Saturday, September 27, 2014

PF Topic Choices - November 2014

So...If Google sent you here and you looking for information on the November 2014, PF Debate topic, click here.

A while back, the NFL released the following topic choices for November 2014:

November 2014 PF Ballot - Topic Area: Agriculture

Resolved: On balance, the benefits of genetically modified foods outweigh the harms.

Resolved: In the United States, a comprehensive federal water policy that restricts residential use is preferable to one which restricts agricultural use when the two are in conflict.

Initially I was reluctant to make any commentary about the choices.  Usually, the final selection is contrary to my preference and I don't feel this blog has much influence on the community which votes for topics.

I will tell you, if you have not done any research on genetically modified foods, the topic is enormously controversial and extremely interesting from an educational point of view.  I also like the idea the first choice is not limited to the United States, since clearly the issue of genetically modified foods has huge impacts on areas of the world with agriculture deficiencies.

As for the second topic, I hate any wording which reads like a paragraph.  However, I do think that while the topic appears to have a Con bias, it would be a mistake to assume that residential use of water means sprinkling one's lawn. There are many residential uses of water that are open game in this resolution. Nevertheless, it is U.S. specific and one may presume does not impact all regions equally. More significantly, in my opinion, the topic may be messy because water usage provisions fall under a number of different jurisdictions, not just the U.S. Federal Government as specified in the resolution.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

PF Sep/Oct 2014 - Public Subsidies for Pro Sports - Con

Resolved: On balance, public subsidies for professional athletic organizations in the United States benefit their local communities.

For part one of this series, click here

Balancing Act

The resolution specifically states "on balance" and so requires a comparative framework in which we examine the advantages and disadvantages of an issue or the costs and benefits which result from the costs.  Clearly, if we are talking about public subsidies, we are talking about public funds, which come at a cost.  Usually these funds are raised through increased taxes, diverting funds from other programs (such as improving roads) or a combination of both.  Such an investment makes sense if, on balance, we find the upfront expenditure of public funds results in sufficient economic benefits to claim it was worth the cost and then some.  How much "then some" will vary according to the mindset of the judge listening to your case.  What Con will find with very little trouble is the economics of public subsidies for professional sports do not return "and then some". In fact, more times than not, the return is not even close to offsetting the cost.

Zimbalist and Noll 1997:
Economic growth takes place when a community's resources—people, capital investments, and natural resources like land—become more productive. Increased productivity can arise in two ways: from economically beneficial specialization by the community for the purpose of trading with other regions or from local value added that is higher than other uses of local workers, land, and investments. Building a stadium is good for the local economy only if a stadium is the most productive way to make capital investments and use its workers... A new sports facility has an extremely small (perhaps even negative) effect on overall economic activity and employment. No recent facility appears to have earned anything approaching a reasonable return on investment. No recent facility has been self-financing in terms of its impact on net tax revenues. Regardless of whether the unit of analysis is a local neighborhood, a city, or an entire metropolitan area, the economic benefits of sports facilities are de minimus.

Measurement Criteria

Researchers and economists who study this issue will pretty much universally agree that professional sports venues make bad investments for public funds.  The results can be measured in two primary ways.  If the sports facility attracts people from outside of the community to come spend their money in the community, then flow of money coming in is called export sales and that can be measured and tracked. Another important measure of return is called import substitution and this tracks how residents of a community spend their money.  If residents decide to go spend their money at the sports facility rather than, perhaps go to the local amusement park, then money that would normally be spent in one way, and spent another way, does not introduce any new spending in the community.  But if the sports venue can coax residents to spend money at the sport facility in addition to the other places, then more money is circulated and the community benefits.  This is called import substitution and is another criteria for measuring the financial benefit of public subsidies.

Baade 1994:
In standard economic models, metropolitan economic growth comes from new “export sales” and “import substitution.” Increased export sales result from attracting net new inflows of spending from outside the area. This regional increase in exports might occur if, for example, people from another region decide to attend a baseball game in the area, rather than go to their local movie theater. If, on the other hand, people from another region spend money at an area stadium rather than at a movie theater or restaurant near the stadium, the stadium is not increasing export sales-it is simply shifting them. Import substitution occurs when a community keeps money that residents might have spent elsewhere. If residents choose to go to a local football stadium instead of an entertainment event outside the area, it can be said that the stadium has become an import substitute. If, however, residents spend money at the stadium rather than at other local businesses, the stadium causes only a shift in spending, and no import substitution occurs.

Zimbalist and Noll 1997:
As noted, a stadium can spur economic growth if sports is a significant export industry—that is, if it attracts outsiders to buy the local product and if it results in the sale of certain rights (broadcasting, product licensing) to national firms. But, in reality, sports has little effect on regional net exports. Sports facilities attract neither tourists nor new industry. Probably the most successful export facility is Oriole Park, where about a third of the crowd at every game comes from outside the Baltimore area. (Baltimore's baseball exports are enhanced because it is 40 miles from the nation's capital, which has no major league baseball team.) Even so, the net gain to Baltimore's economy in terms of new jobs and incremental tax revenues is only about $3 million a year—not much of a return on a $200 million investment.

Evidence tends to show the claims of economic benefit for host communities are overstated.

Baade 2005:
Professional sports leagues, franchises, and civic boosters, have used the promise of an all star game or league championship as an incentive for host cities to construct new stadiums or arenas at considerable public expense. In the past, league and industry-sponsored studies have estimated that Super Bowls, All-Star games and other sports mega-events increase economic activity by hundreds of millions of dollars in host cities. Our analysis fails to support these claims. Our detailed regression analysis of taxable sales in Florida over the period from 1980 to mid-2005 reveals that, on average, mega-events ranging from the World Cup to the World Series have been associated with reductions in taxable sales in host regions of $34.4 million per event. While this figure, like any econometric estimate, is subject to some degree of uncertainty, it certainly places on doubt boosters’ claims of huge economic windfalls. Cities would be wise to view with caution economic impact estimates provided by sports boosters, who have a clear incentive to inflate these estimates. It would appear that “padding” is an essential element of many games both on and off the field.

Playing Monopsony: Do Not Pass Go

One must consider the financial cost of supporting a monopoly, or at least an entity which appears to be a monopoly whether legally recognized as one or not.  Generally speaking, citizens have endured monopolistic practices by big business for decades, but legal actions are taken when other entities, attempting to compete, complain to the government about unfair practices by the dominate entity.  In the case of the professional sports leagues, it seems they have simply absorbed their competition and shared the wealth.

Perhaps it is an oversimplification but when an entity is capable of limiting competitive buying power, it is exercising monopsonistic power. A monopsony is in principle, little different than a monopoly. Under league rules, in the NFL for example, the player draft transfers exclusive property rights (basically the players talents) to the owner (the team which picked the player) the player has no bargaining power.  Thus the team functions as a monopsony with respect to the player. Such an arrangement also makes it possible for teams to disproportionately profit from the skills of drafted players. The teams then unite under a league structure which limits the number of teams and tries to limit outside competition.  According to some analysts, the collection of monopsonies is evolving into a monopoly.

Vrooman 2009:
As “natural cartels” the four major North American sports leagues have historically held major-league monopoly and monopsony power. There is emerging evidence in this analysis that these leagues have become dominated by sportsman owners who are willing to pay players their average revenue product in order to win. The players’ shares of revenues have recently exceeded 60 percent in each of the leagues. Erosion of monopsony power has forced sports-league cartels to exploit their monopoly power in negotiation of media rights fees and extortion of public venue cost subsidies.  In 2007 the four big leagues generated monopoly revenues of almost $20 billion, led by the National Football League (NFL) with $7 billion and Major League baseball (MLB) with $6 billion. Given statutory exemption from antitrust law these four leagues have collectively negotiated total television rights fees that currently average $5.6 billion annually through 2011. Annual NFL rights of $3.7 billion double the national TV money of the other three leagues combined. From 1990 through the end of current contracts the four leagues will have received over $80 billion in TV rights fees, including $50 billion in the NFL. Under threats of relocation monopoly teams and leagues have also extorted public subsidies for over half of $30 billion in venue construction costs since 1990. 

