Thursday, June 21, 2012

Proposed LD Topics 2012/2013 - Part 1


Part 1 of a review of proposed Lincoln Douglas resolutions for 2012/2013
For links to LD topic analyses and articles, click here.

 

Resolved: The constitutions of democratic governments ought to include procedures for secession.
This one's been around awhile, not only as a potential LD topic but as a condition for the ratification of the Constitution by Virginia and New York.  While debating the legitimacy of the proposed Constitution, those states basically made claims they retained a right to secession under certain conditions.  Be aware, the wording of this resolution is much broader in that it does not specify the United States nor the specific document we call "The Constitution of the United States".  So one must consider the meaning of "democratic governments", "constitution" and "secession". Given that a democratic state may not necessarily be comprised of "states" in the sense that the U.S. is comprised of 50 self-governed states, then what agents are to be granted the right to secession?  For example, what if a collective sub-group such as a labor Union or a University declared the right secede? What is the intent of this resolution?  Also consider, this resolution does not say, though it is implied, some agents may have the right to secession rather it specifies the procedures effecting secession must be included in the constitution.

AFF Position
Definitions will be pretty important because the resolution is broad and the language is vague.  One of the first things to be considered, is why?  What problems exist in the status quo that this resolution addresses?  It seems logical to assume, that most governments (democratic or otherwise) will see an attempt at secession as a threat to the unity of the state if there is no provision under which it can be done legitimately.  Therefore, as history clearly proves, governments will defend the integrity of their state with maximum force, if no other solution can be found.  Look to the United States and Russia as examples which resorted to war to preserve their unions, look to Canada as example of a country which negotiated a solution.  In either case, the government firmly resisted the agent wishing to secede.

In my opinion, the first job of AFF is to answer the "why" question.  AFF must establish a moral framework, philosophical justification or similar construct to justify the resolution.  Perhaps there is an inherent right within society or implied within the social contract which demands this resolution.  A careful study of both Locke and Hobbes will reveal ideologies which can be applied to AFF (Locke) and NEG (Hobbes).  Basically, AFF will argue the social contract needs an "escape clause".  Because of the vagueness of this resolution, there can be dispute about the structure of the secession provisions.  How limiting can they be?  For example, if the constitution provides that a regional entity may secede upon the payment of one hundred trillion dollars to the central government, is the burden met?

NEG Position
It seems a very logical opinion the NEG will argue there is no need for this resolution since it is more or less contrary to the basic rationale why governments are formed in the first place. In particular, democratic governments should be built upon principles which allow the central government to sufficiently meet the needs of the greatest number individuals to the mutual benefit of the societies within.  Any subgroup or entity within the nation should already possess the capability to influence the central government to protect or provide for their best interests insofar as their interests are in keeping with best interests of the union as a whole.  Beware of AFF arguments regarding the rights of minorities.  An argument can be made that allowing dissatisfied groups the right to secede could result in the collapse of the union so why bother to create democratic governments in the first place?

Where Does it End?
The vagueness of this resolution opens the door to some alternative points of view.  The United States, for example is comprised of 50 states each with their own democratic government and each with a State Constitution.  Does the resolution also apply to them and if so, what manner of chaos can ensue if states began dividing (check out the movement to divide California into two states)?

References:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/secession/
http://mises.org/journals/jls/17_4/17_4_3.pdf
http://philosophyfaculty.ucsd.edu/faculty/rarneson/Courses/BuchananTheoriesofSecession.pdf
(This topic will be analysed in detail if it is chosen as an NFL resolution.)

Resolved: When making admissions decisions, public colleges and universities in the United States ought to favor members of historically disadvantaged groups.
(PF - March 2010 - Resolved: Affirmative action to promote equal opportunity in the United States is justified.)
(LD- November/December 1988 - Resolved: affirmative action programs to remedy the effects of discrimination are justified.)
As seen in the previous references, this topic has been seen before in both PF and LD.  The proposed resolution does not use the terminology "affirmative action" but let's be real. It is what this debate will devolve into only this time, the scope will be limited to college admissions, which is much narrower than the previous debates.  The basic idea behind affirmative action is reparation for past harms usually arising from discrimination but not necessarily.  To be sure, this resolution is not advocating equality.  I don't think any legitimate argument can be made which claims members of disadvantaged groups should NOT be admitted into Universities.  This resolution specifies preferential admissions based on past (historical) status.  To be sure, this resolution holds strong opinions on both sides and so I foresee (and have seen in the past) varying predispositions among judges.

The resolution is limited to public colleges and universities which eliminates private and parochial schools.  The limit is those institutions which cover a portion of their costs using Government money.  Further, this would only apply to those institutions which have more admissions applicants than seats available.  Thus, given two equally qualified applicants (meaning they equally meet the academic requirements and are not limited in financial capability) the institution should favor (give advantage to) the applicant who happens to be a member of a historically disadvantaged group.

The real problem I see in this resolution is what is the meaning of "historically disadvantaged groups"?  Throughout the history of the United States, many "groups" of individuals were disadvantaged due to poverty, discrimination and locality.  Historically, discrimination has occurred on the basis of race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation and religion and it can be argued, for some groups, discrimination continues despite the fact it is illegal.  I think it is very important to note there is a distinction between Equal Opportunity and the remedy of favored admissions policies and NEG in particular must avoid the appearance of defending policies which deny equality.

AFF Position
In my opinion definitions will be important for the Affirmative debater.  It will be very important to establish there exists an inherent or unresolved disparity in the status quo that can only be remedied by favored consideration in university and college admission policies.  Certainly, there are strong arguments that can be made regarding institutional (structural) racism which limits opportunities for disadvantaged groups within the United States and preferential admissions may be a viable solution for these groups to overcome the structural barriers which exist, in particular in employment opportunities.  While quotas are explicitly illegal, the U.S. courts have upheld preferential admissions policies for Universities so a legal precedence should not be an issue for the Affirmative.  There exists good moral arguments supporting remedial policies in response to past harms.

NEG Position
Obviously, NEG will argue there is no problem in the status quo that requires favored consideration in admissions policies.  Discrimination is illegal and equal opportunity is the law of the land.  Strong objections can be raised with regard to so-called reverse discrimination and idea that preferential admissions harms non-minorities by denying them equal consideration.

There are many opportunities for kritiks if this resolution is selected.

(This topic will be analysed in detail if it is chosen as an NFL resolution.)

References:
http://media.hoover.org/sites/default/files/documents/0817998721_293.pdf
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=392060 (the download is free - an excellent historical review and legal justification for affirmative action)

For a lengthy discussion/debate about Affirmative Action & Reverse Discrimination including evidence citations and links click here.

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