Explaining Stock Issues
Stock issues are the basis for any question of action. Real world decisions are fueled by them: and in a policy round, they describe how judges evaluate your plan.
Topicality - Is the Plan an Example of the Resolution?
Academic debate operates on a specific topic we call a resolution. Without one, the debate would be chaos: How could we debate if we didn’t have something to debate about? As affirmative, our job is to support the resolution. If we don’t, we lose. Topicality is the very first step in the process. Since a policy resolution says “we should change x”, we have to first give an example of “x” to make any headway.
Imagine if you were given a book report on Wuthering Heights. But, instead of writing about Wuthering Heights, you decided to write about your favorite Duck Tales novel.
You’d get an F. Even if your paper used perfect spelling, grammar, and syntax, your teacher wouldn’t bump your grade. You didn’t even give an essay about the book! Missing topicality is as basic an error. To defend the resolution, you must at least give an illustration of it.
Inherency - Are the Plan and Current System Mutually Exclusive?
Policy resolutions ask us to change something, and if the plan has already happened, it can’t be a change.
Imagine you and your friends have just gone to Chick-Fil-A for lunch. As you shuffle back to the car, you turn to them and say “what should we do now?” Your friend says: “I know! Let’s go to Chick-Fil-A.”
That’s inherency. Inherency is usually run once a season on a team that is either incredibly unlucky (their plan was passed last night) or incredibly ill-prepared (they didn’t know their plan had already been passed.)
Note: Inherency is often misunderstood as “stuff we’re already doing in the current system to fix the problem.” That’s actually a type of significance argument, as we show below:
Significance - Are There Good Reasons for Change?
Significance asks, “Are there good reasons for change?”
You’re trying to convince your parents to buy you a new sweater. Your parents remind you it’s the middle of July, so you don’t have a good reason to get one.
Alternatively, your parents could point out that you’re allergic to cotton: so getting a sweater could be harmful. This is a disadvantage, another kind of significance argument. Disadvantages give strong reasons to not change because doing so would cause problems.
Solvency - Will the Plan Work?
You tell your family you want to go to Chick-Fil-A because you’re hungry. Yet, it turns out that it’s Sunday and Chick-Fil-A is closed. Going to Chick-Fil-A no longer makes sense, because it won’t satisfy your hunger. Should you go anyway, you’re just going to be stuck in an empty parking lot.
If the affirmative’s plan attempts to reduce starvation in Kenya, and yet you know that the government will likely misuse the aid for themselves, we have a solvency issue. Regardless of how good the affirmative’s intentions are, their plan simply won’t realize them.