Even if Pro can put forth a reasonable justification for affirming the resolution based on economic factors or even less tangible "feel good" values, Con can and should make a strong case that subsidizing professional sports organization is in effect legitimizing the monopolistic practices of the league and the owners.

The professional sports industry, which constitutes all professional sports, is one of the most unusual and perplexing industries in the United States today. Different sports have been exempted from federal antitrust laws to varying degrees, while others have been forced to comply with the law.9 The industry utilizes a unique economic structure which acts as a "cartel."' The barriers to entry are significant," giving rise to the supposition that the professional sports industry is a "collection of natural monopolies." 

Fleeting Moments of "Feel Good"

While communities and government may cite, "feel good" externalities to justify use of public subsidies for professional sports organization.  Consider what happens after the facilities are built, urban revitalization kicks into high gear and the community is feeling good.  Piatt cites one example in Texas where George W. Bush as team co-owner, pressured the city to not only finance the stadium construction but also to use eminent domain to transfer properties surrounding the stadium to team owners who then sold the team four years later pocketing millions of dollars. Despite the seemingly overwhelming advantage to the personal wealth of owners, there is little measurable evidence the communities benefited.

Piatt, et al:
The exclusive right of member franchises in Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL) to their home territory and government subsidies for the construction of facilities has fostered great economic benefit for team owners (Leeds & von Allmen, 2002). The building of facilities for professional sport teams has been a cornerstone of redevelopment programs for many central cities and many larger suburban and edge communities (Austrain & Rosentraub, 2002). For more than 15 years, governments have invested more than $10 billion in the playing facilities used by professional sports teams (Kennedy & Rosentraub, 2000). They often justify subsidies by claiming the projects create valuable public goods and positive externalities, though such benefits are difficult to measure (Johnson & Whitehead, 2000). Indeed, many argue that the public suffers with such projects. 

Additionally, once the stadium is built it becomes a bargaining chip for more and more demands as teams can leverage their position by threatening to move to other cities.

Piatt, et al continue:
At least one scholar suggests that, while eliminating competition may be good for the franchises, it imposes a cost on society and the public may not like the resulting distribution of resources (Leeds & von Allmen, 2002). Kennedy and Rosentraub (2000) document that after making substantial commitments, communities are given new demands for increased subsidies. If these mounting demands are not satisfied, teams frequently move to other municipalities. Taxpayers and sports fans are then left with unused facilities, debt obligations, and a reduced quality of life. 

Therefore, based on the fact that numerous sources show there is very little positive economic return to offset the costs of public subsidies, and considering that public funding supports the monopolistic business practices of the league and owners, and in light of the fact that public subsidies strengthen the ability of owners to exploit and blackmail communities, we urge a Con ballot.


The Heartland Institue, Policy Study, No. 62 - April 4, 1994
Stadiums, Professional Sports, and Economic Development: Assessing the Reality
by Robert A. Baade

Selling the Big Game: Estimating the Economic Impact of Mega-Events through Taxable Sales
Robert A. Baade, Robert Baumann, and Victor Matheson
December 2005

Sports, Jobs, & Taxes: Are New Stadiums Worth the Cost?
Brookings Institute, 1997
Andrew Zimbalist and Roger G. Noll

Theory of the Perfect Game: Competitive Balance in Monopoly Sports Leagues
Review of Industrial Organization (2009) 34:5-44
John Vrooman
Vanderbilt University, Department of Economics, Nashville, TN 37235-1819, USA.

H. WARD CLASSEN; Associate General Counsel, International Mobile Machines Corporation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. B.A.
Trinity College 1982; J.D. The Catholic University of America 1985

Contrasting the Industry Structure of Professional Sports Franchises and Large Technology Firms: The Role of Monopolies and Other Non-Competitive Models
Alan Platt, Florida Gulf Coast University
Dana V. Tesone, University of Central Florida
George Alexakis, Florida Gulf Coast University

Sunday, September 14, 2014

PF Sep/Oct 2014 - Public Subsidies for Pro Sports - Pro

Resolved: On balance, public subsidies for professional athletic organizations in the United States benefit their local communities.

For part one of this series, click here

The Tangible Benefits

The text book study, so to speak, of the relation between professional sports and economic development was written by Robert Baade of the Heartland Institute. Even though the study was completed in the 1990's it is still widely cited as an authoritative reference.  The Heartland Study identifies three economic impacts from public subsidies of professional sports.

Baade 1994:
Stadiums, arenas, and professional sports can bring three sources of economic benefits to a metropolitan area: direct expenditures, indirect expenditures, and “psychological” benefits. Direct expenditures present the money spent by the professional sports franchise, its employees, and its patrons. As James Quirk and Rodney Fort explain,
These direct expenditures-on restaurants, hotels, transportation, souvenirs, food, and the like-are received as income ‘by metropolitan-area businesses. These businesses and their employees then spend a fraction of this income on other goods and services within the metropolitan area, and those businesses and their employees spend a fraction of their income at other metropolitan-area businesses. The process continues, and the second, third, and subsequent rounds of spending constitute the indirect expenditures that benefit a region. Since direct expenditures result in indirect expenditures, the direct expenditures are said to “multiply” through the economy. Economists attempt to quantify this effect by calculating a “multiplier.” For a given level of direct expenditures, higher multipliers indicate higher levels of economic impact. In addition to direct and indirect expenditures are “psychological” benefits, which are less easily quantified. Some have suggested, for instance, that television coverage of a city’s professional sports teams encourages businesses to locate there.
The procedure that is used to estimate the economic benefits provided by a team or a facility is first to estimate the direct expenditures by the team for goods and services in the city, and then to add to this expenditures by fans on goods and services (other than game tickets) purchased in the city, together with expenditures by players on purchases of goods and services in the city. The resulting sum is the amount of direct expenditure benefits to the city provided by the team.

Baade then goes on to quantify his ideas in a fairly comprehensive statistical survey across several projects. As a result of his regression analysis, he finds no compelling evidence to suggest there are advantages to public subsidy of professional sports stadium projects.  Indeed, while public funds may be allocated in other ways to subsidize pro sports organizations, for the most part stadium projects, such as renovations or new construction are huge investments costing tens or hundreds of million dollars and they do not seem to pay back.

Looking strictly at dollars allocated versus dollars returned to the public based on certain very subjective multipliers to estimate the "trickle-down" effect on the local economy, the evidence suggests the projects either barely break even or loose money.  Long term results are not quantified.

This evidence begs the question, if these projects are losers, why do governments support them and voters approve them?  Of course, Con may try to suggest wealthy special interests are in play which skew the estimates of return and make it appear the projects will be well worth it. Clearly the team owners have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The Intangible Benefits

Another oft cited paper is the Groothuis paper which is unique because they looked at the city of Pittsburgh and surrounding county which invested hundreds of millions dollars to subsidize professional teams in football, baseball and hockey. The Groothuis study included a survey of residents and attempted to quantify the benefits of civic pride which successful sports franchises evoke.

