Saturday, January 24, 2015

PF Mar 2015 - Potential Topics - UPDATED

Here are the two potential topics for NSDA March 2015 Public Forum Debate.

Voting is now open on the NSDA website for students and coaches.

Resolved: In the United States, students should be guaranteed two years of free tuition to a community or technical college.

Resolved: Publicly-funded colleges and universities in the United States should abolish the Greek system from their campuses.

UPDATED 2/1/2015

March 2015 Topic
TOPIC AREA: Higher Education

Resolved: In the United States, students should be guaranteed two years of free tuition to a community or technical college.
(425 schools and 1,096 students voted for the resolution. The winning resolution received 72% of the school vote and 66% of the student vote.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

PF Feb 2015 - Economic Globalization - Con Position

Resolved: On balance, economic globalization benefits worldwide poverty reduction

The Con Position

The general ideology of "globalization" is based upon neoliberal concepts of economic freedom which pretty much means, get the governments out of the way and let the free market take its natural course and soon we can declare, much like Dave Bowman in the epic, 2001 a Space Odyssey, "something wonderful" is going to happen. The Pro team, like the World Bank, will look to a purported significant reduction in worldwide poverty and toss a whole lot of credit to the process of globalization.  The Con researcher will soon realize a completely different reality in which government intervention has increased, multinational corporations are exploiting the cheap international labor pools and liberal environmental regulations, all while the gap between rich and poor expands to unprecedented levels.  Given these realities, perhaps one can postulate that globalization has been an unintended side-effect rather than root-cause of some poor finding escape for their dire situations. Indeed, this topic is not slanted Pro, but Con can certainly lose it if they fail to uphold their framework.  After all, conceptually, perhaps, the idea of globalization as a kind of bustling farmer's market on the village commons where each sells and trades their goods to every one's mutual benefit has a certain charming appeal and is a wonderful ideal if we can incorporate benefits to those less fortunate. Perhaps we can tolerate a more flawed reality of the market as long as some people are being helped in the present and perhaps even more can be helped in the future if we make some minor corrections. Perhaps, just perhaps, we can declare that even if one person is saved from the dire consequences of abject poverty it portents great possibilities so we have no reason to reject the Pro position.  But remember. Always, always remember. We are not in this round to debate whether or not globalization is conceptually good.  We have to hold to a comparative framework which has no clear brightline as to what constitutes a "benefit". For the Con position, let's stick to where we've been and where are now and we can leave the debate whether "something wonderful" is going to happen, for another day and another resolution.

Worldwide Poverty

For the Con debate, the adjective, 'worldwide' can potentially cause issues.  We can point to certain, very specific examples of a nation which is being steamrolled into the economic stone-age by globalization and Pro will be more than happy to remind the judge to look to worldwide poverty, not isolated cases. Of course, Con can then nitpick the definition and remind the judge that worldwide means everywhere in the world and if a nation is not included then we are one short of worldwide, so we must vote Con. Regardless of how it plays out, it is still a question of "on balance". So if somehow, Pro can convey the idea that at least 51% of the world's poor are benefiting from globalization then it's a slam-dunk for Pro.  But it's not so simple.  Keep in mind this "on balance" framework is not necessarily a question of numbers only.  'On balance' is a measure of relative weights and in debate, impacts can carry more weight than pie-charts and academic numerical analysis.  Think about it.  If 75% of the world's poor are on a path to middle-class well-being due to the wonders of globalization, but alas, the remaining 25% are plunging even deeper from moderate to extreme, intractable poverty, that negative impact is really hard to ignore and it will sway judges. Bear in mind, when I say "relative weights" relative means in relation to another and so we can not only claim impacts relative to the Pro but we can also wrap our impacts into a relative internal context. For example, the poor in the U.S. are probably rich relative to a dirt farmer in the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa, but relative to the U.S. standard of living, the suffering of the poor in the U.S. can be just as impactful.  Having said that, I urge you to remember that impacts will be king for the Con and the way to win the impact debate is to hammer these points:

  1. The time-frame is now - the situation is dire and getting worse by the second.
  2. The magnitude is enormous - millions are affected and the numbers are increasing.
  3. The probably is certain - the empirical evidence proves it.

Time-frame, magnitude and probability are the three pillars of impact debate so make sure your pillars are secure and show how your opponent's pillars are weak.

Here is an example:

Holter 2004:
The problem of worldwide poverty is dour. The numbers are shocking. “The richest 1 percent of the world’s population receives as much as the poorest 57 percent. More than a billion people live on less than a dollar a day; nearly a billion lack access to clean water; 10 million die each year for lack of the most basic healthcare.” [Soros, 10]. Globalization and the rise of the corporate controlled WTO did not create poverty, but neither have done much to correct the problem, and both may actually be exacerbating the problem.

Couple the above card with empiric data showing the increase in poverty and you establish time-frame, magnitude and probability. Round it out with a claim and some warranted analysis and you have a contention.

A Brief Explanation

In light of the foregoing, I thought I would take a somewhat unusual tact for the Con position this time and simply present a compendium of contentions. The purpose of this exercise is not to give you a handful of cards with which to slap the opponents. In fact, most of these cards, in and of themselves will not be enough to win anything (in my humble opinion).  I think it is safe to say we are more the half way through this 2014-15 NSDA debate season.  In fact, in my little corner of the debate world, we are very near the end (excluding the NSDA National Tournament in June).  At this point in the season, you should have progressed far enough to understand how to frame your arguments into a claim, warrant, impact structure. If not I refer you to this link. Claims or impacts alone will not win debates, and even when you have all of the basic elements, they still must link. So, I will give you some claims, and maybe some impacts, and I will leave it to you take the few extra steps needed to link it together into a cohesive argument. (Note, the use of ellipses [...] is not permitted under the new NSDA evidence rules. I include them here so these blog pages load faster.  You will need to take the entirety of the discussion from the original sources.)

Jörg 2014:
It is true that the course of globalization has, over the past years, increased the average GDP and average income in many countries. But: This research follows those who argue that, in order to get a realistic insight into society it is more important to see the development of actual household situations at the top and bottom deciles of national and global society. This angle of research by means of household surveys is gaining importance since the 1980s only, which is why its findings are not comparably reaching back in time as macroeconomic calculations do. But for the existing period it can be stated that worldwide poverty is remaining at high levels...based upon actual household income, global inequality increased dramatically during the period of “Globalization” and is still at very high levels. This insight is shared by this research and in tune with findings of two of its three host  organisation doing this research, who run own research programs on the situation of poor households by surveying developments of income and prices for so-called “basic need baskets”. We are aware of difficulties in comparing poverty levels and situations worldwide and between different countries: while in some sub-Saharan countries persons with a monthly income of US$10 may belong already to the middle class this is about the wage a German worker would obtain within one hour. And social security systems and other publicly financed and maintained assets accessible for the poor are also important for assessing poverty levels. However, if one looks at the de facto situation at household levels it needs to be stated for OECD states and Africa that not only inequality rose, but that the situation of the poor did not improve. [pg. 11-12]

NBER (undated):
Harrison first notes that most of the evidence on the links between globalization and poverty is indirect. To be sure, as developing countries have become increasingly integrated into the world trading system over the past 20 years, world poverty rates have steadily fallen. Yet little evidence exists to show a clear-cut cause-and-effect relationship between these two phenomena.

