NCFCA Voting Guide 2019: Team Policy Resolutions

This year, NCFCA is bringing back policy resolutions from the early 2000s. As we’ll see, this was a good approach. The league came within a breath of offering three great options.

Unfortunately, wording was a problem. Policy resolutions are much easier to write than value. Usually, wording issues are minor quibbles at the worst. This year, the issues run deeper.

Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reform its policies regarding immigration.

Immigration is a surprisingly deep, broad, and complex topic. There are pressing cases ranging from family court to drug trafficking. This should be the perfect resolution.

The first problem is a semantic quibble, but semantics matter in debate. The use of the plural “policies” technically forces affirmatives to run multiple changes. This would normally be considered an Alternative Justification (AJAX) case, which is an advanced and usually ill-advised case structure. Instead, expect most affirmatives to ignore the wording and get away with running single plans, and/or indignant, technically-correct negatives constantly running topicality. Neither option is desirable.

What it should have said: “The United States should significantly change its immigration policy.” 2001 NCFCA nailed it.

The second, more pressing problem: President Trump throws a long shadow on this resolution with his border wall. A case stopping construction of the border wall, or some variation of that case with the same harms, is screaming to be run. The best chance negatives have to pull out a win is to tap into judge’s political biases, talking around the wall rather than about it. This is going to result in frustrating debates with little academic value.

With a different president and the original wording, this would have been a 5-star resolution.

Note: this isn’t a commentary on whether Trump is a good president, but on the effect he has on this resolution’s competitive viability. Trump’s election is one of the most important events of the decade, so of course that has an effect on the resolution selection.

3 / 5 stars.

Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reform the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Let’s start with what it should have said: “The United States Federal Government should substantially reform its regulation of food, medicine, tobacco, and/or cosmetics.” That’s a five-star resolution because it’s about the FDA’s policies.

Also acceptable: “The United States should substantially reform a policy enforced by the Food and Drug Administration.”

The problem with this resolution is simple, but it utterly deflates it. Instead of reforming FDA policy, affirmatives are asked to reform the FDA itself. In other words, they need to make changes to the structure or procedure of the FDA. Sample cases:

  • Move the FDA from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Agriculture.

  • Move the headquarters from New Hampshire to Texas.

  • Replace the Commissioner with a three-person Board of Commissioners.

You get the idea. The wording on this resolution is so poor that it strips all the fun, academically-valuable parts out and leaves us with a worthless husk.

1 / 5 stars.

Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reform its energy policy.

This is a textbook policy resolution.

It has excellent educational value, from the fascinating science of renewable energy to the complex economics of an industrial revolution powered by cheap fossil fuels. It’s relevant and impactful, but judge bias won’t be too disruptive.

It has perfect scope: specific enough that negative research is useful, but wide enough to invite new cases all the way to nationals. Institute a carbon tax. Issue grants for battery research. Repeal gasoline regulations. Change how we dispose of nuclear waste. Ban coal. Pave the roads with solar panels. Overhaul emissions standards. Subsidize upgrades to truck engines. Defund ethanol. Switch from electricity to radiant energy. Build more biogas plants. Fund rooftop solar. Drill more. Or do the opposite of any of those things.

It has nearly-perfect wording; no shenanigans.  It does exactly what it is supposed to do. In other words, it forces affirmatives to run cases reflecting the framer’s intent. The term “substantially reform” is redundant, but it doesn’t do any harm.

This is the only strong resolution choice of the bunch. That’s no reason not to get excited. As long as it wins, we can look forward to an outstanding year.

5 / 5 stars.

Verdict: Resolution 3.