Groothuis 2004:
The data and analysis in this paper indicate that major league sports teams generate widely consumed public goods benefits for the residents of their cities. A majority of both users and nonusers agree that sports teams generate civic pride for their city, indicating that civic pride benefits consist largely of passive, nonuse benefits. But we find that only a minority of respondents support public funding for football and baseball stadiums or for efforts to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh. Sports-generated civic pride does not appear to be something a majority of Pittsburghers are willing to pay for with public funds. These results suggest that the motivation for government subsidy of teams and stadiums is twofold. First, because a minority of respondents is willing to pay higher taxes, a classic public choice explanation is suggested. The minority supporters organize because they receive high nonuse benefits from professional sports, but they still pass on much of the cost to the majority whose nonuse benefits are less than the cost of the project. The other explanation is based on the public good of civic pride, and the results provide some evidence in support of that explanation. The results indicate that people who believe the Pirates and Penguins generate local civic pride, a nonexcludable public good, support public subsidy of the baseball and hockey teams. This support is not limited to those who actually attend games, but comes from nonusers, as well. To the extent that such public goods exist, subsidies can enhance efficiency. The support growing from sports’ role in creating civic pride may make the job of forming an interest group coalition to extract economic rents from the majority easier. Because civic pride to nonusers reduces the net cost of a subsidy to teams and stadiums, the opposition to such subsidies may be lessened, improving their chances of passing.

As with the Baade study, nearly ten years prior, Groothuis found little direct economic benefit to justify such projects on the basis of net dollars gained versus gross dollars spent. But he did suggest the role of civic pride in voter approval.  Civic pride is one of those intangible things that obviously have no dollar value.

It seems, the public was responding to the issue of allowing subsidies more with their hearts than their minds. I would characterize it as kind of faith that because I am happy and proud to have a professional sports team in my city I believe it must also be economically beneficial to my community.  The Wysong research in 2009 in fact, hints at a relation between civic pride and belief in positive economic impacts even when the numbers seem contradictory.

Wysong 2009:
Overall, though, the results of this study indicate that regardless of fan status and gender, both economic and non-economic (i.e., pride) beliefs had a positive influence on one’s vote for public financing. If a respondent believed the new stadium would have an economic impact on the city, they were more likely to vote in favor of public financing. If a respondent believed the new stadium would make them proud, they were more likely to vote in favor of public financing.

The Intrinsic Value of Professional Sports

Having sat through countless Public Forum debate rounds, I would be lying if I told you that intangible values, and feelings win debates. Yet we need to evaluate the benefits of public subsidies on the community and not every benefit is economic.  For example, consider the community park system.  They are built and maintained on public funds and usually have a negative cost-benefit quotient. Even though the community park system does not generate financial payback, the majority of people, whether park goers or not, will support the funding. The reason for public support for these kinds of projects - public pride projects - can be described in terms of scholastic theories.

Scott 2011:
Public Value is a theory and model for public sector management developed by Mark Moore, the Hauser Professor of Nonprofit Organizations at the Harvard Kennedy School and the author of Creating Public Value: strategic management in government. Fundamental to Public Value Moore’s is the underlying principle that it is the purpose of public sector management is to make ‘...a positive difference in the individual and collective lives of citizens’. To achieve this, Moore believes that public institutions must focus on the use they make of the organisational assets at their disposal in the service of end-users- the public...Commentators have variously described intangible/ intrinsic values experienced by individuals as a ‘state of absorption’, or ‘focused attention’ that comes with ‘captivation’, as the ‘deep satisfaction’ that the ‘pleasure’ of seeing an art work or having a cultural experience that is moving and meaningful, as the capacity to explore ‘personal meaning’, and the discovery of ‘personal beliefs in amongst universal truths’, as the provision of a ‘new perspective on the world’ and the uplifting spiritual experiences that address our needs to experience ‘the religious, the numinous and the sublime’

Even though the Scott paper is specifically directed to museum funding the theoretical basis for intrinsic value is pretty much the same and directly applicable to professional sports.  Projects which evoke such intangible value do provide a very important community and individual benefit which is not always quantified in terms of dollar and cents.

The Economic Value of Professional Sports

I suppose that some very persistent Con debaters will hammer the economics of public subsidies, and cry about the government's fiduciary responsibility to spend public funds wisely. And seriously, judge, why should wealthy team owners get richer at public experience so a few can feel good about their community while they drive over crumbling roads through broken down neighborhoods?

I guess then, in the light of such argumentation, and facing perhaps, a very conservative, practical judge, we must at least attempt to provide some economic justifications for public subsidies since for some it may be the only "real" measure of community benefit.

Koehler 2012:
It would be hard to argue that the presence of a team in a city is a bad thing. Professional sports are one of the biggest examples of a public good one can find as one could derive economic utility from being the fan of a team even without ever spending a dollar on the team. Additionally, from the city’s perspective, having a team is almost a form of advertising, a way to put itself on the map as a “major league city” and brand itself among the elite cities of the nation (Noll and Zimbalist 1997). Still, it is hard to put a dollar value on those forms of economic utility and studies have tried to do this for the presence of a team and stadium with some success but little conclusiveness (Johnson et al 2000).

In and of themselves, stadium projects may be losing deals for the accountants.  But what happens when we broaden our perspective and look at the impact of pro sports projects on the surrounding area.  Many cities have experienced a sort of urban blight with crumbling, crime-ridden inner cities and businesses moving out. Cities seek projects which allow them attract private investment into such areas.  The Koehler paper will arm you with the data needed.  For example, Cleveland, Ohio was a perfect example of such a failing urban scene until the public sector financing of the Progressive Field baseball stadium, initiated the Gateway revitalization project which resurrected a dying city.  The 180 million dollar investment in Progressive Field, had little return initially but it lit a spark which soon expanded into increased private investment and revitalization which yielded some 4.1 billion dollars in investment at the present time, including a new stadium for the Cleveland Browns, the Rock Hall of Fame, the development of the Tower City Mall project and other important projects.

I leave you with the following quotation.

An important element missing in the debate is the impact of a sports franchise on a metro area’s quality of life. While difficult to measure, the contribution of a sports franchise to quality of life may exceed more traditional job creation and tax revenue benefits. If so, when quality-of-life benefits are included in the calculation, public spending may not appear to be such a bad investment for some metro areas.

Good luck Pro debaters!

Click here for the Con position


The Heartland Institue, Policy Study, No. 62 - April 4, 1994
Stadiums, Professional Sports, and Economic Development: Assessing the Reality
by Robert A. Baade

Peter A. Groothuis Appalachian State University, Bruce K. Johnson Centre College and John C. Whitehead, Appalachian State University; 2004

‘Build It Here!’ An Examination of Pride Versus Economic Motivations of Citizens Voting for Public Stadium Financing; 2009
Scott Wysong, University of Dallas; Philip C. Rothschild, Missouri State University

Why Do Some Stadium Redevelopment Projects Succeed Where Others Fail? An Analysis Using Macro-Level Trends in Stadium Building
Peter Koehler (Under the Direction of Professor Michael O’Hara)
Lampert Fellowship for Public Affairs, Colgate University, Summer 2012

Jeffrey G. Owen, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Economics, Indiana State University

What Are the Benefits of Hosting a Major League Sports Franchise?
By Jordan Rappaport and Chad Wilkerson

Measuring the immeasurable: capturing intangible values
Marketing and Public Relations International Committee of ICOM (International Council of Museums), Conference Keynote, Brno, Czech Republic, 19th September 2011
Dr. Carol Scott

PF Sep/Oct - Public Subsidies for Pro Sports - Introduction

Resolved: On balance, public subsidies for professional athletic organizations in the United States benefit their local communities.

First of the Year

Time for another new season and I am still shaking off the mind-numbing effects of a very cold winter, a dismal summer, and hours upon hours of non-stop work.  Still, it is good to begin challenging the mind and strategizing for the 2014-2015 debate season.  It's even more exciting to see a new group of novices and speculate how far they can go before the start of the major district tournaments, early next year.

