Monday, October 29, 2012

LD 2012 Health Care Worlds

For a complete analysis of the health care topic start by clicking here.

The Philosopher and the Pragmatist

This weekend, we will begin our varsity debate season and this tournament is usually a very challenging one featuring competition from across the state.  This evening in our debate practice class, we were reviewing the cases written by the LD debaters and trying the best we could to prep them for some of the different points of view which they may face.  As a coach, I find it challenging because I would love to take some of them far deeper into the philosophical arguments than they could probably bear and I confess, some of my personal ideas are unconventional to say the least.  Therefore, one must find a suitable balance between philosophy and pragmatism in order to avoid swamping some of the students in potentially confusing concepts which may in the long run prove to be of marginal value if the ideas cannot be adequately expressed to the judge.  One particular young man is trying to make the transition from Policy debate to LD because his partner decided debate was not in his future.  Whereas, policy debaters are frequently exposed to philosophical points of view, it has been a struggle for him to remember, a plan text is not exactly well-received in our conservative Lincoln-Douglas district.  Tonight our assistant coach made a very interesting comment to him, "in LD one can debate utopia". 

Utopian Health Care

The "utopia" remark, got me thinking specifically about the universal health care topic.  The resolution allows the Affirmative to take a kind of Utopian position.  When affirmative claims, the United States ought to guarantee universal health care, it permits one to create an evasive case which avoids a lot of the potential bothersome arguments one may expect from the Negative.  For example, I may claim, "I am advocating a world in which universal health care is guaranteed but I am not claiming anyone should take advantage of it".  Indeed, until someone actually does take advantage of the guaranteed health care, many of the disadvantage scenarios of the Negative can not occur; no resources are consumed, no one is coerced or dehumanized, no rights are infringed and no one is denied equality nor equal access.

Pragmatic Health Care

An idealized world where universal health care is guaranteed but no one takes advantage has no practical real-world value.  It offers no practical advantages in which individuals actually receive treatment for their ailments, have their quality of life improved, nor can the state itself claim any particular advantages.  In other words, there is no solvency for the harms which we assume exist in the status quo.  Therefore, from a purely pragmatic point of view, the only health care that matters is one which has solvency and solvency comes at a price.  In the pragmatist's world view, health care requires resources, in terms of commodities, services, personnel and time and all of these things cost money and governments only have so many ways to pay for the practical solution and maintain a universally accessible system.  It is in this world, where the practical realities of solvency generate disadvantages and advantages that are measured in "real" gains and losses.

Affirmative Fiat

Somewhere between the two extremes the cases will fall and somewhere between the extremes the judge will take up a position of forced neutrality.  I doubt too many debaters will take up a kind of Utopian position in which health care availability exists but no one uses it simply because the advantages are mainly negative in that they avoid disadvantages but there is little practical reason to support the position other than it meets the resolution on a superficial level.  Nevertheless, I think it very reasonable to expect that some Affirmatives will advocate a world which fiats the impractical aspects of universal health care.  For example, one may simply claim they provide universal health care and the resources needed to guarantee solvency are somehow provided.  This position will argue the issue is not how to solve real-world problems of providing the care rather the philosophical question of whether nations have a duty to protect their citizens.  This kind of fiat power in LD debate can be abusive because if the Affirmative can fiat solvency then the best Negative can do is try to frame a pre-fiat case against a hypothetical world or try to convince the judge there is no pragmatic reason to assume the Aff will solve without triggering real-world disadvantages. Fiating solvency is a theory issue and needs to be argued as part of the over-all Neg case.

And So...

I guess for me the bottom line is to be on guard for Affirmative cases which create hypothetical worlds or philosophical frameworks and try to avoid disadvantages by either ignoring solvency or by fiating solvency.  If nothing is solved, then why advocate for the Affirmative in the first place?   Even in a philosophical framework which purely addresses the duties of nations, a pragmatic, real-world harm necessitates the duty to provide health care and so Neg should be able to find plenty of ground for debate.  But, if Aff tries to avoid disadvantages by fiat, Such a position will steal your ground so make sure you have a strategy for answering this kind of case if Aff attempts to make it.

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  1. i'm new to LD and debate in general i'm normally an extemp guy but am running LD in a week, so can we just define the type of healthcare we wish to use anyways we want to?

    1. On one level, yes, but if that definition is abusive or unfair to the other side it will work against you. If the definition is challenged for any reason, you need to be able to justify your definition.

  2. How would a Veil of Ignorance AC work alongside the Utopian v. Pragmatic issue?

    1. It works well when one takes the position UHC is a moral responsibility despite any pragmatic objections. The veil of ignorance serves as a test (perhaps a crierion) for proving that UHC is moral. I have heard it run in several cases.

  3. Just for clarification,

    So if someone says that the word "ought" in the resolution implies that the framers of the resolution desired the debate to be about whether or not Universal Health Care should be provided, and not whether or not the United States can implement it, you are saying that this is abusive because it takes away negative ground on the issue, correct?

    1. Not exactly. It is abusive only when Aff refutes the reasons to negate by claiming the US version of health care will avoid the mistakes of others or will implement a plan / version / form of health care that has solved the kinds of disadvantages being put forth by Neg. If Aff wants to solve real-world problems by fiat or simply implying those issues are already solved in the Affirmative world, it is abusive.

      On the other hand, let's say Aff wants to focus on the "ought" as framer's intent. Then why limit the debate to the US? Why not all governments? The framer's specified the US so this strongly suggests the framer's intent was to debate advantages and disadvantages unique to the US.


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