16 September, 2009

5 Bad Arguments Every Aff Should Be Prepared For

Not too long ago, the 3NR had a brief post about early tournament success, and how the key was to know what your opponents are going to run & writing some answers way in advance. Of course, there's a huge disconnect between common arguments in this league & common arguments in the NFL. There, they like to run political process (politix) disads & capitalism critiques (the cap K). In this league, we have our own set of common generic arguments that you can almost guarantee you're going to hit at the beginning of the year. Most of them are really really lame arguments, but that doesn't stop people from running them. Going aff, you know you're going to hit these arguments, so if you want to succeed, then having responses to them is critical to early tournament success. Below is a list of 5 of the worst offenders as far as bad generics go, and some suggestions in responding to them.

1. Spending

· Why it's a bad argument. Because it freaking doesn't matter. If the government spending money hurt the economy, we would have been screwed economically a long time before the 08 recession. Furthermore, 99% of affs spend minimal sums compared to the trillions tossed around in Congress every year.

· Why it still matters. It basically comes down to this: people are (a) lazy, & (b) tend to conform to what everyone else is doing. Spending DA's take absolutely zero work to write up and apply to almost every aff ever. Moreover it's been run for years, which means people see their older brothers & sisters run it & grow up with the mindset that it's legit.

· How to answer it. You have absolutely no excuse to not have pre-prepped answers to spending when it's such a commonplace argument. Go cut some cards right now on these responses:

(a). Benefits O/W. This is a no-brainer. If your case saves one life - and it better, but that's another post for another time - then you're massively outweighing spending on the impact scale.

(b). No Threshold. Find some article talking about the bailouts, stimulus, whatever. Compare that sum with the sum your plan spends. If the stimulus didn't push us over the brink, neither will the plan.

(c). Impact Turn. Takes some guts when you're likely speaking to a very conservative judge, but if you can pull it, go for inflation good. No really. Give it a shot.

2. Constitutionality

· Why it's a bad argument. Almost every time I've seen this run, it's been run poorly. Essentially, the argument is that since the Constitution doesn't give the government the specific mandate to do the plan, it's unconstitutional, and therefore causes tyranny etc etc.

· Why it still matters. Judges are occasionally willing to buy it and debaters often don't have the greatest responses. Lets face it, a large component of our judging pool are libertarian, meaning they view the constitution as almost a sacred document. And at the beginning of the year, very few debaters bother finding the constitution basis for their plan. That means they have weak responses, the neg wins their link story, and the judge gives them the impact without a thought.

· How to answer it. I've hit this argument more times than Chuck Norris has performed the round-house kicked & that's a lot. Some of the better strategies include:

(a). No Link. Prove that the plan is constitutional. Do some research, & find justification for the plan in the constitution. It might be vague & obvious like the "General Welfare" or it might be deep in the interpretation of the Commerce Clause. Your work will be well worth it if it prevents you from losing to such a bad strat.

(b). Non-Unique. Oh come on. The constitution has been violated a thousand times & they know it. Find a few examples that actually did some good - emancipation of the slaves maybe - and you're set.

(c). Courts Check Back. The Supreme Court determines what is and isn't constitutional. So find an example of legislation like your plan that the courts have upheld, and your plan passes the constitutionality test.

3. Federalism/States

· Why it's a bad argument. It's ridiculous to pretend for a second that the states would ever unanimously decide to pass the same version of a piece of legislation. And it's silly to say that the one example of federal control presented by the aff plan would result in complete usurpation of state power by the central government. There certainly is a time & place to run it, and it does help to limit the resolution to things that only the USFG can solve. But still, overall, lame argument

· Why it still matters. Those same judges that like the constitution like states rights. And it's one of the few strats that can literally apply to every case ever under a USFG resolution.

· How to answer it. Unlike constitutionality, I don't have a ton of experience answering this argument, but I've come across some pretty common responses from those who do:

(a). Theoretically. There's an argument to be made that since the aff is limited to a single actor, the USFG, it's unfair for the neg to be able to fiat 50 different states. Fiat should be reciprocal, so the neg should be limited to one actor just like the aff.

