2013 September/October Topic
Resolved: In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory
Welcome Varsity LDWelcome back. Hopefully if you are debating this topic, it is not your first time visiting Everyday Debate. But if it is, I hope you find lots of useful information here. Whenever NFL releases an LD topic, I try to post an analysis of the topic. You should find (eventually) a definition section, an Aff Position and a Neg Position. Sometimes, a topic is so deep and fascinating it requires many articles to discuss the issue. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be one. I am also surprised, considering the NFL has released a separate novice topic this year, they would release this topic for varsity debaters. The good thing is, if you do debate this topic, it will be a great chance to dust off the brains and loosen your vocal chords and get ready for a great season.
noun - government by the people; especially : rule of the majority; a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; a political unit that has a democratic government.
William Reisinger of the University of Iowa provides a very nice list of interpretations of democracy: "The basic sense of democracy as a form of governance rests on its etymology as rule by the entire people rather than, as Shapiro puts it, by any "aristocrat, monarch, philosopher, bureaucrat, expert, or religious leader." Beyond that, actual definitions of democracy come in all shapes and sizes. On the next page are a variety of others’ definitions for your perusal, presented in chronological order. Each emphasizes one or more things thought to be true about democracy: 1) it is a dangerous form of government; 2) it includes genuine competition for power; 3) it permits mass participation on a legally equal footing; 4) it provides civil and other liberties that restrict the sphere of state power within the society; or 5) it promotes widespread deliberation about how to make and enforce policy so as to promote the common good."
Simply put, "vote" is a noun meaning an expression of preference. Voting, on the other hand is an intransitive verb which describes the action of expressing the preference.
verb - to express one's views in response to a poll; to exercise a political franchise; to express an opinion
Of course, in the U.S. voting carries a pretty specific meaning in that each year there are usually several elections held in which individuals formally express their preference for political representatives, issues, laws, taxes, etc. There are also many informal events in which voting is carried out as a way of expressing choices.
verb - used to express obligation, advisability, natural expectation or logical consequence.
This is a word which should be very familiar to Lincoln-Douglas debaters. There are several ways to spin the definition of ought depending on the sources used and intention of the case. Some will claim ought means obligation others will claim it carries a meaning suggesting "strongly advised"
For an interesting and very detailed philosophical exploration of the word "ought" look at this essay entitled The Meaning of Ought by Ralph Wedgwood.
adjective - mandatory, enforced; coercive, compelling
Compulsory carries a sense the thing is being compelled against one's will. In other words, it is not optional. You must do the action whether you wish to or not and if it is not done, there is a consequence which is unfavorable.
InterpretationNo doubt, most debaters and LD judges will immediately apply their U.S.-centric experience to the resolution. Doing so, one may think of a national election such as the presidential election and think, the resolution means every citizen is required by law to cast a vote in the presidential election (or local election or whatever the official government sponsored election cycle happens to be). We need to remember, I suppose, the context for this resolution is not necessarily the U.S. and we also need to remember, since this is LD debate, the Affirmative is not advocating a plan. Really the term "ought" is a suggestion the debate should be about whether or not the concept of compulsory voting in democracies promotes a value humans desire. Remember it is something that OUGHT to be done which means the debaters can examine worlds which address the rationale for supporting or rejecting the resolution without necessarily considering real-world practicalities of forcing individuals to vote. Nevertheless, my experience with LD in more-or-less conservative circuits shows that judges will be willing to explore conceptual worlds but they appreciate reality a little more.
Click here for part 2 - Aff Position.