Between 1981 and 2001 the percentage of rural people living below the above-mentioned poverty line declined from about 79 per cent to about 27 per cent in China, from about 63 per cent to about 42 per cent in India, and 55 per cent to 11 per cent in Indonesia. But, contrary to repeated assertions in the international financial press, no one has yet convincingly demonstrated that this decline is mainly due to globalization...In China it could instead be, to a large extent, due to internal factors like expansion of infrastructure or the massive 1978 land reforms or policy changes relating to grain procurement prices or the relaxation of restrictions on rural-tourban migration. That the spurt in agricultural growth following the 1978 decollectivization and land reform may be a large factor in the poverty reduction in China is suggested by the fact that a substantial part of the decline in poverty in the last two decades already happened by mid-1980’s, before the big strides in foreign trade or investment...Similarly, rural poverty reduction in India may be attributable to the spread of Green Revolution in agriculture, large anti-poverty programs or social movements in India, and not the trade liberalization of the 1990’s. In Indonesia sensible macro-economic policies, an active rice price stabilization policy, massive investment in rural infrastructure, and the Green Revolution played a substantial role in the large reduction of rural poverty between 1981 and 2001.[pg. 4-5]

Basu 2006:
Has globalization led to greater inequality or less? This question has greatly exercised the minds of many analysts. The reason why this question has loomed so large in our debates is that, for many ideologues, how we answer this question amounts to a verdict on globalization. I shall however take the view that seeking a verdict on globalization is a hopeless project. First of all, it is too catch-all a term and therefore it can be good and bad, depending on what aspect of it we are looking at, in which period and at which location. When the Spaniards came into contact with the Incas in the early 16th century, that was a step in globalization. And judging by the fact that the native population of the new world rapidly declined under the combined might of the sword and new bacteria, clearly this globalization was not good for the native population.[pg.1362]

CLW 2012:
The electronics industry came under intense scrutiny in 2010 and at the beginning of 2011. Following fourteen confirmed deaths of young workers at the Foxconn Shenzhen factory throughout 2010, media outlets focused on Chinese working conditions in electronics factories...While electronics factories are seemingly sterile, clean environments, devoid of the usual 'sweatshop‘ characteristics, many factories in the electronics industry actually exhibit hidden sweatshop attributes. These attributes are the results of brand buyer companies squeezing out dollars in order to secure the lowest cost production orders possible. Some of the more notable sweatshop characteristics in Chinese electronics factories include:
  • Excessive overtime hours, especially during the peak season
  • Forcing workers to work ‗voluntary‘ overtime
  • Maintaining an extremely high level of work intensity, by setting the daily production quotas at amounts only the most capable workers can withstand
  • Implementing subtle discrimination practices by hiring only the youngest and healthiest candidates.
  • Punishing workers for small mistakes and verbally harassing workers.
  • Creating a system in which official resignation is nearly impossible and forcing workers to 'voluntarily‘ resign, thereby forfeiting a significant amount of their final wages. 

Pollin 2007:
At least since World War II, rural workers in developing countries have been migrating out of agricultural employment. This migration has freed up more workers to contribute toward the production of nonagricultural goods and services, which, in turn, has generally contributed positively to economic growth in developing countries. But this migration out of agriculture also created a new problem: the supply of workers moving out of agriculture was exceeding the demand for these workers in other forms of employment. This pattern led to the formation of a massive pool of ‘‘surplus’’ workers—people who were forced to scramble for a living any way they could. A high proportion of them migrated into the queue for jobs in the manufacturing sectors in developing countries with virtually nothing as an alternative fallback position. These are the conditions under which poor working people might well regard a sweatshop factory job as a better option than any immediately practical alternative. (These issues are developed more fully, with citations, in Pollin, forthcoming.) This pattern has worsened under neoliberal globalization, resulting from the interaction of several factors. First, the reduction or elimination of tariffs on agricultural products has enabled cheap imported grains and other agricultural products to capture a growing share of the developing countries’ markets. This has made it increasingly difficult for small-scale farmers in developing countries to survive in agriculture, which, in turn, has accelerated the migration into the nonagricultural labor market. Neoliberal policies have also brought reductions, if not outright elimination, of agricultural subsidies to smallholders. As conditions have thus worsened for small-scale agricultural producers, their opportunities for finding jobs in manufacturing have also been limited by several factors also associated with neoliberal policies. The first has been the overall decline in economic growth and average incomes in most developing countries in the neoliberal era. As income growth fell, so did the expansion of domestic markets, and thus also the expansion of jobs producing goods for domestic consumers. [pg. 112]

Ehrenfeld 2013:
The spread of globalisation has been so rapid and comprehensive that its effects are being felt in the smallest and most remote human communities and natural areas in both developed and undeveloped countries. Indeed, the words 'developed' and 'undeveloped' assume a direction and inevitability of change towards a uni­form economic condition that leaves no alternatives. Nevertheless, it would be unwise to accept the assumption that globalisation as an economic system is here to stay, although many of its more profound environmental consequences are likely to prove extremely long-lasting. Immense power always creates an impres­sion of permanence, but a conjunction of formidable limiting factors is even now acting to curb and modify the process of globalisation-perhaps to end it altogether...A profound reduction of genetic diversity in agriculture is now underway. The process has been well­documented for food plants, and pertains to vegetables, grains and tree crops. Since 1970, pharmaceutical, petrochemical and other transnational corporations have purchased more than 1,000 once-independent seed companies (Fowler and Mooney 1990; Hobbelink 1991; RAFI 1998, 1999, 2001). Loss of germplasm occurs as transnationals drop all but the most profitable seed varieties from their inventories...As globalisation-both the worldwide spread of technologies and the network­ing of all economies-progresses, livestock breeds also face an increased risk of extinction.

Wrap Up

I encourage you to read these sources.  Many of them simply have too much information to include in the article which can benefit your position as a Con debater and many will stimulate your thinking to go deeper into the impact debate.  There is much, much more I can add, but for now I will turn it over to you. Oh, and for the truly adventurous, take a look at the Navarro 2007 source, referenced below.  I did not quote from it in this article but it is rich which material that takes the arguments to perhaps a whole other level.

Have fun.


Bardhan P (2006). Does globalization help or hurt the world's poor?
Scientific American, 294, 84-91. accessed 1/17/2015.

Basu, K. (2006) Globalization, Poverty, and Inequality: What is the Relationship? What Can Be Done?; World Development Vol. 34, No. 8, pp. 1361–1373, 2006; accessed 1/17/2015.

CLW (2012); Tragedies of Globalization: The Truth Behind Electronics Sweatshops; China Laboir Watch; accessed 1/17/2015.

Ehrenfeld, D. (2013); Globalisation: Effects on Biodiversity, Environment and Society; Accessed from Conservation and Society, 1/16/2015.;year=2003;volume=1;issue=1;spage=99;epage=111;aulast=Ehrenfeld

Holter, J. (2004). The invisible hand: Failing on a global scale. Retrieved from; accessed 1/17/2015.

Jörg (2014); Paper 4 of the Introduction to the Project “Tax Justice & Poverty”; Concepts and Context of the Project = Simplified Version; accessed 1/17/2015.

Navarro, V. (2007); NEOLIBERALISM AS A CLASS IDEOLOGY; OR, THE POLITICAL CAUSES OF THE GROWTH OF INEQUALITIES; Globalization, Neoliberalism, Health Inequalities, and Quality of Life; accessed 1/16/2015

NBER (undated) Globalization and Poverty; National Bureau of Economic Research; accessed 1/17/2015.

Pollin, R. (2007); Neoliberal Globalization and the Question of Sweatshop Labor in Developing Countries; Book and Lectures at University Massachusetts; accessed 1/17/2016.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

PF Feb 2015 - Economic Globalization - Pro Position

Resolved: On balance, economic globalization benefits worldwide poverty reduction

Economic World

As we have discussed in the introductory post on this topic, globalization describes the growth of economic interdependence between the various nations of the world.  Generally, this is driven by a number of key factors but the end result is a mutual dependence between nations which, according to proponents promotes cooperation and peace. One of my favorite observations in international relations theory is known as the "Golden Arches Theory", credited to Thomas Friedman, who said, "No two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald's". Of course, in history, there are several examples of McDonald's restaurants being victims of international conflict but the basic idea has validity in the Pro position. Perhaps I will discuss it again later on. For this topic we must focus on globalization as a means to the end of poverty reduction and, oh, by the way, cooperation and peace certainly links nicely to improving the quality of life for the world's poor.