(b). Disads. Find cards about the state budget crises. There's no way the states can afford to implement the aff plan without more budget cuts which means less money for education, health, etc.

(c). Ø Threshold For Fism. Like spending, there's absolutely no threshold. At what point does federal control of policy cause the impacts? The USFG already controls a lot, & it's pretty sketch to argue that the specific aff plan will increase federal control enough to cause whatever impact the neg claims. Again, find cards about previous policies that the federal government implemented that bypass state authority.

4. Agency Attacks

· Why it's a bad argument. Every time I've seen this argument run it's gone something like this: "X agency is corrupt, which is proven by that time in '07 when they screwed up that project", or worse, "X agency is bad because they were wrong about y problem." Gasp! No way. A government agency that's not 100% successful. Now that's a shocker. While these examples are great, they don't prove that the agency itself will fail with the specific plan, or that they can't enforce the plan, just that they aren't always right, or aren't 100% successful.

· Why it still matters. Unfortunately, even though the cards themselves give an example of maybe 1 of the EPA's hundreds of projects failed, the neg is still going to spin it as "EPA Fails" & if that's all the judge hears, then sure, they'll buy it. Agency attacks are almost always spin, but a lot of debates are won on spin rather than the actual argumentation.

· How to answer it. This is sometimes a hard argument to answer, simply because very few people bother to write an article titled "the EPA isn't really very corrupt." Instead, you'll have to cut some cards giving examples of where the agency has been successful in the past, or been commended by some bureaucrat. Better yet, if the agency has been audited, undergone anti-corruption probes, or had leadership recently replaced, that can make for a good answer. Finally, just point out that the fact that if news corporations think it's noteworthy, that's probably because it's a rare occurrence. Anecdotal examples of failure or corruption don't prove an agency-wide problem.

5. T - NEPA

· Why it's a bad argument. I have a really hard time attacking T, because it's one of my favorite arguments and it's pretty essential for narrowing the incredibly broad resolution. But this specific T violation has to be the worst I've come across in quite a while. First, very few people know exactly what's in NEPA. It's not incredibly long, but it is incredibly vague. And it references a bunch of previous legislation which makes things even more confusing. That's not all though. Definitions of NEPA say it "establishes" environmental policy, never that environmental policy is strictly limited to NEPA. I'd draw a parallel to claiming that since the Declaration of Independence "establishes" America, America as a country is limited to what's in that document.

· Why it still matters. It's the closest thing to a limiting definition of environmental policy out there. Most of them just indicate that environmental policy is any policy that effects the environment, which doesn't leave much neg ground for argument. The NEPA def is an early attempt to limit the res, which it does in a way. Barely any case I can think of actually works under the NEPA interp, which means if the neg can sell the def then they're pretty much set for a neg strat.

· How to answer it. First, once again, NEPA establishes environmental policy, but that doesn't mean it is environmental policy in it's entirety. Beyond that though, a couple thoughts:

(a). Cut a few broad definitions of environmental policy. Not too hard to find. If you have say 3 definitions that are all more broad vs the neg's 1 definition, then the consensus is on your side, & you should be able to win that you have the more predictable interp.

(b). Cut a few cards that mention your plan & environmental policy in the same sentence. If you can't find that, your case is probably non-topical. It took me all of five minutes to find about three cards relating my aff to enviro policy. The point is, that if you have those cards, you can prove that there's a lit base for your case. That makes the neg standards of predictability & fairness moot because your plan is perfectly predictable as proven by the glut of evidence on your plan related to environmental policy.


  1. *knocks on table*
    :sends it out to people:

  2. This is great stuff!! Totally using it this year. I am running the case to abolish CAFE standards and almost everything you said has been argued on my case. Great stuff. Thanks so much.

    (2nd year NCFCA Debater)