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“When in conflict, the right to individual privacy is more important than national security.”

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s finally happened. This year, we’re in for something amazing. And while it might not be Half-Life 3 or the long-awaited return of Firefly, what’s in store for the 2015/2016 LD season is (almost) just as good: we’ve got a PHENOMENAL resolution!

In recent years, we’ve had topics that felt lopsided, topics that explored the murky realms of morality and money, and topics that, quite frankly, just weren’t interesting. Say goodbye to all of those things for this season! Good riddance. But rather than fangirl about how great I think this resolution is, let me give you a couple set reasons why I think so. This is debate, after all.

1.) A Culmination of the Past

The last four years of LD resolutions have laid the groundwork and foundational philosophies for this year’s. Once again, it’s time to examine the classic trade-off between liberty and security through questions like,

  • “Should the government be allowed to bypass some rules in order to pursue justice for the guilty and ensure order for the many?”
  • “What exactly is the government’s job?”
  • “How should the government go about doing its job?”
  • “What does this job cost the people of a society?”
  • “Where do personal freedoms and individual rights come into play?”

As you delve deeper and deeper into the meat of this year’s Rez, you’ll find many familiar philosophies and arguments: use them to go even deeper this time!

2.) Balance

Traditionally in debate, it’s the Affirmative speaker who argues for a change in the status quo and the Negative speaker who defends things as they are (after all, that’s how the world usually works). Think of the Aff as a fiery Patrick Henry-esque activist and the Neg as the calmer voice of reason, echoing the logic that predominates his time.

But remember the last time we dealt with national security? It was as the Affirmative speaker. This meant that the Aff got to advocate for an idea that is already predominant in our world today! Like it or not, the modern issues of terrorism, cyber warfare, nukes, and the overall volatility of the 21st century have shifted much of the American worldview AND much of your judge pool to unconsciously defer to the security side of the spectrum – especially when the consequences of restricting liberty are often downplayed or portrayed as indirect or insignificant (not that those things are true).

In early 2014, many debaters and coaches I knew viewed this as an unfair advantage for the affirmative. Not so this year. Once again, it will be the Affirmative’s job to pitch the more controversial firebrand idea. Ultimately, I think this will make for more balanced debate with the way our format is set up.

3.) Room for Tons of Variation

LD debates often end up sounding alike as the season’s competition weeds out the squirrel cases. This seemed especially true for last year’s somewhat-linear topic. I ended up taking a break from NCFCA LD to compete in TP (please don’t sue) and whenever I sat in on an LD round at the state, regional or national level, it appeared that the same couple themes were always used, a lot of the same rhetoric, and even most of the same applications!

Regardless of whether or not that was actually the case, nothing could be further from that reality this year. While you will inevitably base your cases off of one or two common presuppositions, there are dozens of philosophies and an INFINITE number of applications for you to run this year. You can go overarchingly-general, pinpoint-specific, or both! The sky really is the limit for how creative and uniquely you want to construct your cases this year; it simply depends on how much reading and research you’re willing to do.

4.) A Classic Debate in It’s Purest Form

This is what really sets this resolution apart. In previous years, each resolution has had it’s own distinct flavor. One revolved around how individual rights and the government conflicted within the legal system, one pondered the role of government with respect to its citizens and the citizens of other countries, one examined government and the whistle-blowing press, and one studied government regulation of individual’s freedom within the economy. Notice the trend?


Every resolution in the last four years has indirectly dealt with the way people interact with the government. However, I feel that THIS year really gets down to the heart of the matter that past resolutions have hinted at. It’s simple:

“What ought to be the relationship between the individual and government?”

This is the debate we’ve been on the verge of for a number of years but never fully committed to. This is the debate that philosophers have mused about for the last millennium. Best of all, this is YOUR debate this year. Have fun with it, read lots, and strive to really push your argumentation deeper than ever before with this one – you certainly won’t regret it.

Devin Radford is a Jr. Coach for Ethos Debate, and a multi-year member of the APEX debate group from Tampa Florida. 

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