Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Resolution Analysis: Revenue Generation

Most people who know me have already correctly guessed that next year this blog will be an NCFCA only blog. This is based on the fact that the teams that I coach and the majority of the debaters in my area are remaining NCFCA. Thus, my knowledge base will be on the NCFCA topic in order to meet the market demand. I do realize, however, that many families are still deciding which league to compete in next year. Hopefully this analysis of the Stoa resolution will be helpful.

There are three basic things that a resolution must do:
  1. It must provide an equitable playing field for aff and neg. This means avoiding bias and putting forward cases that offer good clash. Cases that are good, but not invincible.
  2. It must be interesting. No one wants to sit through a year of boring debate. Plain and simple.
  3. The resolution must be educational. This means a reasonable research burden (not too many cases possibilities) and a deep topic that promotes critical thinking.
Under these three criterion, there are two primary reservations that I have about this resolution. First I'll give credit where credit is due; this resolution would certainly be interesting. It's a highly relevant and complex topic that could spawn a lot of good debate. Unfortunately, the resolution also bites off more than it can chew. Let's go over a couple of points to consider:

1. Breadth
This resolution is impossibly broad. When people think of revenue generation, they think of taxes. So right away you can increase or decrease taxes, or overhaul through a flat tax, fair tax, etc. But taxes aren't the only form of revenue. Here are other places the government gains revenue:
  • Government aid: This can be from other countries or from intra-government transfers.
  • Selling treasury bonds: Sometimes simplified to government debt. When the government sells bonds to other nations or US investors, it generates revenue.
  • Royalties: The government generates revenue when companies pay royalties on natural resources. An affirmative could increase or decrease these royalties.
  • Fees: The government assesses fees on all sorts of things: vehicle licenses, hunting licenses, watercraft licenses, visa fees, etc.
So an affirmative could reform any of those sources of revenue. But then we get to the nasty bit. Read this explanation of revenue generation:

United Nations Development Programme [UNDP is the UN's global development network on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges]: "Fiscal Policy in Relation to Overall Development Policy" Published no earlier than 2002
There are two objectives why government raises revenues. One is to increase or raise revenue collections and second for  regulatory purposes.

According to this definition, raising taxes for regulation is still revenue generation. This means the affirmative could create new  or increase existing regulatory taxes. Examples:
  • Carbon tax
  • Legalize marijauna and assess a tax
  • Fat tax (extra tax on obese people - melike)
  • Gas tax
  • Pollution fees
  • Cigarette tax
  • Federal funds rate
  • Discount rate
  • Abortion tax
You could create a tax on literally anything you wanted to regulate. This makes the resolution immensly broad.

2. Equitable Competition
This resolution would be very very difficult to win on negative unless the affirmative is simply incompetent, for a rew reasons.

Bias will dominate the RFD
Pretty much everyone from every political leaning and social class has a strong bias here. Rich people want lower taxes, poor people want higher taxes, the middle class range on both ends. Given our judge pool, cases like debt limits, fair taxes, and reducing regulatory taxes would have great appeal. You can try to run deficit/debt da's to counteract (people hate debt as much as they hate taxes), but it's a long shot at best.

The status quo is indefensible
Pure and simple. Current revenue generation policy is failing on both ends: our government doesn't have enough money, and taxpayers are unhappy. So on a government and taxpayer end, there is dissatisfaction with the status quo. This basically makes inherency and significance instant wins for the affirmative. As long as the aff is smart with plan text writing and doesn't get too ambitous, they will breeze through with easy wins.

Counterplans will always be topical or non-competitive
Here's why: If the affirmative wants to change to fix some problem with our revenue generation, you can't solve without a topical plan. Only a revenue generation policy can fix our revenue issues. The definition of revenue generation makes all solvent plans topical.

If the aff plan is to regulate using taxes, you can regulate through another mechanism, but it will almost certainly be noncompetitive with the regulatory tax. In essence, you will always have either a messy parametrics debate, a noncompetitive CP, or you are forced to defend a terrible status quo. This leaves very little hope for negatives.

While this resolution is certainly intriguing, I believe that ultimately it will stretch negative teams thin and leave the wins heavily scewed towards the affirmative.


  1. Topicality, baby.

    Large resolutions are often inherently self-correcting, especially when the terms are vague (as in this one.) If allowing a specific interp (like subsidies) explodes ground to the point of destroying fairness, that's a major reason-to-prefer for a limiting standard.

    You can make a very strong case in-round that the ideal interp is reforming the structure (not just numbers) of policies whose primary purpose is to raise revenue, and justify this with nothing more than a ground-explosion RTP. Judges will buy it if you explain it right - and even if they don't, if it's run widely enough, enough of them will to strongly encourage teams to stay narrow.

    Honestly, it's nowhere near as bad as environment year. It helps that several major sourcebooks (Blue Book, COG, Ethos to an extent) are following the above interp.

  2. Topicality

    I agree with Daniel. The Topicality debates this resolution will probably (hopefully) create are ones I would enjoy.


    This may be an issue, I admit. But I think throughout the year, it will become much easier to gain a favorable bias on whichever side of each issue. Everything can be taken to cater towards whatever bias the judging pool will be coming from.

    In your point, you said the "middle class" ranges on both sides. That's exactly where most of our judging pool is coming from, offering a range of biases, and ultimately, a slightly more even playing field.


    Ignoring the arbitrary standard of "topical," or not, having debates between Aff plan and Neg counterplan will probably wind up being exactly what's being debated among experts right now. It's probably the most real-world discussion offered. I haven't heard any experts saying yet that "This tax reform is a bad idea. Keep the status quo." With a CP, the round will turn into contemporary policy debates.

    I see that as a good thing.

    I started off not caring for this resolution too much either. Now I'd prefer it over the NCFCA choices, atm.