NCFCA Voting Guide 2019: LD Value Resolutions

The NCFCA LD resolutions are out. Let’s take a look!

Resolved: Individuals have a right to health care.

This is a relevant topic that raises all sorts of interesting philosophical quandaries. It has exactly the right depth and scope for a value resolution.

One Wording Quibble

The term “right” is ambiguous in a bad way. Debates over what right we’re talking about - and cases that exploit the ambiguity - will be tedious and repetitive. The resolution should say: “Health care is a human right.”

Bad: Emotional Land Mine

But no matter how carefully you craft this resolution, you’re still facing a huge problem: many of your judges will be political conservatives, who tend to have a strong bias against the idea of health care as a right. Terms like Universal Healthcare or Obamacare or even Medicare are emotionally loaded for them. A six-minute speech is not enough time to open a loyal Republican judge to the idea that health care might be a right.

The persuasive skew in this resolution is so extreme that it will ripple over into the kind of cases people run, damaging competitive viability. Negatives will focus on hitting emotional triggers to shut down a judge’s ability to think critically about the resolution. That’s not the kind of case we want to see in competitive debate. It doesn’t work in most environments; judges just feel manipulated and shut you down. But it is the most effective kind of case when judges are already strongly biased in your favor.

The main public school league, NSDA, ran a version of this resolution with great success several years ago. But they had a different judging pool. They could get away with it. NCFCA can’t.

This is a good practice resolution. Give it a try in club. But it’s unacceptable for this league. It’s not as bad as: “Abortion is wrong,” but it’s close.

2 / 5 stars.

Resolved: Preventive military strikes are ethical.

Stoa used this resolution last year, with slightly better wording. That’s good and bad news for NCFCA.

The good part is that we know how this resolution will play out. The topic is a little advanced, but it’s competitively balanced and within reach for novices. While it will get a little stale in the last third of the season, it’s a perfectly serviceable resolution that will give most people a good year.

Good: Tons of Case Options

For more advanced debaters, this resolution is a playground. You can run all kinds of interesting case types and tap into obscure arguments and philosophies. You can make the resolution be about the appropriate role of government, or about diplomacy in the most abstract sense, or about the appropriate use of violence, or the nature of preventive warfare, or you can get really tangible and application-focused and swim around with evidence and historical examples (which is where the Stoa metagame wound up).

Bad: “Strike” Is Ambiguous

The slightly better wording of Stoa’s version (“Preemptive warfare is morally justified”) does make a difference. “Military strike” is a dangerously ambiguous term. Expect a stock affirmative response to negative applications of “I’m only advocating strikes, not all-out warfare.” That’s a tedious loophole. Stoa forced affirmatives to commit to an interesting position. NCFCA has plenty of yawn-inducing wiggle room.

The term “ethical” is fine. It means the same thing and is a little less distracting.

Unfortunate: Dual-League Debaters Hit Replay

Students should compete in as many tournaments as possible, regardless of which league is hosting. That means many homeschoolers wisely choose to be bileagual; they compete in NCFCA and Stoa. Bileagual debaters are just as legitimate as NCFCA-only ones, and the league has just as much of a duty to support a great season for them. Obviously, forcing bileagual debaters to drag the same resolution into a whole second season isn’t great.

While it may not be fair that Stoa stole the thunder, it is relevant. This resolution would have been better after at least one year of rest.

Those issues notwithstanding, the fundamentals of this resolution are still solid.

4 / 5 stars.

Resolved: Deliberative democracy is ineffective.

Deliberative democracy is a hybrid of pure democracy, where all decisions are made by vote, and republic, where all decisions are made by representatives. The United States is an example.

Bad: Shallow Case Options

This is not a ripe topic for debate. There are a few interesting ideas, perhaps enough to sustain an entire practice tournament. But within a month, the arguments would get very tired. You can only listen to that one Winston Churchill quote so many times before your eye starts to twitch.

Bad: Incredibly Complex

The wording of this resolution is mind-bendingly advanced. It would take several blog posts to unpack why this resolution is so complicated. That may be fun for advanced debaters, but it is way beyond the reach of even most intermediates.

Here’s a quick exploration of the resolution’s complexity in italics. Its main purpose is to show how confusing this resolution is - in ways I’m sure the writers did not intend. If you don’t understand the following paragraph, you’re like 95% of value debaters out there. And that’s okay. You shouldn’t have to.

At first glance, this is an immoral brightline resolution, with deliberative democracy being below the standard of effectiveness. But effectiveness is probably amoral since there are both positive and negative changes. Maybe it’s still immoral because most changes are bad, hence the policy burden of proof. But this is actually probably a fact resolution since you can test the effectiveness of deliberative democracy without assigning other worth to it.

There is no correct interpretation, just many valid ones, all of them arcane and confusing. Out of all the valid interpretations of this resolution, none of them support a case option where you run something you want to uphold as your value - which is the only thing that most debaters know to do.

I know plenty of debaters who prefer value-centric philosophical debates. I know plenty who prefer evidence-centric tangible debates. I know of very few who prefer definitions debates and semantic resolutional analyses. But this resolution demands it.

To summarize: stale arguments, and cases that are either incoherent, confusing, or both.

1 / 5 stars.

Final Verdict: Resolution 2.