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Resolved: Oppressive government is more desirable than no government.
This and the next topic about rehab vs. retribution are true Lincoln-Douglas topics, in my opinion and so I would expect to see these kinds of topics debated in Nov/Dec or Jan/Feb. They would also make pretty good National Tournament topics which would have a wide appeal to the traditional judges.
(November/December 1986 - Resolved: an unjust government is better than no government at all.)
(January/February 1996 - Resolved: an oppressive government is more desirable than no government.)
(January/February 2002 - Resolved: oppressive government is more desirable than no government.)
Fourth time around for this topic. For this resolution, the debaters need to come to some kind of agreement about what is an "oppressive government". This should not be a source of major conflict between the Aff and Neg but there are many kinds of oppression and certainly not all of it is a direct result of government policies. This resolution is a comparison between a government which restricts personal liberties or natural rights (whatever definition is agreed) versus the unlimited liberties of no government and while it seems some may consider no government better than living under a regime which restricts liberties, consider that living without a government can be considered the philosophical equivalent to living in the state of nature where life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" (Hobbes).
I personally, have never really considered the state of nature or an anarchical state a place where one must deal with roving bands of potential murders or a place where someone is just as likely to steal from you as say "hello". But there can be no doubt that people choose to organize into societies and form governments because it has benefits which contributes to the survival of individuals and the species. Despite, the potential benefits there are governments which repress and restrict people so severely, the benefits are greatly outweighed. But if one holds to the idea that life without government greatly reduces one's survivability or well-being to such a severe degree, perhaps it is better to live under the oppressive government. After all, some may consider they would rather die than live under oppression, yet most convicted criminals would rather live in prison than be executed.
As a coach, it bothers me that cases from the previous years are online. Hopefully, debaters will see value in researching and writing their own cases for this now classic resolution.
If the Affirmative wishes to take a pragmatic point of view, the case must spend time establishing that living under no government is equivalent to a death penalty. Hobbes claimed the state of nature is continual war. It could be argued that when a government reaches some threshold of institutional oppression, it loses its legitimacy and is no longer considered a government. Also, one can claim that if the resolution was true it would always be true. But if an oppressed nation was surround by enemies, the inhabitants may desire to live under the oppressive regime as long as it protects them from the enemies demonstrating that even oppressive governments can provide benefits that living under no government can not supply.
Consider that under some frameworks, government is an inevitable consequence of people's desire to survive and so even if no government existed it would not be long before people banded together to establish one.
There seems to be a general philosophical belief that it is somehow better or more noble to die rather live under oppression and so there should be plenty of support for the Neg debater. One may look to modern Somalia as a pragmatic example of how people have chosen to live with no central government rather than endure the former oppressive regime, but be aware, that Aff will argue that even a tribal leader or war-lord establishes a kind of "government". In my opinion, the better cases will stick to the philosophical framework and rely on the judge's natural aversion to oppression to win the day.
None - just look online.
Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.
Finally we wrap-up our short analysis of the potential LD topics for 2012-2013 with this very debatable, very LD-like resolution. This is another I would expect to see in the middle of the season.
(1989 NFL Nationals - Resolved: the American criminal justice system ought to place a higher priority on retribution than on rehabilitation.)
(2003 NFL Nationals - Resolved: rehabilitation ought to be valued above punishment in the U.S. criminal justice system.)
This topic can cover a very broad area as it attempts to establish the ultimate goal of the criminal justice system. Should the focus be upon rehabilitation or punishment? Granted there are elements of criminal justice that are likely to be discussed such as the need to prevent certain undesirable behaviors from reoccurring, restitution and the principle of deterrence. However, I think one can argue that incapacitation, restitution and deterrence can result on both side of the debate.
Retribution is an interesting word. It is another word for punishment and suggests that one must pay a price for bad behavior. It is not the same as restitution in which some attempt is made to compensate the victims. One may also consider retribution to be another word for revenge but revenge carries a negative connotation which gives one the impression that retribution may be a just and proportional response to a bad behavior while revenge may not necessarily be just nor proportional.
The Affirmative will argue that rehabilitation is the most humane goal of criminal justice as it ultimately restores the criminal to some useful capacity to the benefit of society and reforms bad behavior. Despite the statistics which may lead one to conclude that rehabilitation does not work, it does not nullify the argument that it may be more desirable in principle than simply punishing an offender.
The Neg debater can find substantial support in the philosophy of Immanual Kant who believed that nothing should be done to benefit the criminal and the sole purpose of criminal justice was retribution.
When and if this resolution becomes a topic for the season, I will discuss it in more detail. Past cases are online, hundreds of essays on both sides have been written and I am certain if you wish to get a jump on the upcoming season, you will have little problem uncovering arguments for both sides.