[eDebate] Re-thinking the States Counterplan

Eric Morris ermocito
Fri Apr 3 12:18:31 CDT 2009

1. Identifying current practices as 'calcified'  is not equivalent to
refuting them. To critique a concept is not to refute it, but at most to
propose a line of inquiry. Judges should encourage direct refutation of
critiques, and often judging privileges indirect refutation and discourages
direct refutation. It should thus be unsurprising that few debaters select
direct refutation. I don't ask that K debates go away - I would like to see
them decided more consistently. I suggest a degree of calcification is thus
good, since it makes it easier to train debaters what they should be looking
for when they cut cards about a particular K.

2. Few arguments disenfranchise undergraduate research as much as the K as
currently practiced - particularly due to the ambiguities of how debate
rounds will be decided. It should be much easier to (a) get people to offer
their cites (including first word/last word) as is the expectation for
academic work in other settings (b) get mileage from attacking the
assumptions behind a particular book or article - which often have a far
stronger link to the K than the K often does to the case and (c) describe in
fair detail the alternative framework assumptions under which the K is
operating to anticipate which arguments 'count' and why. Creating a norm
where attacking the K directly is a better path to victory would increase
greatly the number of people who attempted that approach. I should note that
there are some judges who will give counter evidence to the K a great deal
of weight, but many do not. Like policy arguments, there are lots of
practices that have the combined effect of protecting K's as strong
strategic options.

3. Evaluation of a particular debate may (and should!) draw upon arguments
about whether a particular argument is 'good for debate', but individual
round decisions should focus more on answering the question at hand (who won
THIS debate) than the broader question (invoking a strong bias against the
states CP, or the K, etc.).

4. I'm not willing to concede either that (a) no states CP's are opportunity
costs or (b) no politics disads are opportunity costs. In the latter case, I
think it depends on the link. I do think any 'unified theory of action' is a
formula for calcification. But, I'm not opposed to calcification per se.

5. I do think that theory arguments which oppose not ALL states
counterplans, but certain types of fiat (uniformity) which negate much of
the lit base, might be a way forward. This PIC-based approach to theory
debating has won a lot of rounds, particularly on topicality.

On Fri, Apr 3, 2009 at 11:12 AM, Richard A. Garner
<richardgarner at gmail.com>wrote:

