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In part 1, we looked at the argument for net benefits being the superior framing as compared to the burden of proof in Team Policy.  The short version is that 9 times out of 10, the burden of proof boils down to net benefits anyway.  That is, first, if there’s a net benefit, then common sense dictates the judge should vote aff, and net benefits therefore takes precedence since it’s simpler than the burden of proof.  However, the burden of proof still can prove to be a surprisingly effective tool for the negative, as it slants the debate against the affirmative by instilling a psychological bias against the plan in your judge (sounds weird, but I promise it makes sense; part 1 explains it in-depth).  As such, if possible, you naturally would want to find a way to effectively use it as negative.  In this article, I’ll be going over two ideas I’ve had as to how to achieve this.

The first is fairly simple: regardless of any standard/goal the affirmative may propose in the 1AC, you can argue that it’s possible for the judge to accept both the aff framing as well as the burden of proof.  For example, if aff brings up a goal like “saving lives” and argues that it’s the most important issue in the round, you have two options: one, you can bring up a counter-goal (which I generally would advise against, but it’s a nice tactic for tricking the affirmative into spending too much time on framing, especially in the 1AR when that’s the last thing you want to do).  And two, you should run the burden of proof regardless of whether you run a counter-goal.  Always.  Every single round.  However, contrary to popular conception, the burden of proof isn’t a replacement for the goal.  Instead, you should present it as a criterion for determining whether the goal is upheld (this even holds true for comparative advantage case structures).  In a round, you might say something like,

“The affirmative presented the goal of eliminating cringe memes.  Now, we as the negative agree with this goal.  However, in order to objectively evaluate whether this goal has been met, we’d like to present the criterion of the burden of proof.  *Explanation of the burden of proof.*  Unless aff can show you they meet all three prongs of this burden, they have failed their goal, warranting a negative ballot.”

My second tip is to read the Elmore Card, arguably one of the most universally applicable cards in team policy debate, no matter what case you may be arguing against.  For those of you that don’t already have it, it’s enclosed below:

90 Percent of Policy is Implementation
Richard F. Elmore [is assistant professor of public affairs and assistant director of the Institute of Governmental Research at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is co-editor of Social Program Implementation and author of several articles on policy implementation] (peer-reviewed journal Winter 1979-1980). Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 94, No. 4 601-616, (Academy of Political science) “Backward Mapping: Implementation Research and Policy Decisions” http://www.psqonline.org/article.cfm?IDArticle=10628# [Ethos]

“The emergence of implementation as a subject for policy analysis coincides closely with the discovery by policy analysts that decisions are not self-executing. Analysis of policy choices matters very little if the mechanism for implementing those choices is poorly understood. In answering the question, “What percentage of the work of achieving a desired governmental actions done when the preferred analytic alternative has been identified?” Alli-son estimated that, in the normal case, it was about 10 percent, leaving the remaining 90 percent in the realm of implementation. Hence, in Nelson’s terms, “the core analysis of alternatives becomes prediction of how alternative organizational structures behave over…time.””

[Graham Allison, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown, 1971),p.267

This is huge: if ninety percent of the plan’s success hinges on its success in practice, that means that no matter how perfect a case may seem, how it looks on paper is only a small part of actual success.  Now, that’s not to say the negative should always win every debate round automatically, but this card can allow you to argue why the burden of proof is preferable as a framework to comparative advantage in two ways.

First, the burden to prove a significant harm: many teams running comparative advantage argue (somewhat plausibly) that they don’t need to prove that a harm exists to warrant their plan being passed; all they have to do is prove that the good outweighs the bad.  Your response is that if as much as ninety percent of a policy’s effects can’t be accounted for, this should give us a reason to be careful; I.E., we shouldn’t go to Vegas and roll the dice unless we’re desperate.  That ninety percent of unknown is inherently a huge risk, and we shouldn’t take that risk unless we absolutely have to.  That risk, so the argument goes, can only be justified if there’s some larger problem we’re attempting to solve.

Second (and more obviously), the burden for the plan to solve: in most cases, aff would have a tough time trying to circumvent solvency in the first place, but this card allows you to hold them to a higher level of scrutiny.  That is, if we already control so little of a policy’s effects on the pre-enactment side of things, then it’s imperative that we ensure that we’re as certain as possible when it comes to that ten percent that we do control.  Most vagueness arguments you’ll hear in Team Policy tend to come across as somewhat whiny, and this card helps you avoid that by giving a solid warrant as to why specifics are absolutely necessary for a policy’s success.

In short, the burden of proof may seem weak at first glance, typically only gaining traction with newer debaters who need to fill eight minutes of speaking.  But as a strategy which subtly gives a massive psychological advantage to the negative, it’s a tactic we shouldn’t be so quick to discard.  But in order to use it effectively, we have to be prepared to defend it.

Hope this was helpful!

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