This is the first topic of the year and because the NFL feels students need additional time to hit a stride, or more appropriately novices need time to get their proverbial feet wet, this topic will run through October.  Let's be real.  While PF debate is considered by many to be some kind of beginners debate, don't be fooled.  PF debate is very engaging, requires good strategy, is often aggressive and requires a lot of work to be successful. It is no light-weight category. It is also enormously popular and so don't be surprised when you find you will have your work cut out for you to rise to the top of the heap. There will be a lot of competition for those top spots.

For the Novices

This analysis will tend to dig-in fast and novices may get lost, mainly because of a lack of good information about how to get started; how to write a case, how to frame arguments, how to handle cross-fires, etc.  If that is where you are, I suggest you look at the top of this page, find the menu; Home, Public Forum, Lincoln-Douglas, Policy Debate,General, etc.  Click the Public Forum or General tabs to open pages with links to other articles on this site which can help you.  Here are a few past articles that can help you.

Your first case
PF case theory and practice

On Balance

This two-word term is well known in debate in that it suggests - well - requires - a comparative framework. On balance means, in consideration of two or more competing ideas, which carries the most weight?  In debate world, a proposal, idea or contention has weight if its advantages are greater than its disadvantages. Therefore, this resolution claims public subsidies for professional athletic organizations will benefit local communities more than harm them.  Please realize the Pro side as well as Con recognizes there may be potential disadvantages, but Pro will claim, overall, at the end of the day, the year, the debate; the advantages outweigh the disadvantages or the reaped benefits exceed the costs.

Public Subsidies

Plain and simple, public subsidies are goods or services provided by the government.  Subsidies nearly always take the form of money.  So, under this interpretation, a public subsidy would be public funds entrusted to a government entity. Tax incentives (in the form of reduced taxes to the professional sports organization) may also be considered a form of public subsidy.

Professional Sports Organization in the United States

Professional sports are those which pay players to participate (which is almost always in the form of money but may involve many other kinds of compensation).  Team sports in schools, including colleges are considered amateur sports because the players are not directly compensated.  In college athletics, players may receive scholarships but these are permitted under their franchise rules. So I guess we can say, professional sports organizations pay their players salaries or compensation for expenses, while amateurs do not allow any form of compensation from an outside entity other than those explicitly allowed (like scholarships).  It's really not complex and should not be an issue as to the meaning of "professional sports".  A professional sports organization is an entity which manages the activities of players and teams under the entity's jurisdiction.  Typically these include the leagues such as the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), etc. and include the individually owned and managed professional teams such as the New York Jets, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Boston Red Sox, and so on.  These organizations are limited to the United States so exclude international franchises such as FIFA.  It is important to recognize, that while amateur athletic organizations (NCAA for example) are considered non-profit ventures, some major pro sports leagues (NFL, NHL, PGA for example) are also considered non-profit entities, while Major League Baseball is no longer consider a non-profit organization.  Individual pro teams are for-profit entities striving to make as much money as possible for the owners, staff and players. One significant exception, the Green Bay Packers, are the only community-owned non-profit team in the U.S..

Benefit Local Communities

Most people know professional sports teams are associated with local communities.  In fact, pro teams carry the name of the host cities which are considered their "home" locations.  In addition, it should be obvious to anyone who has ever attended a professional sports event in a city, it is an activity which involves tens of thousands of people, from spectators, to vendors, to parking attendants, to police; and involves the exchange or millions of dollars per event.  They are major activities to say the least, and one presumes the host city sees benefit in such a disruptive activity. Indeed, every dollar spent or paid in the form of compensation results in tax revenues for the community and the state, not to mention the impact of team reputations on tourism, civic pride, merchandise sales.

The Resolution

This topic is controversial in that quite often sports teams ask for and receive public subsidies and the question we must consider is whether or not the practice of granting public funds to sports teams, ultimately benefits the local community in a positive way. Not every team is well supported by the local community. For various reasons, the fan base diminishes, the stadium or arena deteriorates and the merchandise is removed from store shelves. Owners will seek ways to increase team revenues like any good corporation. Often enough, other communities will offer incentives for the team to relocate to their community, presuming the presence of a pro sports team in their city would be a benefit to the community.  The owners may then play one community against another to see who can offer the best deal.  Usually, those offers will involve the proposal to transfer public funds to the team, usually for the purpose of rebuilding the sports facilities in an effort to attract fans and spur interest in the team which can result in the flow of money and tax revenues. In most cases, the transfer of public subsidies requires voter approval and very often, faced with the potential loss of a team, the citizens of a community will approve the subsidies.

To be sure, governments will always ask for some kind of tax increases to pay for the subsidies and this is why voters must decide.  Often, direct tax increases are politically unpopular so they are masked in the form of sin taxes, excise tax hikes, or tax levies.

The perceived benefit of public subsidies is a subjective debate.  I expect a cost-benefit analysis based on dollars and cents will be highly contested.  Each side is sure to find projections and stats which say the return on investment in real dollars is good or poor and there can be much argument over what was or was not included as criteria for evaluation. Frankly, I am not a fan of these kinds of debates.  They are usually poorly presented, the numbers are confusing (because young debaters don't know how to present them) and in the end Pro and Con contentions cancel each other in the mind of the judge.

I look forward to Pro contentions dealing with the less tangible factors which are counted as benefits. for example, can one apply a cost-benefit analysis to the value of civic pride to which sports teams contribute?  Money isn't everything and benefits can be found in other kinds of values which societies find favorable.  The question is, do professional sports teams add to those values?

Click here for the Pro position


Examining NFL's tax-exempt status
Originally Published: June 4, 2013
By  Kristi Dosh |

An Examination of the Public Good Externalities of Professional Athletic Venues: Justifications for Public Financing?
RICHARD W. SCHWESTER,Assistant Professor, Department of Public Management, John Jay College of
Criminal Justice (CUNY)

LD Sep/Oct 2014 - Presumed Consent for Organ Procurement - Negative

Resolved: A just society ought to presume consent for organ procurement from the deceased.

For part one of this series, click here.

Negative Advantage?

Alright. I didn't want to say it when setting up the Affirmative position, but I strongly feel this debate has a potential Negative advantage so Aff is going to need dig in and really develop well reasoned arguments for supporting presumed consent.  Since you will also be writing an Affirmative case, read this and use it your advantage on the Affirmative side to make your case stronger. One of the big problems is the Affirmative side is disadvantaged by the resolution specificity.  Of all the potential means to increase the supply of donor organs, why specify presumed consent? Why specify any particular policy? At this stage of my research, the only justification in found in the empirical evidence offered by the few countries which have implemented presumed consent policies.

A Problem of Technology

Everyone will die of their last disease, be it natural aging, or organ failure brought on by any number of causes. It is a fact (ignoring unnatural death such as murder, war or disaster).  In the past we accepted it.  Today, technology has changed the world and for the first time, we possess the ability to extend our lives through technological means and because we now have such abilities we expect it.  I say this, not to suggest the advancements in medicine are a bad thing for society but merely to frame this debate into a possible point of view that we may not have a "right" or privilege to such advancements.  If we are fortunate enough to benefit from it, great, if not, well that's okay too because that's the way it has always been. No one thought the shortage of organs was a problem in the past as our ancestors suffered from many of the same afflictions which degrade our lives today. So, some would argue that now that we have the technology and capability to extend lives we ought to use it and we certainly could if more people were willing to donate their organs.

Having said all this, I thought my approach to the Negative position will be to walk you through a fairly straight-forward rebuttal of the affirmative position.  Novice debaters, remember one important thing. It is not enough to get up and claim your opponent is wrong and sit down.  You need to take a position and argue in a positive way as well as refute your opponent, so you will need to take the positive arguments (those that advocate a "better" solution that the Affirmative) and stand upon them while taking the negative aspects of this article (those which refute Affirmative claims) and apply them in your rebuttals.