> "I agree with Ricky that many debaters privilege certain types of impacts,
> but I disagree that the K is an effective solution to these problems."
> Let me rephrase: I don't think that critique is a solution to this problem.
> My argument is that debate operates as a larger discursive structure whose
> concepts valorize or disallow certain discourses, and that this valorization
> tends toward an overall objectivization (organization of objects of analysis
> via practice and discourse) that privileges questions of externally oriented
> national policy (and thus, ultimately, geopolitics) measured by a discourse
> of utilitarianism. Whether or not this is a good or a bad thing, or why this
> is the case, debate likes/wants/desires/prefers/chooses to be this way, and
> has developed an aresenal of concepts designed to stabilize this focus. The
> States CP is one of these tools, and one of the primary ones.
> In this sense, critiques per se are not a solution to the States CP tout
> court, unless by that one means that they, and this is an empirical
> question, refocus debate on questions of  nonutilitarian political choices,
> or produce subjective positions that have been able to open up political
> discussion that operate outside this central circuity of evaluation. In this
> sense, the critique has already been an answer to the States CP, and an
> effective one.
> What the critique has done is posed questions about what it means to
> debate, and what debate's proper coordinates are, on the level of a theory
> that pluralizes and enriches the calcified concepts of education, fairness,
> political action, government policymaking, and jurisdiction (five seconds of
> a topicality violation when I was in high school). The greater depth into
> which these questions can be analyzed in debate today versus ten years ago
> is undeniable, even shocking (despite the often extremely well-justified
> wishes of many that these discussion would go away ... and I judge more
> framework debates than most).
> It is precisely at this level that critiques have provided conceptual tools
> that might be useful in advancing a slightly different standard of
> policymaking, though I think the real value is in focusing not on what the
> stakes are re: States CP, but where the stakes are located.
> RG
> p.s. I would also like to add, that one of the problems of the discussion
> might be that there is no unified theory of action that can allow for
> certain CPs while excluding others that we do want; we can make the
> arguments a la a series of justifications, but there is no strong conceptual
> differentiation that does not allow for both possibilities to exist. For
> example, it may be that opportunity cost allows for such a conceptual
> organization, but it seems like opportunity cost also negates the conceptual
> validity of the politics disadvantage. Most people are unprepared to accept
> such collateral damage.
> p.p.s. I think that an answer to Stefan's arguments would be: 1) Dylan's
> argument re: block grants, etc, which would look much more like the
> literature and restrict the actor to the FG, and 2) abandoning the States CP
> would force policy-area specific CP choices, which would increase the depth
> of debates re: the negative's approach to research, whereas there is
> currently no incentive to research these areas at all because the States CP
> is an option.
> 2009/4/3 Eric Morris <ermocito at gmail.com>
>>  Seven comments about this State CP discussion.
>>    1. Bracketing out theories about the illuminati, at least one actor
>>    has the ability to directly choose between Federal and State action: the
>>    debate judge. This is roughly the same number of actors who have the ability
>>    to dictate Congressional/Presidential cooperation to get a particular law
>>    passed & signed, not to mention funded, implemented, and upheld in
>>    perpetuity. Although I like the 'no single actor' argument because negatives
>>    often answer it poorly, I don't see it as a silver bullet in the abstract.
>>    2. People would bank more of their 2nr?s on case defense if case
>>    defense were rewarded more, relative to CP?s. Instead, judges reconsider 1ac
>>    evidence that has been poorly extended or not extended at all, prefer that
>>    evidence over smart analytic arguments, etc., while having relatively lower
>>    standards for negative performance on counter agent CP?s. There are reasons
>>    for this, and perhaps even good reasons, but I think the solution lies more
>>    in privileging case debate than in banning classes of counterplans outright
>>    (not exactly sure such a ban has been proposed).
>>    3. Fritch used to judge in a way which made it very easy for
>>    affirmative to win that a CP wasn?t legitimate and very hard for the
>>    affirmative to elevate this objection to voting issue status. If the judging
>>    pool were filled with such judges, I think these concerns about state CP?s
>>    would be greatly lessened.
>>    4. ?Argument not the team? takes the bite out of theory objections to
>>    a CP. Thus, it should perhaps lower the threshold for what it takes to beat
>>    a CP on theory. Don?t get me wrong ? I think the 1ar should engage, line by
>>    line, the justifications proposed by the negative for their counterplans.
>>    But, when they do, judges should be willing to exclude a CP from the round,
>>    without prejudice toward the same type of CP in the next round (when perhaps
>>    the aff didn?t engage the theory debate as completely). It is possible to
>>    beat back the negative?s ?10 reasons why States CP?s are critical? in under
>>    1 minute provided that (a) some of them were terrible (b) the judge was
>>    willing to let this debate resolve fairly and (c) the debater was confident
>>    enough about (b) that they were comfortable going all in on the theory
>>    objection as their 1ar response to the CP, and then heading off to the next
>>    page.
>>    5. The solution in #3 is great, because it means negatives would feel
>>    less comfortable going into the 1nc with ?only? a state CP to refute the
>>    case (thus encouraging research) but also negatives could feel ?more?
>>    comfortable going into a 2nr with the state CP instead of the case debate
>>    (assuming the aff was good on the case and bad on the CP) instead of
>>    worrying that the judge would be there to lend the aff a hand.
>>    6. Fiat durability is part of the issue here as well. In time, the
>>    states could surely develop redundant nuclear safety expertise. But, given
>>    the inefficiencies of that approach, the system would probably gravitate
>>    back toward the federal government. Attitudinal inherency doesn?t have to
>>    lock in rollback (after all, some body of government did just vote for the
>>    plan/c-plan), but using fiat to bracket out discussions of what might happen
>>    next makes it hard for affirmatives to bank on many of the best solvency
>>    deficits. You never know how strongly the judge will be committed to durable
>>    fiat.
>>    7. I agree with Ricky that many debaters privilege certain types of
>>    impacts, but I disagree that the K is an effective solution to these
>>    problems. Although I think a lot of the K literature is very interesting and
>>    important, in actual K debates judges often encourage clash avoidance (side
>>    stepping through minimal distinctions), let people wiggle out of impact
>>    turns, encourage new and hidden alternatives, allow implicit framework
>>    arguments (like ?rep?s first?) to dramatically refocus the rounds, etc. The
>>    generalized ambiguity about how K rounds are to be resolved leads to
>>    considerable inconsistency from round to round. That inconsistency appears
>>    to favor certain teams over others (which ones? It depends on the point of
>>    view of the observer), and makes hyper specific strategies against
>>    particular K?s ineffective, while they should be extremely effective. A more
>>    positive spin on the same phenomenon would be ?when there are no rules, the
>>    better debater always wins.? (which sounds fine, but it?s nice when the
>>    weaker debater can sometimes win through hard work and preparation). In this
>>    way, the post structural orientation of some K?s and many K friendly critics
>>    tends to disincentivize K debating. (I would be happy to brainstorm friendly
>>    solutions to this problem with anyone who shares my assessment in broad
>>    terms).
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