Monday, April 11, 2011

Wolky Rants: Better Mandate Writing, Better Debate

It's time to touch on an issue that is a personal pet-peeve of mine. How often have you sat in a round listening to the other team's mandates thinking about that stat with the monkeys.? You know the stat. 1000 monkeys with typewriters would eventually type Hamlet? Then you start wondering if it was, in fact, a monkey with a typewriter that wrote the mandate. Sloppy mandates make for lots of sloppy losses and sloppy debates. 

Here's the crux of the issue: having a good plan idea or conceptual solvency doesn't mean you can just write a plan up and send it through. We aren't debating concepts or goals. We are debating policies. If your mandate doesn't actually work as a policy, you can't win the debate. Let's go over some of the most common/most egregious errors in plan writing. 


This, to me, is the cardinal sin of plan writing. So I'll say this in all caps. YOU CAN'T FIAT RESULTS, SOLVENCY, FLUFFY FEELINGS, OR THE RETURN OF THE DINOSAURS. Understand? You can't use fiat to say the plan will work. Example. Mandate: The US will work with Russia and develop a plan to solve this problem. Yay! We solved the problem! Why? Because that's our plan.

When you write a plan, you need a mechanism through which to exert fiat and hopefully achieve solvency. Read through your plan. If you don't clearly specify the means of achieving solvency, you have a terribly worded plan. What are examples of mechanisms? Oh, I dunno. Just these little things we call POLICIES. Programs, laws, international organizations (please not NGOs) and government bodies in action. We are here to debate policies, not goals. Go fix your mandate, then come thank me when you start actually winning solvency debates on aff.

2. Agencies matter, kids
This one can actually bite you big-time in a round. If you don't research the specific government agencies that would administer your plan, you end up in serious trouble. If you try to give a bio-defense program to the Department of Education, what's gonna happen? They are gonna freak out and do a terrible job. But they have to do it, because you fiated them to do it. Make sure your plan fiats the agencies that are actually capable of doing the job. This means *gasp* research. Don't automatically assume that you can guess where the plan belongs. Lookitup. Profit.

3. Cut the fancy wordage
This is one that I find particularly annoying. How often have you heard this?

 Mandate: The US will require Russia to significantly improve its protection of fundamental human rights by making significant reforms to their court system and implement a substantial blah blah blah.

What do I mean here? Simply put, actual methods and specifics belong in a mandate, words like "significant", "substantial", "sufficient" and "legit" do not. I've seen so many teams over the years put words like this in the mandate in order to make the plan bigger. Or something. Cut out these irritating filler words and put in specifics that actually make the mandate.

  •  Crappy: Congress will eliminate grandfathering in the Clean Air Act and require coal plants to significantly reduce pollution.
  • Awesome: Congress will eliminate the NSR clause of the CAA of 1972 and require all pre-act coal plants to meet the DOE's current BACT standards.

Specifics are good. Filler words are not.


  1. LIKE

    Terribly written mandates just make my job that much easier...

  2. @Reason 1 - YES!!! This problemo is abundant in R5.

  3. You totally just ripped off of Jordan rants at camp. But whatevs ;) You're right.