Framing the Solvency

While we may be consider arguing the shortage of organs is not a real harm but a consequence of life taking its natural course we can acknowledge that modern medicine has the potential to alleviate the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people each year.  However, it is important to notice this resolution may be insufficient to make a significant impact on overall suffering even if Negative fully embraced the Affirmative position.  Why? It is a fact the pool of available donors is steady or declining each year.  One extensive, nation-wide study in the late 1990's identified under 19,000 potential donors over a four year period with a little over half of them consenting to donation. Even if all of them consented, what would be the impact of doubling the available donors?

Sheehy et al 2003:
"The demand for transplantable organs continues to increase, while the organizations involved in the procurement of organs struggle with a stagnant or possibly diminishing pool of potential organ donors. As of July 7, 2003, a total of 82,117 patients were waiting for a solid-organ transplant. The shortage of organs raises questions about the size of the national donor pool. Have organ-procurement organizations reached the limit of the number of organs that can be recovered?"

A similar study in Germany in 2007, found similar results. At the time of publication there were 12,000 people on the waiting list for donors and a fairly consistent transplant rate of 4000 per year with many of these organs coming from outside of Germany.

Breyer 2007:
"On the basis of the aforementioned studies, the potential donor pool can be estimated at 45 pmp per year, which would result in a total number of 3,690 potential organ donors per year in Germany. In contrast, in 2003 only 1,928 brain-dead patients were reported to the coordinating agency (DSO, Deutsche Stiftung Organtransplantation, German foundation for organ transplantation), which amounts to a reporting rate of 52 percent. Moreover, the number of actual post-mortem organ donors in the same year was only 1,140 patients."

The take away from these studies is the potential numbers of donors can be significantly increased, even doubled in some areas.  But, the shortage is not solved. So while Affirmative can possibly argue that we can improve the situation with 100% consent, we will still be woefully short of the number required. If the judge was to vote Affirmative, we would still need to find other means to match the ever increasing shortfall bearing in mind that some future potential donors may also become potential recipients depending on random circumstances.

"Fewer Mistakes"

This argument put forth by advocates of presumed consent holds that since approximately 70 of potential donors do want to donate but for various reasons fail to register that intent, fewer mistakes would be made if consent were presumed requiring the 30 percent who do not wish to donate to opt-out.  Based on these 70/30 statistics we can easily make the claim that numerically the number of mistakes is smaller by requiring the opt-out, hence we have a qualitative basis for favoring presumed consent.

"This specific formulation is known as the quantitative fewer mistakes argument. Fewer people do not wish to donate their organs than those who do and the ones who do wish to donate are less likely to explicitly state or “opt-in” to the current system, usually due to the presumption that the failure to do so would unlikely be significant to the individual. It is  more likely that those who do not wish to donate their organs would be more copious due to “moral, prudential, or religious reasons” (p. 384) to explicitly state or “opt-out” of the presumed consent system. If this were the argument in its entirety, it would seem the proponents of presumed consent would have a better argument, since the vast majority of people wish to be donors, but are not registered and the system would save a great deal more lives."

However, on the Negative side of this argument we must consider the harms which result from the mistakes that do occur.

"The result though is that the “fewer mistakes” argument rests upon an implicit assumption that opponents of presumed consent do not accept: that mistaken removals and mistaken non-removals  are morally equivalent. Opponents claim, that is not the case. They argue that mistaken removals are morally worse than mistaken non-removals. Therefore, they argue, while it  may be true that there would be fewer mistaken removals under the presumed consent system, those mistaken removals would wield far more moral weight as compared to the mistaken non-removals. Incidentally, while it may be true there would be far fewer cases, the cases would be  vastly more severe. This then distinguishes the second portion of the “fewer mistakes” argument, the qualitative portion."

Negative Advocacy

The fact that presumed consent allows for refusal suggests there exists an inherent right to violate the principles upon which advocates of presumed consent base their positions.  For example, if presumed consent preserves autonomy or solidarity then why acknowledge it is okay to take a stand against autonomy or solidarity by opting-out?  How valuable are those ideals if we are willing to allow some to willingly give them up?

To begin, we can argue there is no need to adopt any new policies. All the tools we need to improve donor rates already exist within the present system.  If we assume the statistic that 70% of potential donors wish to donate the problem rests in the fact that perhaps they are not afforded sufficient opportunity to "opt-in" or express their desires. Additionally, perhaps education about organ donation needs to be more pervasive.

Nevertheless, following is a compendium of advocacy options for Negative:

Vanderbilt 2009:
Priority based on willingness to donate gives preference to those on the national organ transplant waiting list who have volunteered to donate their own organs. While at odds with the altruism-based organ procurement system currently in place in the United States, this donor-priority system does not implicate the same moral and ethical dilemmas as do other systems.
Paired organ exchanges allow willing donors whose loved ones need transplants but who are not matches for those loved ones to connect with each other in order to arrange a swap.
A national donor registry would store information on all potential donors in order to facilitate identification of donors whose donor cards cannot be located and to capture transplantable organs that might otherwise slip through the cracks. Such a registry could also be used to facilitate paired organ exchanges.
Tax breaks offer direct financial incentives to organ donors to increase organ supply but might run afoul of the UAGA and NOTA prohibitions on the exchange of organs for valuable consideration.
Futures markets allow organ donors to enter into contracts to sell their cadaveric organs, either for immediate financial benefit or for the benefit of a designated beneficiary. Depending on how they are implemented, futures markets implicate concerns about coerced consent and exploitation of underprivileged donors.
Discounted driver’s license fees offer a donor a waiver of some portion of his driver’s license application or renewal fees in return for checking the “organ donor” box on his driver’s license. The nominal amount of the incentive reduces, but does not eliminate, the concern about coercion.
Reimbursement of donors’ medical and burial expenses at the very least provides donors’ families with some form of posthumous compensation for their donations. Such reimbursement would create a limited incentive, probably with equally limited benefits for the organ supply.
Regulated open markets would allow the sale of organs with extensive government regulatory oversight in order to minimize the dangers of exploitation and coercion. By providing donor-sellers something closer to fair value for their organs, this option provides the best option for addressing the organ shortage. If done in the right way, taking precautions against abuse, it can also be a system consistent with many people’s moral and ethical values, including most significantly the right to control one’s own body.

The Values

Finally, since I am sure many will ask, I offer some words about negative values and their associated criteria.  Of course Negative can always choose justice, even if the Affirmative also chooses justice. The major premise for Negative can focus on the arguments against fewer mistakes. If Affirmative does not mention fewer mistakes, the argument is still valid that under presumed consent there exists the possibility whereby individuals who for some reason have failed to express their option to not donate will have their organs removed against their living desires.  This is considered a violation of the respect and dignity of the deceased and something no just society would tolerate. If this is your tact then upholding self-determination or respect for the deceased are sufficient criteria.

If you do choose to run a value of autonomy be prepared to narrow the focus to the rights of individuals to determine how they should be treated after they have died.  Linked to this is the idea of property rights. Individual have the right to distribute or dispose of their property as they see fit and it can be claimed one's body, living or dead, is one's property. One does not want the body to become the possession of the state since the potential for all kinds of abuse are possible.  In China, it is claimed the organs of deceased prisoners are routinely removed and bodies are often handed over for medical research without the consent of the deceased.

The whole idea of human dignity, as vague as it is, can be a powerful value for the Neg side. Respecting the wishes of the dead or dying is important to large parts of society. There are many reasons why a person may not wish to have their organs harvested and there are also many reasons their intentions may not have been expressed, but to presume they would make a contrary choice is a violation of human dignity.


