Tuesday, May 29, 2012

LD 2012 Income Inequality - Part 2

For more about Lincoln Douglas Debate including topic analyses, strategies, and links to evidence *click here*

This is part 2 of topic analysis for the 2012 LD National Tournament topic.  For part 1 click here,

Some Preliminary Words About Research
At the outset we need to be clear about one thing. The most recent data will likely not be as recent as you hope.  The fact of the matter is, economic data generally takes a long time to collate and analyze so it is very likely the best sources will only present economic data through 2009 perhaps 2010 at best.  Often, more recent data tends to be preliminary.  Nevertheless, this should not be considered a problem since the economic trends emerge over the course of many years.  Very short term or recent studies are probably meaningless.  Take a good course in statistics and you will understand the necessity for many samples before meaningful conclusions can be realized.

As you research this topic, gathering facts from studies in the U.S. as well as the rest of the world, you are likely to discover that in many cases the gap between the rich and poor has not grown or may have even decreased.  Even if these trends are valid, it need not undermine the AFF case as the debate is not to prove the gap is widening or shrinking but rather to prove that because there is a gap, some bad things result which governments have an obligation to correct.  Additionally, you are likely to find a lot of information (especially when researching the EU) concerning the widening economic gap between countries and its impact on globalization.  Since the resolution, limited the discussion to the citizens of a particular state, the economic gap between states is not a concern unless the income disparity between nations is a factor in the internal disparity among the citizens of a state.

Harms Arising from Economic Inequality
The Impact of Economic Inequality on Education
To begin with, there are strong correlations in the U.S., Europe and much of the world between education levels and income levels. Its a generally accepted principle that the wealthier people are better educated.  This is important to understand because there are strong correlations between lack of education and other harms and often is very difficult to draw distinctions between the economic and educational factors which lead to harms. So we begin this examination by citing the impact of socio-economic status on education. The research will show overwhelming positive correlations between education and the ability to attain a better socio-economic status; the adage "to get a good job, get a good education".  But there are far fewer studies which examine the reverse correlation, the effect of socio-economic status on education but they do exist. (see: Birdsall, N. (1999). Education: the people’s asset. Center on Social and Economic Dynamics, Working Paper 5; Mayer, S. E. (2000). How did the increase in economic inequality between 1970 and 19
90 affect American children’s education attainment? Joint Center for Poverty Research, University of Chicago.)

The Impact of Income Inequality on Health
Many studies show a strong correlation between income and health.  Simply put, poor people do not live as long as their wealthier counterparts and it is easy to surmise some of the reasons that is so.  The health inequality has a significant impact on the overall economy of the nation which tends to exacerbate the problem even further. The New York Times (Bernasek, 2005) (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/25/business/yourmoney/25view.html?_r=1)
 reported that

"Some scientists believe that growing inequality leads to more health problems in the overall population — a situation that can reduce workers' efficiency and increase national spending on health, diverting resources away from productive endeavors like saving and investment."
Interestingly, Bernasek cites the studies arising in Europe where such inequalities are more difficult to explain in nations where health-care is provided as a government service. One recent European study is Machenback, et al 2007 found here: http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_determinants/socio_economics/documents/socioeco_inequalities_en.pdf

While the EU study does not suggest leveling the economic gap as a solution to the health problem, it is reasonable to say that any LD case which suggests the solution to economic inequality is to lower the economic status of the wealthy would be hard pressed to deal with the potential health impact such an action could have. (note: additional impacts can be found between socio-economic status and birthrates but I have not looked into the resulting affects).

The Impact of Income Inequality on Political Participation
One of the key arguments advanced in the December Public Forum debate topic on income disparities address the impact of income disparities on political representation and participation in the political process.  There is a body of evidence to suggest that poorer citizens feel disenfranchised from the political process and so feel their participation (for example registering to vote) has little impact on their situation.  Evidence also suggests that as participation goes down at the lower end of the economic scale, the wealthy also reduce their political activities.  One theory for this reduction by the wealthy stems from the fact they no longer see the need to protect their positions from the political activities of the lower class.  To be sure, the impacts on political participation are clear but complicated.  Many studies and commentaries are easily found on the web so I refer to one typical one here: http://repcong.univie.ac.at/sites/default/files/Economic%20inequality%20and%20representation%20Rosset%20Giger%20Bernauer.pdf

The Impact of Income Inequality on Crime
This is another of the seemingly obvious impacts of disparity in socio-economic status and the causes for the increase in violent crime in particular is still the subject of various theories trying to explain the pressures which may trigger criminal responses. The following is taken from Inequality and Violent Crime, Fajnzylber, et al, 2001 (see: http://www.sow.vu.nl/pdf/fajnzylber.pdf)