World Bank

The so-called World Bank is associated with the United Nations Development Group and with the purpose of providing financial guidance and providing loans to developing countries. One of their goals is world-wide poverty reduction, and so they partner with many global initiatives which may assist in helping developing countries.  Some sources you encounter may mention Bretton Woods institutions. These are a group of organizations founded after World War II to guide reconstruction and erect safeguards to ensure economic stability. One of the key institutions of the Bretton Woods initiative is the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which is now a component of the World Bank. The world bank processes tons of data and have kept close watch on the broad spectrum of activities collectively known as globalization and their effect on the world's poor. Some observers note positive outcomes.

Chandy & Gertz 2011:
We are in the midst of the fastest period of poverty reduction the world has ever seen. The global poverty rate, which stood at 25 percent in 2005, is ticking downwards at one to two percentage points a year, lifting around 70 million people – the population of Turkey or Thailand – out of destitution annually. Advances in human progress on such a scale are unprecedented, yet remain almost universally unacknowledged. Official estimates of global poverty are compiled by the World Bank and stretch back 30 years. For most of that period, the trend has been one of slow, gradual reduction. By 2005, the year of the most recent official global poverty estimate, the number of people living under the international poverty line of $1.25 a day stood at 1.37 billion – an improvement of half a billion compared to the early 1980s, but a long way from the dream of a world free of poverty.

As we recognize what appears to be a positive trend in poverty reduction we need to understand what is driving such encouraging results.

Chandy & Gertz 2011:
This stunning progress is driven by rapid economic growth across the developing world. During the 1980s and 1990s, per capita growth in developing countries averaged just 1 to 2 percent a year, not nearly fast enough to make a serious dent in poverty levels. Since around 2003, however, growth in the developing world has taken off, averaging 5 percent per capita a year...These factors are manifestations of a set of broader trends – the rise of globalization, the spread of capitalism and the improving quality of economic governance – which together have enabled the developing world to begin converging on advanced economy incomes after centuries of divergence. The poor countries that display the greatest success today are those that are engaging with the global economy, allowing market prices to balance supply and demand and to allocate scarce resources, and pursuing sensible and strategic economic policies to spur investment, trade and job creation. It’s this potent combination that sets the current period apart from a history of insipid growth and intractable poverty.

Maybe there are several factors which contribute to the decline of world poverty; globalization, spread of capitalism, improved economic governance (Chandy & Gertz 2011) and so obviously, a clear understanding of what "globalization" encompasses is critical in order to broaden the grounds upon which the Pro side of this debate can rest their case.

Pro Definitions

Finding simple definitions suitable for a four minute constructive speech is not easy.  Afterall, we don't want to be too general or overly limiting but we also do not want to want to spend a minute and a half defining it. In the introduction to this topic I cited the definition of economic globalization given by Aseem Prakash in his presentation to the U.N. General Assembly. This is a fairly concise definition, sufficiently broad and yet brief.  For a more detailed definition, consider the words of Professor Jeffrey Frankel of Harvard University,

Frankel 2006:
What do economists mean by “globalization”? First and foremost: integration through international trade of markets in goods and services, as reflected in a variety of possible measures. These include direct measures of barriers, e.g., tariffs and transport costs; quantity-related measures of the result, i.e., trade volumes; and price-related measures of the result, i.e., the law of one price and other evidence of arbitrage. Next, financial integration through international trade in assets, again as reflected in a variety of possible criteria: direct measures of barriers, e.g., capital controls and transactions costs; quantity-related measures of the result, i.e., gross and net capital flows, portfolio shares, or consumption sharing; and price-related measures of the result, i.e., interest rate parity conditions and other evidence of arbitrage. Further down the list are foreign direct investment, increased trade in intermediate products (especially within multinational corporations), international outsourcing of services, and international movement of persons. Finally, some truly comprehensive definitions of globalization would include the international spread of ideas, from consumer tastes (Coke and the Simpsons, sushi and manga, etc.) to intellectual ideas (technological patents, management principles, democracy, environmental activism, the Washington Consensus, accounting standards,inflation targeting among Central Banks, etc.)

Such a comprehensive definition may not be suitable for conveying meaning to high-school students or citizen judges in debate rounds, but it can be reworded into general terms. Economic globalization is integration of markets in goods and services as a result of international trade, direct foreign investment, outsourcing, and international travel and includes the spread of ideas conducive to open markets, common business practices, and political consensus. You may certainly choose to extract your own interpretation.

Kuznets Curve

I also want to round out your understanding of the topic by mentioning the Kuznets curve and for that I am going to refer you immediately to this Wikipedia article. Don't get all twisted up because it's wiki. I want you see what I am talking about because I have already posted extensively about it in an LD topic last year in which Kuznets' theory was applied to a similar topic. Looking at income inequality over income per capita, one notes an inverted U-shaped curve which is interpreted to say, when a country is poor (measured by income per capita), income inequality is minimal. Inequality then increases as per capital income increases and at some point it peaks and then declines as income continues to increase. If one accepts the Kuznets curve as valid it is a model of what can happen as a consequence of globalization and indeed Kuznets has his share of critics.  I just want you to have this model in mind because there is a good chance your research will discuss it at various times.

The Evidence

Debate requires conflict and there will be plenty in this resolution.  As shown above something seems to be happening which is contributing to the reduction of poverty and Pro needs to show it is the direct or indirect result of globalization.

Hameed & Nazir (undated):
Empirically, a huge body of literature indicates that economic globalization stimulates economic growth, reduces poverty and generates employment opportunities (Cuadros et al. (2004), Greenway et al. (2002) and Kemal et al. (2002)). But globalization affects growth in different countries in different ways due to difference in government policies, population growth rate and the different institutional factors across countries.[pg. 4]

In the foregoing snippet, Hameed & Nazir summarize the entirety of the debate.  Proponents will show the empirical results of numerous investigations which praise globalization. Con will claim globalization increases poverty and probably a lot of other really bad harms.  Pro will need to keep this debate focused.  We are debating poverty, not the environment, not energy, not any other side-effect.  So let's acknowledge right now, Con is going to have evidence, good empirical evidence, that globalization increases poverty.  But as we can surmise from Hameed and Nazir, it is limited to certain areas where certain factors have, at least for the time being, limited the positive impacts of globalization, but on balance, we must agree with the Pro.

Heshmati 2006:
Poverty is measured in 3 ways, namely, the percentage of the population living below one dollar a day and two dollars a day, and the percentage of the population living below the national poverty level. Income inequality is measured by the Kuznets ratio and the Gini coefficient. Globalisation and the poverty and income inequality measures are first analysed through linear regression. The results show that high levels of globalisation relate to low levels of poverty, suggesting that globalisation improves the situation of the poor in developing countries. The results also show that globalisation reduces income inequality. By having tested globalisation with different poverty and income inequality measures, we see that there are no differences when poverty is defined in relative or absolute terms. This shows that the argument often used, that poverty might be reduced by globalisation but income inequality worsens, has been proven wrong. These findings are in line with the results from Dollar. He showed that income inequality has slightly declined among globalisers and that globalisation is a positive force for poverty reduction. When controlling for regional heterogeneity we see that the relationship between globalisation and poverty remains significant. When globalisation is related to income inequality the globalisation coefficient becomes insignificant, showing that income inequality is than explained by unobserved regional heterogeneity and no longer by globalisation.[pg. 30]

Generally speaking, I am a believer in the value of having good confirming evidence and you will need to fill your files with two things. First, use good empirical evidence which supports the view that globalization reduces poverty and either is neutral or positive with respect to inequality (not that inequality is necessarily a bad thing, in and of itself). Second, understand the criticisms and differences in the potential Con evidence and be prepared to refute the validity of their evidence or point out how the Pro evidence incorporates factors not present in the Con analysis.  While this kind of evidence "war" is disliked by many it can be effective in many regions which put more weight on what bonafide experts have to say about a topic rather than high-school teenagers.