The new england journal of medicine, 2003
Estimating the Number of Potential Organ Donors in the United States
Ellen Sheehy, M.P.P.M., M.A.R., Suzanne L. Conrad, M.S., Lori E. Brigham, M.B.A., Richard Luskin, M.P.A., Phyllis Weber, R.N., Mark Eakin, Ph.D., Lawrence Schkade, Ph.D., and Lawrence Hunsicker, M.D.

Analyse & Kritik 29/2007 (
c Lucius & Lucius, Stuttgart) p. 188–205
Friedrich Breyer/Hartmut Kliemt
The Shortage of Human Organs: Causes, Consequences and Remedies

Organ Donation: Autonomy, Presumed Consent, and Mandated Choice
Daniel Springer, Oakland University

Journal of Philosophy and Ethics in Health Care and Medicine, No.3, pp.64-85, July 2008
Ethical Issues of Presumed Consent in the Use of Patient Materials for Medical Research and the Organ Donation for Transplantation
Mitsuyasu KUROSU, Tokyo Medical University, Department of Bioethics

You Get What You Pay For?: Rethinking U.S. Organ Procurement Policy in Light of Foreign Models

Saturday, September 13, 2014

LD Sep/Oct 2014 - Presumed Consent for Organ Procurement - Affirmative

Resolved: A just society ought to presume consent for organ procurement from the deceased.

For part one of this series, click here

Getting Started (A Preface for Novices)

At the outset, I am making an assumption most debaters reading this post have already had some debate experience.  There is after all, a novice topic and perhaps most novices will be debating it. I don't know.  If you are a novice and expected to debate this topic, I apologize because it is my desire to jump right into the analysis with minimal build-up.  Nevertheless, dear novice, this site should be a wonderful resource for you and so you do not need bounce all around the Internet looking for help. At the top of this page you will find a menu of sorts (Home, Public Forum, Lincoln-Douglas, Policy Debate, General, etc...). Click the Lincoln-Douglas or General items to open a page with links to every worthwhile post on this site.  You will find detailed and informative information on how to write your first case, concepts, terminology and so much more.  Here are a few links to get you started:

Your first case
Values in Lincoln-Douglas
Philosophy in Lincoln-Douglas
Cross-X for Lincoln-Douglas

Links to general debate topics - including advice for novices

A Just Society

This resolution requires the affirmative to advocate presumed consent for organ procurement because it is something just societies ought to do.  For the most part, I think we can agree societies thrive, or flounder under the power of governments and political bodies. Happily, in most cases the government is granted its authority by the consent of the governed.  Sometimes, totalitarian regimes seize power against the will of the people but it does not necessarily mean the societies under the government cannot function in a just way on an individual level. So while we can make a distinction between just societies and unjust governments, we must recognize the impact of government upon the ability of society to uphold social justice. In particular consider the positive impact of government in ensuring fairness, equality and justice within the governed societies.

Nagel 2005:
The issue of justice and sovereignty was memorably formulated by Hobbes. He argued that although we can discover true principles of justice by moral reasoning alone, actual justice cannot be achieved except within a sovereign state. Justice as a property of the relations among human beings (and also injustice, for the most part) requires government as an enabling condition...
Rawls argued that the liberal requirements of justice include a strong component of equality among citizens, but that this is a specifically political demand, which applies to the basic structure of a unified nation-state. It does not apply to the personal (nonpolitical) choices of individuals living in such a society, nor does it apply to the relations between one society and another, or between the members of different societies. Egalitarian justice is a requirement on the internal political, economic, and social structure of nation-states and cannot be extrapolated to different contexts, which require different standards.

The Affirmative debater does seem to have problem in this debate, in my opinion.  Building the link between the societal problem of lack of transplant-ready organs with the various theories of social justice which is a requirement of the wording in this resolution can be difficult. While many individuals may benefit from a ready supply of harvested organs, is social injustice inherent in the fact there is a shortage of these organs?  While we can perhaps make a case, that only the rich have access to the limited supply of organs we would need to establish the least economically advantaged are unfairly denied access to organs merely as a consequence of their socio-economic status. That would be a very good argument to suggest there is injustice in the status quo.  However, to win the debate, it is now necessary to prove that presumed consent will right the wrongs of economic discrimination.

In Lincoln-Douglas, and virtually every other form of debate, there is an assumption of an inherent problem in the status quo, that only voting for the Affirmative can solve.  The Aff debater could charge into the round assuming the Neg side and the judge will agree there is a problem, but what if Neg challenges that?  While tragedies exist in society it does not necessarily mean that, in and of itself, is unjust. So, while I could presumably spend much time discussing the various theories of social justice, I feel it is important to focus on inherent harms.

Büchler 2012:
"Why is organ donation either so unequivocally beneficial or so unequivocally desirable, particularly when the empirical evidence provided by existing rates of donation clearly does not bear this out? And what makes us think that bodily invasion is such an easy sacrifice to make that a communitarian-based obligation to facilitate saving the lives of others is justified? It would seem that it is society’s need for organs that is making it acceptable to lower the threshold required with regard to the reliability of the evidence of willingness on the part of the donor. Presumed consent can be seen as a reflection of the perception that the interest of the collective as potential recipients should prevail over that of the individual dead body. The ‘injury’ to the corpse resulting from organ removal must serve a therapeutic objective, however. If one assumes that the dead themselves are beyond harm, then, from a consequentialist point of view, it is certainly desirable – if not indeed compulsory – to use corpses to prolong the lives of others; at the same time there is no apparent conflict with a deontological perspective or more precisely with the Kantian doctrine requiring that the individual must not be used solely as means to further the ends of others."

Harms Due to Shortages

The distribution of donated organs to recipients is often regulated by a group committed to ensure a semblance of fair and equitable distribution.  For example the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains the information for the waiting pool. For the most part, distribution is only made on the basis of medical need, probability of success, time on the waiting list, etc.  There should not be any consideration for nationality, religious affiliation, economic status, etc of the intended recipient. Yet when it comes down to the final decision, other factors can be over-riding, such as how quickly the recipient can be ready, distance from the donor, age of the recipient, and so on.

Center for Bioethics 2004:
Some who believe in equal access distribution would also like to have an organ distribution process free of medical or social worthiness biases. Medical “worthiness” biases could exclude patients from reaching the top of the transplant waiting list if lifestyle choices like smoking and alcohol use damaged their organs. Social “worthiness” biases would factor in a patient’s place in society or potential societal contribution before giving them an organ. This would affect, among others, prisoners being punished for offenses against society.

Nevertheless, certain biases do exist and in fact, some compelling arguments can be made as why on group should be favor over another.

Center for Bioethics 2004:
On the other hand, some ethicists argue that individual worth is important to consider during organ distribution. They argue that distribution is biased against worthy individuals when individual worthiness factors are not included. One example of this argument comes from a 1990s article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal by E. Kluge. Kluge argues that equal access distribution of organs is not fair and just if it includes people whose lifestyle choices, namely tobacco and alcohol use, ruined their organs. Kluge’s argument states that people who engage in poor lifestyle choices are behaving irresponsibly and could have prevented their illness and are, in essence, increasing the need for organs and depriving people who, “have no control over their need,” of necessary treatment

One must realize the work of UNOS and those groups which procure organs for distribution are not necessarily rooted in law.  Rather, they are broadly regulated by medical boards following principles of bioethics, however those ethics may be defined and as long as shortages exist, the potential for ethical  violations will continue.

