Thursday, October 7, 2010

5 Bad arguments that every Affirmative should smush

Every year, new variations of the same bad arguments resurface. Here are 5 arguments that every affirmative should prepare for, and then eat for lunch.

Bad Arg Numero 5: Lol! We can't fiat Russia!

Why people run it: To newer debaters, it feels powerful to be able to go up and make a cogent argument about "fiat." It also feels like a head shot to point out fiat shortcomings. 

Why it's bad: The lack of fiat isn't a problem. In real life, we can't fiat Russia either. Assuming that every affirmative has cards saying that Russia might accept, has reason to accept, or even would consider accepting,  affirmative still carries risk of solvency. In real life, we offer Russia stuff because we think they will accept. No one stands up in congress and goes "WAIT! WE CAN'T DO THIS! WE DON'T HAVE FIAT OVER RUSSIA!" Please, move on negs.  

Bad Arg Number 4: HAHAHAHAH! Your plan is in congress! It'll be passed soon! 

Why people run it: I have no clue.

Why it's bad: It literally presents no reason to vote neg. First, there's no way to actually prove that congress will pass it. Its like betting on Charles Barkley to win the 100m sprints at the Olympics, while wearing a sandwich board and shackles. Its just not in the cards. Bills veeeeeerry rarely get through congress. Hundreds of bills are proposed every year, and Congress only passes a handful of them. Plus, even if the bill does clear, it hasn't yet, which means that policy should be changed. THIRD, by arguing that congress likes the plan, you are putting them out as advocacy for the aff. Fourth, the aff just comes up and goes "Great. The judge has legislative power too. Why is it better for congress to pass it?" Please. NEVER RUN THIS ARGUMENT.

Bad Arg Number 3: This won't SOLVE the problem!

Why people run it: They don't understand solvency.

Why it's bad: Basically, people come up and say "They can't solve this harm." As in, the aff has to solve the entirety of a harm. For example, last year, one of our cases had the harm "30,000 deaths from air pollution." We claimed roughly 85-90% reductions in air pollution. Negs would come up and go 'They can't solve all this!" Like its a BAD thing to vote aff because we ONLY solve 90% of the harm? What? Solvency is tied to the ability of the aff plan to generate their claimed advantages. If the aff claims to solve 75% of the harm, and they prove that they do, they win. Its not a loss if they don't solve the whole thing. Look at what the aff claims before you argue that they don't solve. 

Bad Arg #2: We don't know....

Why people run it: To sound mysterious. Like a mystery wrapped in a riddle, stuffed inside a Twinkie. 

Why it's bad: This is my pet peeve. Negs who come up and say "We don't KNOW that these people are dying from air pollution specifically." "We don't KNOW that Russia will do this." "We don't KNOW that Putin is the Russian brother of the Old Spice Man."... So what? These kind of arguments ignore logical thought and don't present a reason to vote neg. Let's take the air pollution example. Sure. We can't PROVE that people are dying solely from pollution. Let's be smart, though. Having soot floating around cannot be good. Even if its not the cause of death specifically, removing air pollution can only be beneficial, and the studies support that. Make decisions on logical thought and established fact. Don't sit around and go "Well.... we don't KNOW." 

The worst argument Ever: OH NOOOOOES! SPENDING MONEY! 

Why people run it: Because excessive government spending is bad.

Why it's bad: Because... SPENDING MONEY ON A GOOD PLAN IS.... GOOD! Take the military, or roads.We spend tons of money on the military. We don't complain, though, because the military keeps us safe. We spend money on roads. We don't complain, because roads are good. If the plan is good, then spending money on it is good. People don't hate government spending. They hate waste. If the plan is good, it isn't waste. Just that simple. Saying "This plan costs money" isn't an argument. Its an appeal to natural hatred of waste, while ignoring the fact that (hopefully) the plan isn't a waste. Any affirmative with legitimate advantages can look the judge in the eye and say: "Yes. We do spend money. But that's a good thing, because this money gets us this, this, and this." Not to mention, any good affirmative will have found a way to pay for it, mitigate cost, etc. 


  1. I love the reason #2 under bad arg #4. I just have a hard time convincing the judge of it.

  2. this post makes the world a better place. May all debaters read it and be reformed accordingly.
    but might I add another: "your harms are imminent, and will probably occur very very soon. but they don't exist YET, and therefore there's no harm in the SQ, and you lose significance."


  3. Great points, especially on the spending argument. I have some to add:

    On #5, the DAs are probably linked to solvency because the policy doesn't actually go into effect unless Russia bilaterally agrees to it. Therefore, the fact that Russia can't be "fiated" has no change on the impact calculus -- the advantages and DAs suffer from exactly the same probability mitigation.

    On #3, I think the only theoretically unbeatable response is net benefits. First, partial solvency is not a solvency argument; it's a significance argument. Second, significance as an independent voter is extremely dumb because it is meant to work in impact calculus. There's no rule that says the plan must meet the significance requirements imposed by the negative team; the only function of significance is to weaken the advantages in comparison to the DAs. If neg has no DAs, or extremely weak DAs, then the plan easily wins because it provides net benefits, even if the advantages are weaker than advertised.

    On #2, I think the best aff response process is threefold:
    1. Turn it against neg. "We don't KNOW that the plan links to their DAs. Therefore, it doesn't link. [Obviously, aff should put out more responses than this, but this is the prerequisite for the following 2 points.]
    2. Explain that there is such a thing as probability. Nothing in life is 100% certain. (Except for you-know-what and you-know-what.) Nothing would ever happen if everyone waited until they were 100% sure of the immanence of a problem before trying to prevent it.
    3. Turn this into the probability level of the impact calculus debate. Compare the probability of the advantages to the probability of the DAs. Explain why the evidence indicates that the advantages ore likelier than the DAs.

  4. I'm glad someone read my blog last year ;)

  5. I wish some Neg teams would read this. I've heard the bad argument 5 literally every single time I've run my aff case. Every body is like aghh! No specific quote saying Russia would vote for our policy.