Answering Income Inequality

A lot of the discussion found in the literature, deals with income inequality and it is perhaps, debatable whether such discussion is topical in this debate.  For sure, inequality may deliver a negative message to the judge who will no doubt be a member of the 99% rather than the well-to-do, top 1% of incomes.  A big factor is how inequality is calculated. We can compare relative incomes globally and perhaps many in the U.S. would be considered in the upper-echelon whereas, looking at income distribution locally, changes the picture significantly.  Extreme income inequality may be a cause of political instability and revolution, At its less extreme, income inequality serves to motivate workers that it is possible to attain better conditions through, education, acquiring new skills, or hard work. Regardless of how it is portrayed, we can find evidence globalization does not make inequality worse.

Santarelli & Figini 2003:
The trickle-down effect from growth to poverty reduction is based on the assumption that economic growth is distribution neutral or, if not, distribution improving. This is in contrast to the classical stylized facts theoretically consistent with Kuznets’s (1955) theory of capital accumulation as an inverted-U shape between level of development and inequality. In recent years numerous theoretical and empirical studies have dealt with the argument of inequality to growth, growth to inequality and growth to poverty relationships developed. For our purposes, however, it is sufficient to test the validity of this assumption. This has been done, among others, by two recent papers. Ravallion (2001) uses World Bank data and computation methodology to argue that growth is inequality neutral, spreading equally to the whole distribution, thereby confirming that economic growth is the main engine of poverty reduction. The same position is taken up by Dollar and Kraay (2001a) who find a one-to-one effect of growth on the income of the poor, so that the income distribution remains stable and, sometimes, improves. As described in the next section, Dollar and Kraay ascribe this positive effect to trade, but their analysis has an important flaw in due to their definition of poverty. However, a similar conclusion concerning the distribution neutrality of growth has also been reached by UNCTAD (2002).Finally, there is recent empirical evidence that, while there is high volatility of incomes between countries, the level of inequality within each country tends to remain quite stable (Salai-Martin, 2002a, Deininger and Squire 1996). In an era of sustained economic growth, this can be read in the light of the neutrality effect.[pg. 8]

Be sure to read Santarelli & Figini's review of the other studies in the pages following.  It provides useful information for those interested doing follow-up and going deeper into the data.

Birdsall 2001:
Globalization is not the culprit. So at the world level, it is fair to say that inequality is not increasing and poverty is declining. Moreover, even to the extent that inequality is increasing within some countries, if inequlaity is measured as the increasing ration of income between the richest and the poorest countries, mainstream economists argue that globalization is not the culprit.[pg. 6]

Again, you will want to review Birdsall's analysis supporting her claim, globalization is not the culprit.

About the Framework

We have discussed these kinds of resolutions many times.  The decision is supposed to be made on the basis of comparing the relative weight of the arguments on the Pro versus the Con side. It is pretty much a given, the Pro will show globalization reduces poverty and Neg will show it does not and so these kinds of debates tend to balance out fairly quickly and judges are soon dismissing the conflicting evidence. The key to winning, in my opinion will be the weight of the impacts so I would not be surprised if the winners or losers are determined by the strength of solvency advantages. I hope it does not come down to the team with the most and best evidence money can buy, wins.

Continue to the Con position here.


Birdsall, N. (2001); Asymmetric globalization: Outcomes vs. opportunities; Discussion paper No. 7, September 2001; accessed: 1/16/2015.

Chady, L., Gertz, G.; (2011) With Little Notice, Globalization Reduced Poverty, UN millennium goal to halve poverty may have been achieved, YaleGlobal, 5 July 2011; accessed 1/19/2015.

Frankel, J. (2006); What Do Economists Mean by Globalization?Implications for Inflation and Monetary Policy; Written for Academic Consultants Meeting, September 28, 2006,Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (note: this source is a first draft so use with caution); accessed 1/16/2015.

Hameed, A., Nazir, A.; Economic Globalization and its Impact on Poverty and Inequality:
Evidence From Pakistan; Economic Cooperation Organization[ accessed 1/16/2015.

Heshmati, A. (2006); Globalisation, Inequality and Poverty Relationships: A Cross Country Evidence; Discussion Paper No. 2223, July 2006; accessed 1/16/2015.

Santarelli, E., Figini, P.; DOES GLOBALIZATION REDUCE POVERTY? SOME EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE FOR THE DEVELOPING COUNTRIES; University of Bologna, Economic Science Dept.; accessed 1/16/2015.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

LD Jan/Feb 2015 - Just Governments & Living Wages - Negative Position

Resolved: Just governments ought to require that employers pay a living wage

Neg Position

When examining the Neg for this topic consider standard positions for countering affirmative claims. At the most fundamental, there is no need for a living wage because there are no harms arising from the lack of a living wage. This could succeed if Neg shows any harms which exist are the result of other causes, such as lack of education, skills, opportunity or motivation on the part of laborers. Another standard negative position is acknowledge there may be harms in the status quo but the living wage will not solve them and/or living wage requirements will lead to other harms or disadvantages. For example, if businesses forced, by government mandate to pay living wages will close, or it chills incentive to hire workers, or other such bad things currently not in the status quo, then we have a reason to negate.  Another standard argument for the Neg is the counterplan.  While this may sound very policy-debate like to those not used to such terminology in Lincoln-Douglas, it is legitimate to propose a mutually exclusive solvency mechanism with a net benefit the Affirmative cannot attain. If such a counterplan (perhaps better to say counter-proposal) exists, the net benefit affords a good reason to negate.

Alternative Causes

I suppose we could surmise several reasons why people (especially in a wealthy nation such as the U.S.) could be counted among the working poor, defined as individuals who work full time but still live below the poverty line.  Affirmative can make a compelling argument the minimum wage is not a sustenance wage and can cite sources which claim a person would need to earn three times the minimum wage in order to live above the poverty line.  Okay, so those kinds of jobs are out there and the people who take them commonly have too few skills or too little education to find better jobs. Nevertheless, there are other kinds of high paying jobs which pay above the poverty rate which are also low-skill, low-education positions. Much of the cause may lie in the unavailability of "better" jobs in the areas where the working poor live as well as other personal reasons individuals have limited employment options. In 1999, the US Department of Labor examined the issue and noted:

  1.  Sixty percent of the working poor are clustered into the retail-trade or service industry.
  2.  Nearly thirty percent of the working poor are engaged in seasonal work, rather than year-round work.
  3.  One-third of the working poor have health constraints which prevents them from attaining better jobs.
  4.  A whopping seventy-percent of working poor are in single-parent households with half of them headed by single-parent females.
  5.  Two-thirds of the working poor who qualify for government assistance programs do not take advantage of them
(ref: Kim, M. 1999)

A very interesting international treatment on the cause of so-called working poor is found in the Crettaz and Bonoli study published in 2010.  They looked at numerous factors in multiple labor markets in various government jurisdictions to draw conclusions as to why working people sometimes live in poverty.  Like the U.S. Department of Labor paper referenced above, the answer is often much more complicated than simply a matter of wages.

