Loose Nukes Because every debate can be improved with a little highly-enriched uranium.

9Mar/115

A new argument against whole-rez cases

If you read my last post, you may have noticed that the paradigm I use makes arguing against whole-resolutional cases a lot more difficult. In this post I lay out an entirely new argument.

What's a whole-resolutional case?

Whole-resolutional cases are kind of like campfire bogeymen - very few people have ever seen one, but it's best to be prepared. A whole-resolutional case is, basically, a case without a plan. The Affirmative team simply says, "the status quo needs reforming," but doesn't specify how they're going to go about it. (Usually, this just involves reading a lot of harms.)

This sounds wrong, but it makes sense. All the resolution says is that we should reform the status quo - conventionally interpreted, it doesn't require the Affirmative to be specific about how. Whole-rez cases are (fortunately) rare, but they do pop up from time to time (mostly as "surprise" cases), so it's useful to understand how to combat them.

The conventional argument: Counterwarrants

Conventionally, when you hit a whole-rez case, the traditional response is to run counterwarrants - usually, disadvantages against possible plans. Since the Affirmative is saying the resolution as a whole is a good idea, they have to defend the resolution as a whole - meaning every possible topical plan. You just have to prove that some of those are bad - abolishing the Federal Government, or redirecting our entire aid budget to kill innocent puppies, for example.

For theory wonks, this can be summed up in two sentences: Normally, under parametrics, the Affirmative narrows down the resolution to their plan, so offtopic DAs are a no-go. A whole-rez case doesn't propose a plan, so it doesn't narrow down the resolution - which means you can have a blast and pile on the disadvantages.

For everyone else, this can be summed up in two words: Nuclear. War.

OH YEAH.

Why this doesn't work

If you read last week's parametrics post, you may already see why this doesn't work. (If you haven't read it yet, you should probably do so now; this will make more sense.) The resolution isn't a collection of plans; it's the affirmation of a need. By voting for the resolution, you're not endorsing a specific plan, you're just endorsing the fact that we need a plan. This means that counterwarrants are irrelevant, because they don't disprove the need for reform.

Let me use the classic restaurant analogy. The resolution says, "we should go out to eat tonight." A typical Aff plan says, "yes, let's go to Wendy's." A whole-rez plan says, "yes, we should go out to eat tonight," but doesn't specify which restaurant. Running counterwarrants is like saying "eating out of a trash can would be bad." That might be true, but since the plan never specified that you were going to eat out of a trash can, it's irrelevant - it doesn't prove that you shouldn't go out to eat at all.

A new argument

Wait! Don't everyone switch to whole-rez cases yet! A need-based paradigm opens up an interesting new problem, which I haven't ever seen discussed before. Interestingly enough, it's basically a topicality issue. Let's look at the paradigm presented in the last post:

“The judge should vote Affirmative if one good, topical reason for reform is presented.”

The problem is the two words "for reform". A whole-rez case argues a need, but it doesn't explicitly argue a need for reform. Let me explain.

A whole-rez case basically argues that there is a problem in the status quo. However, problems can be solved in a lot of different ways: going away by themselves, divine intervention, etc. Reform is not necessarily the only (or even the best) way to solve the problem. The only way for the Affirmative to prove the resolution true is to prove that reform is the best way to solve the problem - which you can't do without solvency evidence for a specific plan. Briefly put, harms alone cannot prove that reform is necessary.

Since the Affirmative cannot prove a need for reform, their case does not fully affirm the resolution, and does not deserve the ballot.

Extend-o-tron 5000: A sample theory block

Here's a sample theory block to run against whole-rez cases, to give you ideas. As always, material in italic brackets will change based on the year's resolution.

"The Affirmative has given us lots of reasons to believe that there are problems with the current system, but that's not the extent of the resolution. The resolution says that we should reform the status quo, but the Affirmative team hasn't given us a plan, so we don't know if reform would actually do anything.

"Our standard is that the Affirmative must prove that reform is necessary. If they can't prove that reform is the best way to solve the problems they've presented, then they haven't proven that we need to [reform our policy towards Russia], so there is no reason to vote Affirmative.

"The violation is that the Affirmative cannot prove that reform is the best way to solve the problem without presenting a specific plan to examine. Reform is not automatically the only possible solution, or even the best solution. The problem could go away on its own, something else could solve it, or God could suddenly intervene and supernaturally fix everything. Since the Affirmative hasn't shown us how a specific reform or plan can solve the problems they've presented, they fail our standard and haven't proven that reform is necessary.

"The impact of this is that the Affirmative hasn't fully proven the resolution. Since you don't have a complete reason to vote for it, you have to vote Negative."

You may ask: "This seems like a really short debate round - what else can I run?" Simple: Argue the harms straight-up.  It's not hard if you think abstractly. Imagine how this "problem" affects other nations and parts of our policy, and find positive consequences. For example, bad relations with Russia may improve our relations with their enemies, and so forth.

Comments (5) Trackbacks (0)
  1. These are very good thoughts. Now suppose that the entire 1AC consisted of quotes from politicians and experts saying that we need reform. You would need to challenge the affirmative to give one example of a feasible and beneficial reform which those experts had proposed, right? And then you would proactively attack the reforms those experts had proposed, saying “We cannot rely on these people to tell us that reform in general would be good when the specific reforms they tell us would be good are not.”

    • Right. A useful strategy, in general, is to try to pin them down to something specific. Ask them in CX: “You say reform is needed. Which reforms are needed?” Keep pressing them on this. If they start advocating a specific reform, you can debate it normally. If they refuse to be pinned down to any given reform, you can really hammer them with the arguments above – “Look, they were unable to provide any specific reform that would actually solve their problems…”

  2. wow. I have never found a debate article that engrossing. Way to Go Daniel, I enjoyed your post.

  3. If I ever debated my default strategy would definitely be whole-rez. 😀


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