05 June, 2010

Public Confidence

This past year my partner & I found generic disadvantages to be a surprisingly successful strategy, particularly at the beginning of the season when case-specific arguments were difficult to prep. My special favorite was "BizCon" aka business confidence, which argues that abrupt policy changes hurt investors by causing regulatory uncertainty.

Lately, as I've been trying to come up with new generic arguments, it occurred to me that one could apply the same concept on the individual level. Investors are important, sure. But so are the average citizens that populate the country. What about their reaction to these policies?

Of course, this isn't completely a new argument. The politics DA has been around for ages. Policy X is unpopular with group Y & if it passes they will now vote against bill Z & the nation will collapse. Or something like that.

Unfortunately, the politics DA isn't ideally suited to the Stoa/NCFCA environment. Our judge pool tends to be unreceptive to arguments that require a large number of logical links. And, for the most part, our small research clubs don't have the resources or time to amass the huge amount of evidence required, as well as update those files on a continuous basis.

That's why I'd like to propose an alternative that operates off of the same link - enacting unpopular policies - but necessitates less research & is somewhat simpler to argue.

Here's the breakdown: The link is that the policy the aff wants to enact is very unpopular with the public. That kind of card isn't hard to find. Most policies haven't been enacted yet because they face some kind of opposition (although admittedly some of that opposition is just lobbyists). The internal link is that when the government ignores the wishes of the people, they lose faith in their leadership, in other words, the public's confidence is hurt. Finally, the impact - when they lose confidence in their government, people are less likely to engage in public service, pay their taxes, & obey laws in general. In extreme cases, people may leave the country altogether, join disruptive fringe movements, or even engage in acts of violence like the bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Of course, this disad still requires evidence, just (hopefully) not as much. With the emergence of the "tea party" movement, quite a bit of literature has been published on the subject. Here's the best card I've found so far:

Joseph Nye (Professor, Harvard’s School Of Government), ‘10 Joseph S. Nye Jr. [Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government], “The Health of American Politics,” Project Syndicate, 9 April, 2010, (web, project-syndicate.org, 4/10/10)

“This does not imply that expressions of declining confidence in government are not problematic. Whatever the reasons for the decline, if the public becomes unwilling to provide such crucial resources as tax dollars, or to comply voluntarily with laws, or if bright young people refuse to go into government service, governmental capacity will be impaired and people will become more dissatisfied with it. A climate of distrust can also trigger extreme actions by deviant members of the population, such as the bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City in 1995.”

Be aware that the author is actually speaking in a slightly different context, so this isn't necessarily the best card to read in-round. It's just an example of the wording you should be looking for.

If you were to find some decent internal link & impact evidence, there's a lot of potential here. Just think how easy it would be to include one card in each of your briefs about how unpopular the aff would be. Then you'd be able to pull out this disad & have some legitimate offense in almost every neg round. Worth a try at least.


  1. Wow Frank, this is a really great idea. I've actually tried to make arguments like this in the past, but was unable to find evidence about the distrust equaling actual impacts. I'm not sure if that's because I was young or just didn't look hard enough, but I'm definitely encouraged to try again in the future.

    Matthew M.

  2. Oh Frank- Nye has always been a favorite. Usually we use him as an impact card to Federalism, which is generally what he writes about- states rights to make policies over Uncle Sam's. I like elections / tix until November this year too.

    Coach Jen

  3. How do you answer uniqueness that the people already have no confidence in the government?

  4. @Jen
    That's funny you mention federalism, because most of his cards that I've seen deal with Soft Power. I guess he's just an all-around smart guy.

    I would actually use that to your advantage. When people lost confidence in government, they voted in a slew of populist/nationalist candidates whose violent rhetoric is already causing political stalemate & popular outrage.

    Ian Buruma [Professor of Democracy & Human Rights at Bard College], “The Powerlessness of the Powerful,” Project Syndicate, 7 May, 2010, (web, project-syndicate.org, 5/30/10)

    “The first principle of democracy is that government must be based on popular consent, even if the government is made up of parties for which many people did not vote. It is clear from the worldwide rage against elected governments that this consent is becoming dangerously threadbare. More and more people in democratic countries feel unrepresented, anxious, and angry. And they blame the elites.”