Crettaz & Bonoli (2010):
It is undisputable that working poverty is by far not merely a matter of low earnings, and that the relationship between individual earnings and household income is loose, as has been demonstrated by many authors. However, it seems to be a very important factor that should not be downplayed in social policy analysis. Other factors are also very important, notably household size and composition as well as labour market participation, as has already been demonstrated by others in terms of the composition of the working-poor population (see e.g. Andress and Lohman (2008)). Family policy broadly understood, that is, including family cash benefits, of course, but also parental leave schemes and the provision of child care services, seems to be the most important welfare state related factor – in terms of the relative weight of the three mechanisms leading to working poverty. This factor plays a decisive role in terms of the cross-sectionally measured levels of working poverty, but also in a social-investment, life-course perspective, as it allows working parents to have a lower likelihood of falling into poverty, and, hence, reduces the share of children of working parents who grow up in poverty.

Just citing works of these kind serve to illustrate the problems often associated with low wages are in reality more complicated issues which are not always solved by throwing money at it. In fact one could claim it is empirically denied financial aid helps in states which already have wide ranging welfare schemes and continue to see concerning numbers of working-poor.

Alternative Disadvantages

Our major premise for this contention is that mandating a living wage is detrimental to the economy.

Lamman 2014:
Although activists claim living wage legislation can increase wages with minimal costs, the reality is quite different. Both economic theory and the evidence suggest that living wages, like minimum wages, create distortions in the labour market that have a negative impact upon employment. When governments mandate a wage above the prevailing market rate, a typical result is that fewer jobs and hours become available and it is usually the people with the lowest skills who are most adversely affected. Indeed, there is a trade-off between the workers who benefit from a higher wage and those who endure the costs due to fewer employment opportunities.

Lamman looks at the Neumark and Wascher meta-analysis published in 2007 which concluded that minimum wage hikes indeed increase unemployment and notes empirical results observed in Canada.

Lamman 2014:
One important study by University of California Professor David Neumark, a leading expert in the area, and William Wascher, comprehensively reviewed the academic literature on minimum wages and employment (Neumark and Wascher, 2007).16 After looking at more than 100 studies covering 20 countries, Professor Neumark and his co-author found that an overwhelming majority of studies reached the conclusion that minimum wage hikes have a negative impact upon employment. In Canada, more than a dozen studies have examined the impact of increases in provincial minimum wages.18 Based on those findings, a 10% increase in the minimum wage decreases employment for young workers (ages 15–24) by an average of three to six percent (Godin and Veldhuis, 2009). For young workers most affected—those earning between the current minimum wage and the proposed higher wage—the impact is more acute, with job losses of up to 20% (Campolieti et al., 2005).[page 9-10]

Regarding the effects of living wage laws on poverty reduction, it is interesting to note and observation made by Lamman.  Living wages laws do not specifically target the poor since not everyone earning a substandard wage is living in poverty (Lamman 2014:19). This means some individuals will benefit from high wages even though they don't need it and the Neg debater could certainly point out the injustice of transferring benefits to the undeserving if poverty reduction is the goal.

A key negative impact of living wage laws is increased inflation which drives up the cost of goods and services.

ALEC 2014:
The costs of a minimum wage hike are often passed on to consumers in what economist Daniel Aaronson calls “price pass-through.” In a study of prices in the restaurant and fast food industry—an industry that heavily employs and serves low-wage earners—Aaronson, French and MacDonald found an increase in the minimum wage also increases the prices of food items.24 Using data from the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from 1995 to 1997, the economists examined 7,500 food items (usually a complete meal) from 1,000 different establishments in 88 different geographic areas. They found the increase in menu prices affected limited service restaurants the hardest. These are restaurants where most diners pay at the counter and take their food home with them. These restaurants are also more likely to employ low-wage workers and thus more likely to have their business costs rise as a result of a minimum wage increase. The study found that in these instances, almost 100 percent of the increase in labor costs is passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices [page 5]

Some sources claim that employers will respond to mandated living wage requirements by labor substitution. This means they will move higher-skilled workers into lower-skilled positions which effectively denies employment to those, the law was intended to help.

Wilson 2012:
Another channel of adjustment to minimum wage changes is labor-labor substitution within businesses.34 Research finds that some employers will replace their lowest-skilled workers with somewhat higher-skilled workers in response to increases in the minimum wage. As a result, minimum wage increases may harm the least skilled workers more than is suggested by the net disemployment effects estimated in many studies because more skilled workers are replacing some less-skilled workers.

Let me stress these are only a few sources which detail negative effects or disadvantages linked to enacting living wage mandates.  There are many more and you should certainly have them in your files since you will hear plenty of counter-claims.  The major idea, is there is no reason to require employers to provide a living wage if the overall impact of society is going to be worse.

Alternative Solvency

This brings us to the LD counterplan or counter-proposal. It can be a viable rhetorical device to convince the judge there are better alternatives to mandating living wages and so no reason to Affirm. The counterplan is a negative strategy designed to compete with the Affirmative proposal which works best with resolutions which specify agents and actions. In the case, the agent is "just governments" and the action is, "require employers to pay". A proper counterplan is competitive, that means first, it is mutually exclusive with respect to the affirmative plan. Thus if both the plan and counterplan can be done at the same time, they are not mutually exclusive so there is no reason to reject the plan. Secondly, the counterplan must have a net benefit which cannot be achieved by the plan. If the plan and counterplan have the same advantages or disadvantages, there is no reason to prefer the counterplan. This is not as complex as it sounds.  Simply describe other actions which can be taken to solve the problem of working-poor which avoids the problems of "requiring employers" to do it. For example, if your case shows that requiring employers to pay a living wage is a form of coercion which violates the natural rights of the employer, then propose an alternate way the government or other actor can help the working poor which does not violate employer rights. The following proposal avoids the unemployment disadvantage.

Saltsman 2014:
The other drawback with using the minimum wage to reduce poverty — a drawback discussed extensively in this newspaper and others — is that some less-skilled or less-experienced employees will lose job opportunities. Instead of being pulled out of poverty, they'll be pushed further into it. Fortunately, there's a better alternative for poverty reduction in the form of the EITC — a tax credit that boost wages through the tax code instead of an unworkable mandate on employers. It's already doing a tremendous amount of good in Illinois. Currently, a single parent working part-time for the state minimum wage receives approximately $3,300 in EITC income from the federal government, and then Illinois' state credit kicks in an additional $330. That makes their effective minimum wage roughly $10.60 an hour -- even higher than the $10 figure voters will consider in the fall.

The Negative Philosophy

A key question for the Negative is what are the limits which constrain a just government? Most sources will agree that the employers and employees establish a private contractual agreement of labor in exchange for wages. The agreement is entered voluntarily and if the employee is not satisfied, she may certainly look elsewhere. For the government to interfere with such contracts is an unjust act of coercion; an over-reaching by government into a private relationship.

Nozick (1974):
Seizing the results from someone’s labor is equivalent to seizing hours from him and directing him to carry on various activities. If people force you to do certain work, or unrewarded work, for a certain period of time, they decide what you are to do and what purposes your work is to serve apart from your decisions. This process whereby they take this decision from you makes them a part-owner of you; it gives them a property right in you. Just as having such partial control and power of decision, by right, over an animal or inanimate object would be to have a property right in it (1974, 172).

It is commonly held in this situation, by mandating living wages, the government essentially seizes the profits or income of the business (or sole proprietor) and forces those resources to be distributed to others.

The Values

Considering the potential intrusiveness of mandating living wages, I would expect to see any number of values which focus on Aristotle's conception of justice based upon protection of natural rights or in particular property rights.  Preservation of property, freedom from unnecessary government interference, and protecting the autonomy of the workers (who enter private contracts with employers) are possible values and criterion.

Good luck debaters.  This is a pretty good topic and I hope you enjoy debating it.


ALEC (2014); Raising the Minimum Wage: The Effects on Employment, Businesses and Consumers; American Legislative Exchange Council; march 2014; accessed 12/18/2014.

