantly increase its military spending.

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militaryspending

Resolved: In order to better respond to international conflicts, the United States should significantly increase its military spending.

I just got done writing the LD topic overview, and I was relieved to be done with that terrible topic. Then, I saw this one. In what delusional universe could anyone possibly think that spending more than the $1 trillion we already spend on “defense” is the solution to responding to international conflicts? People have written entire books on why that thought is so misguided as to not even be a consideration. But for some reason, 67% of you decided that this is what we should be debating. I hope you’re happy with yourselves, and I hope you’re happy destroying the minds of our youth.

Definitions

International conflicts – This is an incredibly broad scope. It technically includes everything from environmental conflicts to genocide to terrorism. Terrorism is the most politically relevant topic area considering the modern world, but there’s probably a lot of room to argue about other areas of conflict as well.

Significantly increase – I’m only reviewing this definition to point out that it doesn’t matter. Whether spending is increased significantly or not is not the question. You can pick any arbitrary amount and call it significant. 25%, 50%, 75%….none of the numbers really change what the debate is actually about.

Military Spending – This is also incredibly broad. What exactly qualifies as military spending? There is the obvious stuff like guns and fighter jets, but what about intelligence personnel? Or clerks at the Pentagon who file paperwork? Technically, the debater is responsible for including everything. That being said, the type of spending is really irrelevant. The question is whether or not dumping money into military efforts will solve the problems.

Should – The most important word in the resolution. You have to first determine how the U.S. government determines what it should do in order to argue the resolution.

Case Positions

Pro

  1. We Aren’t Keeping Up – The U.S. military needs to increase research and development, along with deploying more personnel on the ground. These are the most effective ways to keep up with the growing number of military engagements that we have to deal with, and increased spending will allow us to do this.
  2. Non-Military Conflicts – Resource conflicts, environmental conflicts, and refugee crises all require additional military spending to deal with. If we can use military initiatives to address these problems before they spill over international borders, we’ll be in a much better place.

Con

  1. Spending Isn’t the Problem – Look at the history of U.S. counter terrorism policy. Study after study has shown that what we’re doing isn’t effective and is in fact exacerbating the issues. Yet, we keep doing it. Spending more money on initiatives that don’t work isn’t a good approach.
  2. Opportunity Cost – We like to pretend that the military budget exists in a vacuum, but it doesn’t. Increased military spending means either higher taxes or decreased spending in other areas which desperately need it like education and energy.

Good luck!

Resolved: The United States should end Plan Colombia.

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Resolved: The United States should end Plan Colombia.

Ugh! These topics keep getting worse! There is no debate here. Plan Colombia has been a catastrophic failure, and study after study has argued that the resources should be used elsewhere. This is the most pro-weighted topic I have ever seen in my life. I guess it at least has the potential to teach students about cocaine trafficking, and since the second season of Narcos was released fairly recently, it’s probably good to learn a little something about the trade. Let’s get to it.

Definitions

United States – It should be clear that this means the U.S. government. The government is the entity which carries out these types of initiatives, so it needs to be clear that it’s the agent of action here

Plan Colombia – Colombia has drug cartels; in fact, it has some of the biggest baddest drug cartels in the world. In addition to that, it has a complex political situation marked by different factions of militants and cartel sympathizers. Plan Colombia is the United States government attempting to combat some of these parties. It has a lot of history and details, but the idea is that the U.S. wants to stop the drug cartels and the left wing militants, or at least that’s how the military, economic, and political interventions involved in Plan Colombia are sold. Ever seen Sicario? That’s probably closer to the actual reality of what goes on.

Should – This is the most important word in the resolution. Your framework has to explain how we determine what a government must do, and apply that analysis to Plan Colombia

Case Positions

Pro

1. Opportunity Cost – A government’s first priority is to its own people. The Colombia Plan has cost tens of billions of dollars and led to no clearly identifiable benefits for the American people. It continues to waste taxpayer money and cost lives of American soldiers. It should be stopped and those resources directed elsewhere.

2. Security – Plan Colombia has had a destabilizing impact on the region. It has not created a stable government in Colombia which favors the United States, and instead, has caused militant retaliation which has ripples across South and Central America. The U.S. has an obligation to promote security near its borders, and Plan Colombia does the opposite of that.

3. Self Determination – As a member of the international community in an increasingly globalized world, nations are obligated to respect the self determination of all peoples. Plan Colombia directly violates that self determination, and as such, needs to be stopped.

Con

1. Drugs! – Colombian cartels are notorious for proliferating drugs through Central America into the U.S. As such, they are causing direct harm to the American people, a harm which the U.S. government has the obligation to stop. Plan Colombia has so far been effective in limiting the influx of these drugs into the United States, and so should continue.

2. Humanitarian Intervention – Plan Colombia is a humanitarian effort which the U.S. has an obligation to continue. So far, American efforts have managed to diminish the power the cartels hold in Colombia and have afforded the Colombian people a tremendous amount of freedom and opportunity, and it should be continued to help those people.