"One of the leading sociological paradigms on crime, the theory of "relative deprivation," states that inequality breeds social tensions as the less well-off feel dispossessed when compared to wealthier people (see Stack 1984 for a critical view). The feeling of disadvantage and unfairness leads the poor to seek compensation and satisfaction by all means, including committing crimes against both poor and rich...The main conclusion of this article is that an increase in income inequality has a significant and robust effect of raising crime rates. In addition, the GDP growth rate has a significant crime-reducing impact. "

Other Impacts from Income Inequality
There are of course other, perhaps equally harmful impacts to economic disparity and the diligent research will have no trouble finding them.  For example, I have not mentioned the impact of income disparity on the ability of the poor to elevate their status from poor to wealthy.  This "upward mobility" has long been a motivation in the U.S. for the determined, poor to attain wealth through diligence and perseverance but as the gap widens, does the same opportunity exist as it once did?

Many general works and studies enumerate the various impacts of Income Inequality.  Here is one such paper: http://www.arts.cornell.edu/econ/et17/Erik%20Thorbecke%20files/Socioeconomic%20impact.pdf

Having identified some of the harms which arise from economic inequality it may now be possible to focus on classic Lincoln Douglas value-value criterion structures.  In the next part, I will try to briefly review some values then discuss how to advance an AFF and NEG case.  If time permits, I may discuss potential kritiks, but I doubt the National Tournament LD champion will win on a K. But, hey, you never know.

Click here for part 3


  1. First off, I think you’re walking down a rabbit trail by discussing income inequality and would be easily attacked by NEG as the wording of the resolution does not address income inequality

    Resolved: A government has the obligation to lessen the economic gap between its rich and poor citizens.

    but economic gap. Sematics? Yes, but that’s debate for you.

    Thus, you’re treading on dangerous ground unless you give some strong, pertinent definitions. I don’t think that economic gap and income inequality are the same thing at all. Thus, your impacts may be refuted as irrelevant to the resolution.

    Being in a NEG sort of mind this morning (and thus delaying planting my garden – if I don’t get tomatoes by mid-July, I’m blaming you) I question if it’s effective for the government to insert itself into the economic system of the nation. I read http://cafehayek.com/2012/05/quotation-of-the-day-303.html from Café Hayek this morning:

    Quotation of the Day…
    by Don Boudreaux on May 28, 2012
    … is from page 231 of my GMU Econ colleague Larry White’s new book, The Clash of Economic Ideas:
    In June 1948, a telephone rang in the office of Ludwig Erhard, the German economist who was director of the Economic Administration in the UK-U.S. occupied zone of Germany. At the other end of the line was the American military commander, General Lucius Clay. On Sunday, June 20, Erhard was scheduled to give a radio address detailing a planned currency reform to replace the feeble old Reichsmark with the new Deutsche Mark. Clay’s office had learned that Erhard was also planning, without official approval from the Allied military command, to use the occasion to issue a sweeping order abolishing many of the price controls and rationing directives then in effect. When Erhard came on the line, General Clay said to him “Professor Erhard, my advisors tell me that you are making a big mistake.” Erhard replied, “So my advisors also tell me.”
    The decontrol went ahead nonetheless, and Germany’s remarkable economic recovery began.

    Germany’s government reduced its influence on its economy and the “remarkable economic recovery began” is significant, don’t you think? Remember Ford and Nixon’s attempts at controlling the economy – dismal failures because the government’s authority was misplaced.
    I think that Teddy Roosevelt’s war on the monopolies was probably the right thing for the government to do – monopolies are never a good thing, historically speaking. The concurrent labor uprisings were certainly the public’s response to the inequality of the pay vs. the return on investment that the money barons gained, but that was not the work of the government, was it? In fact, the government, often corrupt, supported the moneyed land and business owners when, had it stayed out and done its job fairly, who knows if the economic gap might have been resolved? Did the establishment of a minimum wage in 1938 help the economic gap?

    History has few examples of a capitalistic democracy at work. In my reading of British history, I think that the monarchy had less concern for the middle class or the resolution of poverty than it did finding ways to raise tax monies from them. The French were no better and probably worse – the English civil wars were often more about the rulers (monarchy or monarch vs. commonwealth) but the French was certainly about the economics. My knowledge of Asia is sketchy, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a Chinese emperor or Japanese emperor establishing policies for the betterment of the middle class. Rome never had a specific middle class – they had free and slave. Economics was about keeping the people happy, not about eliminating the gap.

    With little historical evidence to draw from, it may be easier to run a NEG than an AFF for this topic.

    Kim, now attending to her tomatoes

    1. Funny how much we think alike. I published my NEG Strat (part 3) before reading your comment which for some reason was redirected to the blog spam box. I recovered it and put it in its rightful place. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Great coaches think alike? We should add that to our acronym file, along with YEIC.


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