Crettaz, E., Bonoli, G.; (2010) Why Are Some Workers Poor? The Mechanisms that Produce Working Poverty in a Comparative Perspective; REC-WP 12/2010; Working Papers on the Reconciliation of Work and Welfare in Europe; accessed 12/18/2014.

Kim, M. (1999); Problems Facing the Working Poor; Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations; 1999; accessed 12/18/2014.

Hildago, JS; (2013); Do Employers Have Obligations to Pay Their Workers a Living Wage?; University of Richmond, Jepson School of Leadership Studies articles; 2013; accessed 12/18/2014.

Lamman, C, (2014); The Economic Effects of Living Wage Laws; Frazier Institue; 2014; accessed 12/18/2014.

Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State and Utopia. New York: Basic Books, 1974.
(Note: versions of the complete work in PDF format can be found online).

Saltsman, M. (2014); A better solution to the minimum-wage debate; Crain's Chicago Business; September 1, 2014; accessed 12/19/2014.

Wilson, M. (2012); The Negative Effects of Minimum Wage Laws; Policy Analysis, No 701, June 21, 2012; accessed 12/18/2014.

LD Jan/Feb 2015 - Just Governments & Living Wages - Affirmative Position

Resolved: Just governments ought to require that employers pay a living wage

AFF Position

I feel there are several principle ways in which to affirm this debate. For example, we can erect a comparative advantage framework under which we look at the harms in the status quo, i.e. working people are living in poverty, a solvency mechanism, i.e governments take necessary steps to require employers to provide a living wage thus solving the harm of impoverished workers, and finally we look to the advantages which result from solvency, i.e. perhaps people are healthier, crime decreases, whatever. Indeed, I would expect to hear a lot of debates take this track.  But bear in mind, the resolution is not necessarily asking us to debate whether or not paying a living wage creates advantages or disadvantages.  The real debate, is about what is the role of government in this issue?  A just government ought to do something...that is the real debate.  For this reason, a properly framed comparative advantage debate needs to clearly link the advantages to government legitimacy or justification or duty.

For me, if I were judging this debate (and I am sure I will be), I want to hear why the government ought to be involved in this living wage dispute.  You may be able to make an outstanding case for the benefits of living wage.  You may be able to overwhelmingly convince me that living wages are nothing but good for mankind.  But I will still be expecting you to tell me, why the government ought to require, dare I say, force employers to pay it? Thus, I think a fair amount of time should be given to examine the duties of governments.  Many things are good and beneficial to mankind, but should governments mandate them?  Consider hospitals, immunizations, nutritious food, higher education, etc. Ought just governments require them? Even if the negative can show under the current incarnations of various economic systems there are obvious disadvantages for paying living wages, does that mean governments ought not mandate them? Perhaps, but as every experienced debater learns, in a cross-examination there are very few absolutes unless they favor your position.

Rerum Novarum

Consider the following proclamation made in 1891.

Leo XIII (1891):
Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.

For Pope Leo, the negotiation of wages between employers and laborers was to be mostly a private matter between individuals.  However, facing the realities of an impoverished 19th century working class, struggling with low wages and often, harsh working conditions, Pope Leo advocated that governments had a duty to uphold precepts of social justice; an ideal that was espoused by many social contract theorists throughout the centuries though its roots are found in ancient philosophies.  At the core of social justice is the concept of distributive justice which concerns the distribution of goods within a society and certainly in this debate, one may consider the impact of wage disparity in rich capitalist countries such as the U.S. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The justifications for government support of distributive justice can involve a wide-range of values rooted in both deontological and consequential moral theory, egalitarianism, human rights and dignity, and simple justice or giving each his due under principles of just deserts. A just government will uphold these values and a government which does not ensure living wages for workers is not performing its duty. This is the Aff position in a nut-shell, but first let's look at the practical benefits of a living wage.

Characteristics of Living Wage

To put some definition into what constitutes a living wage.  For this we can compare definitions from two different countries. First the U.S.:

Bergen, et al 2012:
Living wage ordinances (or statutes) require wages to be paid based upon some definition of need rather than skill. These types of ordinances have generally been applied to private sector employers who receive payment of public funds to pay their employees, as well as to the employees of the political entity itself. The concept is to create a threshold or minimum wage level that keeps the employee out of poverty. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that most living wage ordinances cover less than one percent of the local workforce. Indeed, even supporters of living wages understand the campaigns to be a mere but necessary "first step" in poverty alleviation. Pollin and Luce argue in their influential book that "among other things, successful living wage campaigns create political momentum that can be used to build support for more ambitious measures to eliminate low-wage poverty in the United States.[page 109]

A definition from the UK:

Fullfact 2012:
The Living Wage is defined in the document as:
“a wage that achieves an adequate level of warmth and shelter, a healthy palatable diet, social integration and avoidance of chronic stress for earners and their dependents”. The London Living Wage is set according to two calculation methods – ‘Basic Living Costs’ and ‘Income Distribution’. The ‘Basic Living Costs’ approach makes estimates of living costs for various different types of household (those with and without children, for instance), according to costs of ‘housing’, ‘council tax’, ‘transport’, ‘childcare’ and all other costs (a ‘regular shopping basket’). All of these factors go into calculating a ‘low cost but acceptable’ standard of living for the average family, and thus works out what hourly rate needs to be paid to finance these.

The Research

There are relatively few studies relating conclusions on the economic impacts of living wage laws on local economies.  Some notable statistical analysis was performed by David Neumark citing some potentially positive outcomes in which poverty levels were lowered for affected workers despite some moderate job loss (Neumark 2002). More recent studies from the same researcher in 2005, supported the previous study. Associate Professor Stephanie Luce reported in 2010 (and revised in 2011),

Luce 2010:
While there were many voices predicting what living wage ordinances would do, there are far fewer studies of actual outcomes. Many of the claims about living wage ordinances rely on minimum wage studies, but that work is not always applicable to living wage ordinances. There are about a dozen reports that have utilized surveys of employers and workers, interviews with city administrators, and evaluations of city contract bidding to assess the impact of living wage ordinances after they have been passed (a full list is available in the appendix). The studies are remarkably consistent in their findings, which contradict most of the “cry wolf” claims. First, these studies find little evidence of job loss or harm to the local economy. Studies by Neidt et. al (1999), Brenner (2005), Brenner and Luce (2005), Reich (2005), and Howes (2002) all find no evidence of employment loss due to living wage ordinances. Williams and Sanders (1998) do a one-year assessment of the LA living wage ordinance and find “no significant positive or negative effect on the city's fiscal health or the local economy from the living wage ordinance.” 

Most U.S. based studies focus on the impact of local governments mandating that firms working under contract with the government, pay living wages.  The effects of these ordinances are studied and extrapolated to the wider economy. A 2014 analysis of data from a Sonoma, California ordinance. In that study, the overall cost impact to the county was claimed to be less that 0.03% of the county budget with biggest increase coming from high wages to In-Home Supportive Service (IHSS) workers.

Wicks-Lim 2014:
Higher pay for IHSS workers could improve IHSS services and enable more low-income frail elderly and disabled adults to remain living at home. This would reduce government spending on nursing care facilities and give the State a financial incentive to re-negotiate its IHSS cost-sharing arrangement, even after accounting for an increase in the demand for the improved IHSS services. Such a re-negotiation could reduce the fiscal impact of IHSS raises on the County to as low as $5.7 million, equal to 0.4 percent of the total budget (1.5 percent of the General Fund), or $35 annually per Sonoma County household.