3. Military Interest – If FARC gets a foothold in Colombia, it poses a security risk to the entire region, which includes the U.S. The United States has a military interest in having a sympathetic government in power in Colombia, and so should continue its efforts to secure such a government.

That’s all I got. Good luck!

Resolved: On balance, the benefits of the Internet of Things outweigh the harms of decreased personal privacy.

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iot

Resolved: On balance, the benefits of the Internet of Things outweigh the harms of decreased personal privacy.

And the bad topics just keep on coming. There are so many more interesting things to talk about than the speculative personal privacy harms when it comes to the IoT. We could talk about national security, the economic impacts, or a variety of other things. Instead, you chose to talk about personal privacy. If you still think you have privacy in 2016, you’re delusional. Google knows everything about you, and the government can find out whatever they want with a few clicks. Stop pretending like privacy is actually a thing anymore, and please stop pretending that it’s more important than all the potential benefits of something like an IoT. But whatever, let’s go through the topic.

Definitions

Internet of Things – The idea is pretty simple, but there’s a lot to unpack here. The IoT is basically the concept of an internet where everything is connected. Cars, toasters, headphones, pens, etc… can all be connected to a network and send/receive data. On the one hand, this could be incredibly beneficial. For example, smart watches are already being used to send live health data from patients to their doctors so that their treatments can be monitored and improved. That’s one example of how this network could be great. On the other hand, it’s Skynet, and we all know how that ends. A completely connected universe poses tremendous risks and gives the bad guys a whole new toy to play with. What if someone managed to hack into your car and lock your brakes while you were speeding down the highway? That would be pretty bad. The important thing to keep in mind here is that no object or “thing” is off limits. The IoT would connect all of the things.

Personal Privacy – This is also pretty simple. We all know what privacy is. There is certain information that we don’t want other people to know or to be publicly available. The important part of this term is the word personal. The resolution here specifically concerns itself with the individual, not any organization or body like the government. You also have to keep in mind that the resolution assumes there are harms of decreasing personal privacy. This assumption is probably up for critique, but you will need to understand privacy in order to critique it.

Outweigh – This is the most important part of the resolution, and I often find that debaters struggle with properly weighing things. Look, it is possible for one benefit to be more important that 1000 harms, if it is a big enough benefit, and vice versa. You must develop a framework which explains what the most important considerations are when evaluating the impacts of technology. Are human rights the most important? The economy? What about societal progress? How and when does one of these things outweigh the others? Teams usually just get up there and list out harms or benefits, depending which side they’re on. That’s not enough. You need to explain why your impacts are more important than the other side’s.

Case Positions

Pro

1. The IoT Saves Lives – It’s already happening. One of the most important applications of the IoT is healthcare. With this amount of data, a person can manage and improve his/her health at an unprecedented level. We’re already seeing this with things like Apple’s HealthKit. Saving lives seems far more important than protecting whatever shred of personal privacy we have.

2. Reducing Personal Privacy is Beneficial – Why do we value privacy so much? If you don’t have things to hide, why does it matter if foreign entities can access your public information? Less personal privacy will actually encourage people to be better human being. They won’t be able to as easily hide the terrible things that they do, and will therefore be discouraged from doing them. It will also help law enforcement more easily solve crimes, which also seems far more important than protecting personal privacy.

3. The Unknown – We don’t know what potential benefits the IoT could unlock, because an aggregation of such data has never been possible before. We can, however, more reasonably estimate the risks and protect against them. The mystery box could be anything, but you already know what box A contains, and it’s not that great. So, pick the mystery box!

Con

1. Government Abuse – A government that has access to all this data is incredibly dangerous. With control of the military, it becomes invincible. The risk of government abuse becomes tremendous. Even something as simple as manipulating elections becomes much more likely.

2. Economic Abuse – Like with anything else, the wealthy have access to things that normal people don’t. The IoT would be no different. Corporations could use IoT data to manipulate entire consumer bases without the average person’s knowledge. As data about the lives of executives becomes more available, corporate espionage and blackmail become more likely. These realities all result from the violations of personal privacy that become possible with an IoT.

3. Quality of Life – A person’s quality of life decreases without privacy. Privacy is a key component not only in human development but also in maintaining a positive and happy lifestyle. Without privacy, anxiety becomes more prevalent. The increased benefits of an IoT are meaningless if people are not happier with their lives.

Alright, that’s it. Good luck!

Resolved: In United States public K-12 schools, the probable cause standard ought to apply to searches of students

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Resolved: In United States public K-12 schools, the probable cause standard ought to apply to searches of students

This topic seems interesting, and it should be, if it’s debated properly. The landscape is pretty broad and allows for a lot of direct clash. There are also some interesting questions about where the Constitution does and does not extend to, the answers to which could be use to frame a pretty dynamic debate.

Definitions

k – 12 schools – Pretty straightforward, this includes all K-12 schools, public and private. We’re also excluding all post-secondary education like colleges and technical schools.