Center for Bioethics 2004:
Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, in his on-line articles for CNN’s Ethics Matters series argues that the imperfections in organ distribution come from the scarcity of donor organs. Kahn says that if Americans wish to support organ transplantation as a medical procedure, then they must be sensitive to the fact that politics and biases will probably factor into any ranking system until there are enough organs to go around"

While the potential for harms exist on the distribution side of organ transplantation, one must also look at the supply side where severe shortages induce a corresponding effort to meet the demand not only through well-intentioned opt-in permissions (for example a donor card or explicit consent on a driver's license) but also through an underground market of trafficking which may involve people willingly selling their organs for profit or others exploiting the poor. At the extreme are those who may take organs from others against their will. While organ sales are banned in the United States, such prohibitions do not exist everywhere outside of the US and there is increasing pressure within the US to turn organs into a commodity.

Finally, we must not only consider the cost in human life, since people in need of organs are in danger of dying when perhaps they could be saved, we must also consider the high-cost of trying to keep those who need transplants alive until a suitable donor can be found. The maintenance costs harm society though higher insurance rates, high cost of medical procedures, and untold misery and strain on family budgets, often resulting in bankruptcies, loss of jobs, etc.

Presumed Consent as a Solvency Mechanism

While there may be no solution which can completely meet the need in the most humane and ethical terms, we can look to presumed consent as a way of reducing the shortage and ist associated harms. Many countries around the world, already have passed presumed consent laws and the rate of donations has increased significantly. The various implementations in the international community demonstrate a variety of mechanisms to ensure individuals are informed of their right to opt-out and in some cases, immediate relatives are given opt-out rights on behalf of their deceased family member. while the Affirmative debater need not advocate a particular policy, the Affirmative argues presumed consent as a viable alternative to the status quo.

Glaser 2012:
Presumed consent, when the state strictly follows it, is the best practice method of legally obtaining organs. In countries with presumed consent laws, there is a higher procurement rate for organs than in countries without these laws. Many argue that if the demand for organs were met legally, then people would have less incentive to illegally obtain organs and the black market would eventually diminish. On a more basic level, if there were more organs available for transplant, then more people’s lives would be saved."

In response to common ethical objections to presumed consent, Seldon Zink, et al, writing for the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, informs us that presumed consent increases individual autonomy because it allows people to make decisions before their death and not defer to family members.

Zink et al 2005:
"They maintain that asking a family for a loved one's organs at a time of intense grief is cruel and unnecessary and that, by presuming consent, the family's anxiety over this decision is alleviated. Supporters of presumed consent also employ a utilitarian argument as support for implementing such a policy. Meredith Watson claims that presumed consent provides the greatest good for the greatest number of people by harming no one and benefiting many. She adds that the burden of communicating and registering preference should fall on those who object to donating, not those who support it, because the goal of transplantation is one that is socially desirable"

Autonomy and Dignity

The arguments for autonomy and dignity will be pervasive and strong since they are found throughout the literature on the subject. At stake is the right of individuals to decide their course of action as opposed to the greater needs of society.  Obviously one may look at the case strictly in utilitarian terms and decide (in a very famous Spock-like way) the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. But while utilitarianism, is perhaps viable, Affirmative must answer the issues of autonomy.  Here, one must consider, how can the right to decide one's steps transcend death?  Does an autonomy make sense after an individual ceases to exist?

Büchler 2012:
Contemporary biomedical ethics relies on a contractual model that focuses on the legal rights of the parties involved in medical interactions. Autonomy, however, may not be perceived and valued in all cultural settings as the intellectual and moral foundation of healthcare. For many, focusing on autonomy and the rights of the individual may overlook the social and moral implications of personal interconnectedness.

The argument can be made that autonomy is rightfully outweighed by concepts of human dignity.

Büchler 2012:
In the Kantian understanding of dignity - often found in legal texts on organ donation and transplantation - a human being should always be treated as an end and not as a means. The prohibition of property rights in body parts or paid organ donation is justified by the argument that allowing such practices would compromise human dignity. In this sense dignity trumps the principle of autonomy, constraining the individual’s freedom to pursue his or her autonomously chosen goals. Finally, inasfar as it is understood as a high-ranking status afforded equally to all human beings, dignity – as a universal concept – also ensures respect for all people. These are all valid reasons supporting the importance of dignity in organ donation and transplant laws in a culturally and religiously diverse society.

But as a value in this debate, Negative objections to presumed consent on the basis it violates principles of human dignity must be able to reconcile its vagueness and multifaceted incarnations rooted in metaphysical concepts of right and wrong. Remember, the key to defending values is found in universal principles, not cultural ones.

Good luck with this resolution.


The Problem of Global Justice
Philosophy & Public Affairs 33, No. 2, (April 2005), pp. 113–47
Thomas Nagel

Andrea Büchler, 2012, Regulating the Sacred
Organ Donation and Transplantation: Autonomy and Integrity of the Person or Social Responsibility of the Body?; Straus Working Paper 01/12

A Successful Utopia: The Doctrine of Human Dignity
Antoon De Baets, University of Groningen

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 35: 180–196, 2010, doi:10.1093/jmp/jhq010
Advance Access publication on February 24, 2010;
Bioethics and “Human Dignity”
Matthew C. Jordan, Quincy University, Quincy, Illinois, USA

Ethics of Organ Transplantation
Center for Bioethics, February 2004

Presumed versus Expressed Consent in the US and Internationally
American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, Virtual Mentor. September 2005, Volume 7, Number 9.
Sheldon Zink, PhD, Rachel Zeehandelaar and Stacey Wertlieb, MBe

Formula to Stop the Illegal Organ Trade: Presumed Consent Laws and Mandatory Reporting Requirements for Doctors
by Sheri R. Glaser 2012

LD Sep/Oct 2014 - Presumed Consent for Organ Procurement - Introduction

Resolved: A just society ought to presume consent for organ procurement from the deceased.


It was a very tough winter in my part of the country, followed by an equally dismal spring and summer.  The weather was generally wet and cool made all the more trying with a very unusual, period of work demands which required long hours, and little sleep.  It is well past time to emerge into a new debate season and begin pushing the mind with more interesting exercises. It is the one endeavor under the specter of another looming, harsh winter, which invokes dreams about a trip to the national tournament next June.

We know every year the NFL tries to ease us back into debate with topics which at first examination seem elementary enough for novices. and, every year, despite such attempts to gently lead inexperienced 'first-timers' into the debate maelstrom, our local district will debate the November/December topic for the first time on October 18.  This is fine, I guess, except many of my novices have yet to choose a category and some have yet to understand the difference between LD, PF, 2P, and student congress or for that matter extemporaneous speaking.  Oh well, this topic seems easy enough...right?

A Just Society

As I have discussed in many, many posts on this site, Lincoln-Douglas (LD) is value debate and in the traditional meaning of that statement, the debater will be asked to defend one of the great values which make life worth living.  How convenient that "justice" jumps out immediately.  Those who have any experience in LD will know justice, like all great values, is a very broad concept and means many things to many people. We usually define justice as "giving each his due" which many interpret within an egalitarian framework; essentially, a just society is an equal society, however we choose to measure equality.  On the other hand, and I believe more correctly, one can interpret "give each his due" in the context of rewards and punishment and so we begin to think of just societies as ones which weigh-out reward or punishment, in proportion to that which is due. So we still see a kind of social balancing act which strives to right wrongs, provides recompense to those who deserve it and enables the potential for equality whether or not it is achieved. Again, we can debate how to measure exactly what "is due" to select portions of society. At its most basic, a just society is a society which exhibits justice in every aspect of social well-being. For this reason, the just society ought to do certain things in order to ensure justice is upheld.  This resolution asks to examine one of these "ought to do's".

