The Economy of Complexity

Most economics classes begin by explaining the problem of scarcity: we don't have an unlimited supply of stuff. And since human beings will always have needs, we have to develop complex systems that manage how we meet them.

Remove scarcity, and economics is effortless. After all, if we had an infinite supply of the things we need, then competition would be pointless.

Debate has its own system. 

Here's an overview:

  • Scarcity: You are limited by time. You can't drag your speeches on forever.

  • Complexity: Some ideas are hard to understand. We throw lots of time at them because they are worth presenting.

  • Implication: Some ideas are easy to understand. We spend little or no time on them because we can imply them through other logic.

Thriving in the Economy

One of the major struggles behind case construction is this question: how much is too much? Do I need this subpoint? Should I run this resolutional analysis? Will the judge punish me for not running advantages?

Here’s the hard truth: debate rounds are too short to present the ideal debate case.

Let's pretend that time isn't an issue. You'd want to start your speech with pages of history and current events to present. To help the judge interpret that information, you then present a library of philosophical discourse, going back to root worldview ideas like the source of right and wrong.

The more time we have, the deeper we go.

However, your first speech is just 6-8 minutes long – not enough to do anything more than touch the surface.

Fortunately, most of your case will incorporate ideas with which the judge is already familiar. If not, they’re ideas that can be implied or explained in a sentence or two. You can get away with not saying everything. That’s what makes forensic debate possible.

Complexity Costs Time

The judge is not psychic. He can’t guess what your arguments are; you have to tell him. But every time you tell present a new argument, the complexity of your case increases. With it comes the risk that your judge will be confused, or that the logic of your case will become so convoluted that your opponent easily refutes it. Thus, you must choose your arguments carefully. You must say only what you have to, cutting everything else ruthlessly.

Implication Saves Time

Imagine a line of electric nodes, spaced a foot apart. They’re so far apart that electricity can’t jump between them. But if we move them closer – maybe an inch apart each – the electricity begins to flow. We get a solid line of arcing energy. Writing a case is like that. You must choose arguments that are logically close enough that no one can tell there is any space between them. The flow of logic should be like the flow of electricity jumping from one argument to the next.

Sometimes, a set of subpoints or a piece of harm evidence is necessary to help the logic flow through your case. Other times, it is not. If the latter, cut it and move on.