Probable Cause Standard – This is the 4th amendment standard used to determine if an officer can conduct a search of a person. The officer must have probable cause to suspect that a crime has occurred, at which point a prior warrant is no longer required to search an individual’s person. For example, if the officer sees blood on the hands of someone during the search for a murderer, then that is probable cause to detain and search that person. Do not get caught up in debating what is and is not probable cause; that is not the issue in this resolution.

Searches of students – This includes all searches – lockers, person, vehicles, etc… The affirmative and negative positions must both apply categorically.

Case Positions

Pro

1. Constitutionality – Despite what many people think, public institutions like schools are not beyond the reach of the U.S. Constitution. The probable cause standard is a constitutionally guaranteed protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and it extends everywhere. It is unconstitutional to exclude students from this protection.

2. Moral Precedent – Student’s learn much more in school than just what they’re taught in class. A large part of their moral development also occurs in those hallways. If students are subjected to searches, then we establish a moral precedent that this type of policing is OK, and we create a generation of people who will be on the dangerous cusp of a slippery slope descending into a police state.

3. Reason – There is no compelling reason not to have the probable cause standard. Why would a search of a student be conducted otherwise? The only justification to search would be if you suspected the student of a crime, in which case there is probable cause. It would be pretty ludicrous to just start searching students for no reason.

Con

1. Constitutionality – The U.S. Constitution does not completely extend to public institutions like schools. There are special limitations in schools on things like speech in order to preserve safety and the sanctuary of the public space. To that end, the probable cause standard does not actually apply to students in schools.

2. Political Citizenship – Minors are not political citizens yet, and as such, the full protections from searches and seizures do not extend to them. They do not have the same political or economic rights as adults, and as such, there isn’t a justification to apply to probable cause standard to them.

3. Less Stringent Standard – Because safety concerns ought to be higher for children, a less stringent standard is more appropriate. The probable cause standard does not offer the appropriate flexibility for students to be searched if a security threat is suspected. Officials need to be able to respond quickly and with limited restrictions in order to ensure the safety of students.

Resolved: To alleviate income inequality in the United States, increased spending on public infrastructure should be prioritized over increased spending on means-tested welfare programs.

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Resolved: To alleviate income inequality in the United States, increased spending on public infrastructure should be prioritized over increased spending on means-tested welfare programs.

This resolution isn’t phrased properly. The real world doesn’t actually pose a choice between these two, and it’s difficult to think of a scenario in which they would come into conflict. Rather, we should be talking about which one is more effective, which is probably what this debate will turn into. It’s important to remember, however, that you must prove why the government should pick one over the other. The resolution assumes a world where there is a choice to be made. This resolution is also rife with opportunities for well run kritiks, although that’s not really a fashionable thing to do in Public Forum. For example, who says we even should alleviate income inequality?

Definitions

Income Inequality – We’ve all heard about the 1%. That is essentially what this is referring to. Don’t get too bogged down in the actual spread of income, but rather focus on the idea that there is substantial income inequality in the U.S. which needs to be fixed. The actual numbers around this are irrelevant to the argument.

Spending on Public Infrastructure – This harkens back to the days of FDR. Spending on infrastructure means building things that help form the foundations of society like energy producing facilities, roads, hospitals, and other public works type things.

Spending on Means-Tested Welfare Programs – These programs refer to those which grant benefits or assistance based on the need of the individual. Means-testing refers to evaluating the means which a person has, or how much they are able to provide on their own, and then allocating benefits accordingly.

Pro

1. Infrastructure Works Better – Spending on infrastructure creates jobs, and helps society. The numbers are clear. While welfare programs may provide assistance or money directly to those in need, infrastructure spending allows those in need to earn that assistance while also contributing to the rest of society.

2. Welfare Programs are a Byproduct of a Bad System – The reason that welfare programs even exist in the U.S. is because of things like a private healthcare system and poor education. Therefore, we shouldn’t increase spending on these programs, but rather fix the systems that’s causing the need in the first place.

3. Welfare is Useless Without Infrastructure – Let’s say you give a person $100 to buy medication. If he can’t get to a pharmacy, that $100 is useless. He can’t get the medication anyway. The resolution creates a world in which there is a conflict between infrastructure and welfare needs. In this conflict, infrastructure should always be prioritized because welfare is useless without infrastructure.

Con

1. Infrastructure Spending Doesn’t Work – Contrary to common belief, infrastructure spending in the 21st century doesn’t promote economic stimulus and job growth. It also doesn’t address the major problems of income inequality because jobs in infrastructure don’t pay anything. Welfare programs afford people the ability to work towards getting higher paying jobs.

2. There is No Need for Infrastructure Spending – The resolution poses a false dichotomy. In the United States, infrastructure is pretty much set. We need to focus on other things because roads, energy, and such things are taken care of.

3. Prioritization is Bad – These expenditures don’t exist in a vacuum. The U.S. spends nearly $1 trillion on “defense” every year. If that spending is cut even slightly, then both infrastructure and welfare programs can receive the funding they need. The notion that one must be prioritized over the other is spurious, since both are possible.

Hope this helps. Good luck!