The Philosophical Concept of Ought

Ought is one of the words that everyone knows what it means.  It expresses a sense of obligation and for some reason we may have a sense the obligation to take an action is somehow more compelling when one says "ought", as opposed to "should".  I guess that is why some attach a moral component to the word and claim ought suggests a moral obligation. Perhaps it is not surprising then, that tiny little word can trigger a philosophical debate.

Wedgewood 2011:
"Many philosophical discussions of the meaning of ‘ought’ seem to assume that it is an obvious analytic truth that whenever one “ought” to do something, one has a “duty” or “obligation” to do it. This assumption seems eminently questionable to me. I ought to buy a new pair of shoes, but I surely do not have any duty or obligation to buy a new pair of shoes. Duties and obligations are in some sense “owed” to someone or something that is the object or beneficiary of the duty or obligation, while it is far from clear that anything like that need be true of everything that one “ought” to do."

For sure, a good debate will balance at the point of controversy; the stasis point. The stasis is the point of contention about which the two sides will take their stand, and so this tiny word then becomes the center about which Affirmative and Negative can make their respective cases. Given the concept that ought represents the declaration of a proposition, philosophers divide over whether ought may convey beliefs (common to the society we can presume) or simple commands (expressed by a civil authority). In other words, under one interpretation, we 'ought' do something because we believe is right or upholds a basic truth. Under the other interpretation we "ought" do something because it is a demand or a sort of "legal" requirement.

Wedgewood 2011:
"...most philosophers assume that it is at least part of understanding a term that one has the ability to use declarative sentences involving that term to express certain mental states. However, philosophers differ over what sort of mental state is normally expressed by the use of declarative sentences involving ‘ought’: cognitivists think that these mental states are just straightforward beliefs, of basically the same kind as the beliefs that are normally expressed by most other declarative sentences; non-cognitivists think that they are mental states of some crucially different kind, such as emotions, or desires or intentions of the sort that are typically expressed by commands or prescriptions."

In my opinion, we are fortunate to declare our affirmative proposition within the context granted by the introductory clause, "a just society".  This helps us to frame the point of view as a command which intends to uphold the principles of a just society as long as those principles are universal to all societies.

Presumed Consent

To presume is to believe something true before knowing it is true.  Presumption is not quite the same as assumption though they are similar.  We may assume something to be true, before knowing but in assumption is the acknowledgement of uncertainty. To presume, on the other hand is like saying, something is true until I am told otherwise or until an exception arises. Consent is permission to take an action so in combination, 'presumed consent' expresses the belief permission to take an action is granted unless otherwise informed. There is no need to seek permission. One may presume permission is already given.

Consent for Organ Procurement

Pretty much without exception, a Google search for presumed consent will bring up many, many discussions about presumed consent with respect to organ donation which is the action to be justified.  In a nutshell, there are potentially millions of individuals that may benefit by receiving donated organs or tissues. But the number of declared, willful donors does not come close to meeting the need.  Now of course, since this resolution specifies "organ procurement from the deceased" we can avoid discussing living donors, people selling their organs for profit or people forcefully taking organs from the living for trafficking purposes.

Abadie 2005:
"In the U.S., Great Britain, and in many other countries, the gap between the demand and the supply of human organs for transplantation is on the rise, despite the efforts of governments and health agencies to promote donor registration. In some countries of continental Europe, however, cadaveric organ procurement is based on the principle of presumed consent. Under presumed consent legislation, a deceased individual is classified as a potential donor in absence of explicit opposition to donation before death."

The Deceased

As a noun, the deceased refers to a person who is no longer living. Thus we can understand this debate to focus on the justness of presuming consent to procure organs from those who have recently died. There is no need to assume they have given consent to donate their organs. We presume they have given permission and so their organs will be harvested unless somehow, an overriding directive prevents the action.  Let's make an important observation.  Presumed consent means we may assume permission to take organs from the deceased would be granted if permission was sought, but it does not mean permission must first be asked. We don't seek approval, we act believing we have approval.  A somewhat interesting discussion (or debate) may explore the definition of death, What exactly is the point of death and how does a just society prevent premature organ procurement, especially in those places where medical technology is not state-of-the-art?  Perhaps the discussion is not worth a contention, but it is interesting none the less.

The Criteria of a Just Society

So while we take a broad swipe at justice as the preeminent value in this debate, we must narrowly focus on the issues of presumed consent which contribute to upholding a just society.  The criteria which a make a society just may be many and I have broadly suggested that topics which promote equality or proportional distribution of recompense are in keeping with the values a just society supports. We can drive focus all the way down to issues which directly impact individuals, such as autonomy and dignity.

Gill 2004:
"I believe that a policy of presumed consent would be a moral improvement over the current American system of organ procurement. In what follows, I will try to make the case for presumed consent by addressing what I take to be the most important objection to it. The objection is that if we implement presumed consent we will end up removing organs from the bodies of people who did not want their organs removed, and that this situation is morally unacceptable because it violates the principle of respect for autonomy that underlies our concept of informed consent."

Autonomy is freedom to self-govern; the freedom to make choices which determine how one may conduct her life (or death?) as long as it does not infringe the rights of others.  People give up a measure of freedoms in society - it is after all - the classical conception of the "social contract". For that reason, preserving those rights we retain is very crucial and at the core of the arguments for guarding one's autonomy. Certainly, before people give up yet another measure of autonomy, there should be a compelling social good which is defended and there must be a very good reason to believe the means by which that good is achieved is not outweighed by harms. Additionally, the means should at least have a high probability of achieving the desired end.

Fabre et al, 2010:
"The appeal of presumed consent legislation is based on the belief that if consent is a problem, presuming it will solve the problem. The misconception underlying this belief is that presumed consent equates with organ donation. In fact, presumed consent equates simply with the presumed consent of the potential donor—the actual decision to donate rests with the potential donor’s family. The family bases its decision on many factors, such as trust in the medical profession, understanding of the organ donation process, the professionalism of the approach for donation, and, most importantly, the expressed wishes of the potential donor (for example, through donor register, donor card, or conversations).

We can explore the issues of autonomy and other criteria for preserving the values of a just society in other posts on this site.  And we may explore the semantics of presumed consent and determine if the desired ends may be achieved in other ways.

Springer (undated):
"How can we shrink the gap between the number of organs needed and the number of organs donated? Many ethical and moral considerations get raised through the exploration of these questions, considerations that must be addressed in order to arrive at a compelling answer. Autonomy, presumed consent, presumed refusal, and mandated choice are but a few of the options to enact a shrinkage to the gap of supply and demand. Autonomy is what must be preserved in any legislation concerning organ donation, but how it is defined and viewed will alter the variations of presumed consent, refused consent, and mandatory choice."

Remember as you start to research this one, and in particular I direct this remark to novices. There is no requirement to limit the discussion to the United States.  We are talking about just societies as a universal construct.  The values we debate must appeal to the broad consensus.  This is easily done by focusing on the values which are important to constituents of the society - namely individual humans.

Click here for the Affirmative position


The Meaning of 'Ought',  Oxford Studies in Metaethics, ed. Russ Shafer-Landau, vol. 1 (2006), 127-160
2011 Ralph Wedgwood

The Impact of Presumed Consent Legislation on Cadaveric Organ Donation: A Cross Country Study
Alberto Abadie – Harvard University and NBER, Sebastien Gay – University of Chicago, December 2005

Presumed Consent, Autonomy, and Organ Donation, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy
2004, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 37–59
Michael B. Gill, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

Organ Donation: Autonomy, Presumed Consent, and Mandated Choice
Daniel Springer, Oakland University

Presumed consent is unnecessary, BMJ 30 October 2010, Volume 341
John Fabre, Paul Murphy, Rafael Matesanz, 5 Sep 2010