My advice to you, is to always prefer a-posteriori evidence.  This is what is commonly known as empirical and so is based upon actual observation or measurement. In other words, this is not a-posteriori; "if a living wage is enacted, the results will be..." Note the speculative language, "if" and future tense, "will be".  The following is a-posteriori; "A living wage was enacted and the results were..." Note the evidence is now based on results observed or measured after-the-fact. If properly measured, a-posteriori evidence should be preferred.

The Global Affirmative

Remember this resolution does not specify a nation, particular government or type of government. So it is acceptable to invoke pathos from locales where income disparity is extreme, there are few if any paths for upward mobility and laborers are often exploited by employers.  The so-called "sweatshops" often associated with the apparel industry, while often praised by economists for paying higher than the local minimum wage, nevertheless pay far below what is deemed a living wage, even by local standards and often force laborers to work in substandard conditions for long hours and forcefully prevent labor unions from organizing. But if wages increased what would be the impact on the consumer price of goods?

Miller 2003:
Economists Robert Pollin, James Heintz, and Justine Burns recently looked more closely at this question (Pollin et al. 2001). They examined the impact that a 100 percent increase in the pay for apparel workers in Mexico and in the United States would have on costs relative to the retail price those garments sell for in the United States. Their preliminary findings are that doubling the pay of nonsupervisory workers would add just 50 cents to the production costs of a men's casual shirt sold for $32 in the United States, or just 1.6 percent of the retail price. And even if the wage increase were passed on to consumers, which seems likely because retailers in the U.S. garment industry enjoy substantial market power, Pollin et al. argue that the increase in price is well within the amount that recent surveys suggest U.S. consumers are willing to pay to purchase goods produced under "good" working conditions as opposed to sweatshop conditions. (See Elliot and Freeman [20001 for a detailed discussion of survey results.) More generally, using a sample of forty five countries over the period 1992 97, Pollin et al. found no statistically significant relationship between real wages and employment growth in the apparel industry. Their results suggest that the mainstream economists' claim that improving the quality of jobs in the world export factories (by boosting wages) will reduce the number of jobs is not evident in the data (Pollin et al. 2001). [page 10 of source document]

The Philosophy of Living Wages

Because so much cost-benefit evidence is conflicting, I believe the most meaningful debates will be primarily philosophical with real-world evidence serving to legitimize the conceptual ideas. Generally speaking I think most debaters and judges will understand the duties of government as conceived by the various manifestations of the social contract.  The basic idea that individuals in the state of nature have chosen to limit their rights and absolute freedoms and submit to the authority of rulers or a government whose duty is to protect their remaining rights. For example, according to John Locke (Second Treatise of Government) government is "obliged" to protect everyone's life, liberty and estates. Thus, natural liberties (unrestrained freedom) is replaced by "civil liberties" (freedoms granted by the state). This leads to what I believe is firm foundation for the Affirmative position in this debate.

Heyman 1991:
To understand the classical notion of absolute rights, it is essential to recognize that "absolute" had a different meaning than it does in modern usage. In classical terminology, an absolute right was one that was inherent in the individual as such, and not derived from his relations as a member of society. To say that a right was absolute, however, did not mean that it could never be restricted. Instead, absolute rights were subject to regulation for the public good, especially to protect the rights of others. In other words, although absolute rights had their origin in nature, they were defined in terms of civil rather than natural liberty.[page 533]

And so the Affirmative position is a just society, that is, a just government ensures the security of one's civil liberties regulated as needed for the "common good".

Velasquez et al 1992:
What exactly is "the common good", and why has it come to have such a critical place in current discussions of problems in our society? The common good is a notion that originated over two thousand years ago in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. More recently, the contemporary ethicist, John Rawls, defined the common good as "certain general conditions that are...equally to everyone's advantage". The Catholic religious tradition, which has a long history of struggling to define and promote the common good, defines it as "the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment." The common good, then, consists primarily of having the social systems, institutions, and environments on which we all depend work in a manner that benefits all people. Examples of particular common goods or parts of the common good include an accessible and affordable public health care system, and effective system of public safety and security, peace among the nations of the world, a just legal and political system, and unpolluted natural environment, and a flourishing economic system. Because such systems, institutions, and environments have such a powerful impact on the well-being of members of a society, it is no surprise that virtually every social problem in one way or another is linked to how well these systems and institutions are functioning.

Bear in mind, this is only one such approach to defending the Aff position. One which defends the notion that in a just and orderly society, absolute property rights, and in fact all natural rights are limited to serving the common good.  This is why governments are justified to seize freedoms, properties and even life under certain conditions which serve the public interest.

The Affirmative Values

I am always asked, what value should I choose for my case and I refer you to my Lincoln-Douglas entries on Values in LD.  Still, I believe since we are asked to define "just" actions, it is reasonable to consider those values which most directly link to "justification" as the proper interpretation of the term "just" and consider the concepts of morality or determination of right and wrong behavior. While morality is often criticized as subjective, such comments ignore more objective theories of moral realism. I will leave it to you to explore that line of argumentation. Since governments must look to the well-being of their citizens it is logical to consider any of the major values esteemed by societies, rather than individual values.  There is societal welfare or societal well being which can be upheld by balancing individual liberties or protecting civil liberties and even by securing natural rights (as constrained by common good). Inherent in the concept of common good, is the idea of just deserts which naturally links to Aristotle's concept of justice. However, it may be a problem running just deserts under a Rawlsian framework.  Finally I see merit in certain individual values such as human dignity and possibly autonomy, but I think the latter may be slightly more difficult.

Here is the Neg position


Bartik, Timothy J. 2002. "Thinking about Local Living Wage Requirements." Upjohn Institute Working Paper No. 02-76. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.


Fullfacct 2012; How widespread is the London living wage?; April 26, 2012; accessed 12/18/2014.

Heyman, S.; (1991); THE FIRST DUTY OF GOVERNMENT: PROTECTION, LIBERTY AND THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT; Duke Law Journal, Vol 41:507; 1991; accessed 12/18/2014

Luce, S; 2010. The Cry Wolf Project; Policy brief; accessed 12/18/2014.

Miller, J.; Why Economists Are Wrong About Sweatshops and the Antisweatshop Movement; Challenge vol 46, no 1, Jan-Feb 2003; pp 93-122; accessed 12/17/2014.
(available online as a .doc file download)

Neumark, D; (2002): How Living Wage Laws Affect Low-Wage Workers and Low-Income Families; Public Policy Institute of California; 2002; accessed 12/18/2014.

Pope Leo VIII (1891); Rerum Novarum, Rights and Duties of Captial and Labor; Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on capital and labor; Libreria Editrice Vaticana; accessed 12/18/2014.

Velasquez,M., Andre, C, Shanks, T, Meyer, SJ, Meyer, M; The Common Good; Issues in Ethics V5, N1 (Spring 1992); accessed 12/17/2014.

Wicks-Lim, J. 2014; An Assessment of the Fiscal Impact of the Proposed Sonoma County Living Wage Ordinance; Political Economy Research Institute; accessed 12/18/2014.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

PF Feb 2015 - Economic Globalization - Introduction and Definitions

Resolved: On balance, economic globalization benefits worldwide poverty reduction.


This is potentially a very interesting topic.  Given that economic globalization refers to a kind of economic interdependency between nations, we could explode the grounds of debate and discuss a myriad of contentions including the impact of globalization on security, the impact on health, the impact on the environment, the impact on the balance of power and world politics, the impact on the role or multinational corporations on world politics, and of course, the impact on worldwide poverty.  The resolution founders have chosen to limit the grounds to the impact on worldwide poverty.  So, while Pro will be laying out a case which very pragmatically describes how globalization is the single most important mechanism in the history of the universe to solve poverty, and reap all of its enormous inherent advantages; Con may very well explode the debate with every single negative impact every witnessed as a result of globalization, so long as it somehow links to poverty.  After all, what good is reducing poverty if it means the world is more polluted, there are even less fossil fuels to go around, new and exotic diseases are more easily spread, and so on, ad-infinitum. Conversely, the Pro can take a similar route and link a plethora of potential benefits to poverty. After all, the poor are helped when the chances or war are reduced, or when infrastructure is created, or when services are upgraded and personal wealth increases. Whew...just how much work will the well-prepared debaters have to do to turn all these potential impacts?

