[eDebate] Cult of Fairness

David Marks dgm2109
Thu Nov 15 01:35:48 CST 2007

I think your semi-annual rants are useful because they're well thought out,
but this time I think Kade got it right. It seems like your rant is really
just pent up frustration from bad theory debates, not from the theory of
fairness itself. People should debate theory better by explaining exactly
what they mean when they say "kills fairness." If they don't, they can be
easily mocked. That's how it is in the squo. Last I checked, it's really not
that easy to win on conditionality bad.

Your claim that it's bad to label these arguments under the rubric of
fairness seems a little suspect to me. It's kind of like complaining that
people call their disad "Bush Bad" when really it's a very specific set of
arguments about the Law of the Sea and how the plan affects its chances of
passage. It's true, "Bush Bad" may "conceal the issues that are really at
play here" and may also make it "harder to appreciate and debate" the
specific scenario. But, I mean, really? That's ceding a huge amount of
discursive power to our short-hand.

Your answer to the Iran CP is an example of "it's unfair because it's
utopian." A utopian CP is the type of CP that is socially and politically
useless because it doesn't have practical relevance. Adding that sentence
explains what it means and gives the word "utopian" the necessary punch. I
imagine you'll say, "my argument isn't really an argument about fairness"
and/or "fairness doesn't capture the full weight of my argument." First hit
on google for "define:fairness" is "conformity with standards and rules."
This is an argument why the judge should, as a rule, not vote on a CP that
does not meet the standard of social and political relevance. "Fairness" is
not supposed to capture the full weight of the argument, it's just supposed
to reference it.

I could just say "it's unfair," and I'd probably lose because I lack a
warrant. I could say, "it's unfair because it's utopian" and I'd probably
also lose because that's a really unsupported set of claims. Clearly, I need
to make the types of arguments you made to substantiate my labels. But that
doesn't make the label itself wrong.

The only value I see in your challenge to rethink fairness is that it takes
people off their standard language, which I agree is good. That's why I like
to encourage my debaters to avoid the word "abuse." But that doesn't make
the theory of fairness claims inherently suspect, which is what I believe
you're alleging. Everyone agrees everyone sucks at theory. The reason many
people don't do better is because they don't have time in their speeches
and/or they don't practice and/or they don't devote enough time to thinking
about theory. It's not because they think and talk in terms of "fairness."

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