Defining the Resolution

We need to look at the intent and meaning of the resolution in order to extract the topical grounds.

On balance
This is common debate vernacular which in essence, instructs the debaters and judges to assign relative weights to benefits and harms and then determine which way the balance beam tilts.  By stating, on balance, there is an implicit acknowledgement that both sides have merit. In other words, we admit there are harms and there are benefits but when we objectively examine these claims on the basis of some kind of comparative framework, we will find that one side's impacts outweigh the other side's impacts. We just need to be aware of what it is we need to weigh. More on this in a future post.

economic globalization
When a thing is globalized it is extended throughout the world. Now in terms of economies, internally, each nation has its own economy which we can loosely define as a system for producing and consuming goods and services. When the system of producing and consuming extends across the border of other countries and the two economies become interdependent, the process of globalization increases.

Shangquan 2000:
Economic globalization refers to the increasing interdependence of world economies as a result of the growing scale of cross-border trade of commodities and services, flow of international capital and wide and rapid spread of technologies. It reflects the continuing expansion and mutual integration of market frontiers, and is an irreversible trend for the economic development in the whole world at the turn of the millennium. The rapid growing significance of information in all types of productive activities and marketization are the two major driving forces for economic globalization. In other words, the fast globalization of the world’s economies in recent years is largely based on the rapid development of science and technologies, has resulted from the environment in which market economic system has been fast spreading throughout the world, and has developed on the basis of increasing cross-border division of labor that has been penetrating down to the level of production chains within enterprises of different countries. [page 1]

There are a lot prerequisites to allowing economies to interconnect.  There needs to be peace, trade agreements, political agreements, agreements on the value of goods and services, communication between the parties, an infrastructure for delivering good and services.  And, as stated by the following author one cannot underestimate the impact of multinational corporations.

Prakash 1999:
There is much confusion on what exactly globalization is, how to measure it, who caused it, and how it may impact human existence. I propose the following definition of economic globalization: it is a set of processes leading to cross-border integration of factor, intermediate products, and final products markets along with an increasing salience of multinational corporations in economic activity. Three aspects of this definition are noteworthy. First, globalization is best viewed as a set of processes and not as an end state. Second, cross-border economic integration now spans products and commodities that are at various stages of the value-addition processes. Third, multinational corporations are the main agents of economic integration. In fact, I would submit that the main difference between globalization now and the previous phases of economic integration is the increasing role of multinational corporations.[page 1]

I suppose it is also important to note, both sides must have something to gain which outweighs any inherent difficulties or harms. Therefore, if we acknowledge that economic globalization is taking place, we acknowledge that the parties involved presumably have something to gain from the exchange.

Remember, in the context of this resolution, benefits is a verb and not a noun. So if we can define the noun, benefits, as good or helpful outcomes, we could describe the verb, benefits, as actions which result in good or helpful outcomes. Now that may not seem significant and on many levels it is not so significant except to say that if there is an action, there must be an agent to take the action and in this case it is economic globalization which takes the actions which result in good outcomes.  Based on these semantics, Con can potentially constrain Pro to only allow direct links between good outcomes and economic globalization.  In other words, Pro cannot claim that security, or political stability, or other kinds of "agents" which produce good outcomes should be evaluated in the debate. However, I do think it will be a very, very difficult tactic for Con to undertake.

One can easily understand that worldwide means extending throughout the world. I think it would be silly to take this term too literally and make the claim there are many places, like, uh mm, North Korea or Somalia which have not benefited so therefore we should vote Con. For me it is not unreasonable to limit the discussion to the countries throughout the world which are actively engaged in legitimate economic exchange with other other countries, rather than isolated economies cut-off by economic sanctions or those which are perhaps considered, failing states. On the other hand, I think Con can make very compelling arguments that in some cases, these isolated or failed states are in some ways the result of economic globalization.

poverty reduction
Poverty is one of those things that is hard to define but you pretty much know it when you see it.  Technically, we can say poverty is a state of being extremely poor or living below some socially accepted standard of living.  Therefore, poverty is a very difficult standard to globalize except in the most general of terms. So, if we can't sufficiently define what poverty is, how do we know if it is reduced? well, let's start with the idea that reduced means fewer people are in the condition we describe as "in poverty" and for the determination of what is the socially accepted standard of living we must consider these standards on a case by case basis relative to the local conditions of a single nation or state or city or community. Generally speaking we can say if one can not adequately provide sustenance for oneself or family, or one may die unnecessarily or prematurely due to a lack of provisions widely available to other members of the society, then one is living in poverty.

Barder 2009:
There is a healthy debate about how to achieve poverty reduction in developing countries, but not enough discussion of what we mean by “poverty reduction.” “Poverty reduction” is often used as a short-hand for promoting economic growth that will permanently lift as many people as possible over a poverty line. But there are many different objectives that are consistent with “poverty reduction,” and we have to make choices between them. There are trade-offs between tackling current and future poverty, between helping as many poor people as possible and focusing on those in chronic poverty, and between measures that tackle the causes of poverty and those which deal with the symptoms.[Page 1]

The Barder quotation is interesting because we can understand how economic globalization in the form of economic development (investing in infrastructure, resource extraction, land development, etc.) impacts developing countries. However this debate does not require us to focus solely on developing countries.  It is fair to ask, what has been the impact of globalization on those living in poverty in fully developed nations?  Is there something inherent in economic globalization which further entrenches and constrains the poor people living in developed nations?

Another source describes poverty as being incapable of achieving certain minimal standards regardless of personal income.

Kakwani 2006:
According to the capability approach, an individual is defined as poor if he or she lacks basic capabilities. What ought these basic capabilities to be? An answer to this question requires value judgments, which must reflect appropriately assessed social priorities. While, there is no universal agreement on what these basic capabilities are, it may still be possible to agree on some basic capabilities. For example, if a person is not able to be wellnourished, adequately clothed and sheltered, and not able to avoid preventable morbidity, then he or she can be classified as deprived of basic capabilities. Those capabilities that relate to health, education, shelter, clothing, nutrition and clean water can reasonably be regarded as capabilities that we can agree are basic.[page 1]

What it Means

For most of you, this debate will focus on a fairly narrow examination of benefits and harms arising from economic globalization so I would expect you to be filling your files with evidence supporting either point of view.  The fascinating and wide-open potential debate will look at the many advantages and disadvantages of economic globalization and their impacts on the world's poor.  In these debates, time frame will play a role because while in the short-term, economic globalization may appear to be the cure for poverty, in the long term it could lead to a major downturn in fortunes. Conversely, while some may argue the near-term benefits of globalization are marginal at best, the long-term future is bright for those most affected by substandard living conditions. No matter how deeply you want to take it, have fun. I think this is going to be a memorable topic which you will think about often in the coming years.

The Pro position is here.


Barder, O.; What is poverty reduction?; Working Paper 179; Center for Global Development; April 2009; accessed 1/5/2014.

Kakwani, N.; what is poverty?; Internation Poverty Center, United Nations Development Programme; Sep 2006; No. 22; accessed 1/5/2014.

Prakash, A.; overnance and Economic Globalization: Continuities and Discontinuities; Paper presented to the United Nations General Assembly, New York, September 30, 1999; accessed 1/5/2014.

Shangquan, G.; Economic Globalization: Trends, Risks and Risk Prevention; CDP Backround Paper No. 1; United Nations Committee for Development Policy; accessed 1/5/2014