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Transportation policy.  Two simple words.  One simple term.  Easy enough to debate, easy enough to define.  Right???

Nope.  Sorry, hoss.

No matter how you search, you won’t find a credible definition of “transportation policy” on the web.  At least, I haven’t.  If you have one, please comment below!  Even if there is one, however, it’s still a good idea to have several definitions in your back pocket.  This blog post is intended to provide some succinct ideas for how to define this resolution when the need arises.

Title 49

The first place to look for a definition of the federal government’s transportation policy is the federal government, so let’s start there.  Title 49 of US Code, luckily enough, is called “Transportation.”  So, in effect, Title 49 is literally the USFG’s policies on transportation.  There are arguments for and against this definition though.  Let’s go ahead and explore those.

Arguments For

  1. Its.  This word, included in the resolution, can actually be important in the topicality debate regarding this subject.  The resolution reads “The United States Federal Government should substantially reform its transportation policy.”  Based on that word, one could argue that we should examine what the federal government considers to be the transportation policy that belongs to it.  The policy that it regards as regarding transportation.  Of course, this begs the question, “what is that policy?”
  2. That policy is Title 49.  The second argument for this definition is the most simple, and we actually went over it already.  Title 49 is the government’s policies on transportation in their purest form.  It is THE section of US Code that deals with the resolution.

Arguments Against

Every argument has a counter-argument; every point has its downsides.  Here are the justifications for rejecting this definition.

  1. This definition is not all-inclusive.  The prime example is highways.  We can probably all agree highways should be considered part of transportation policy.  However, Title 23 is the part of US Code that deals with highways.  We therefore are left with a question – was the government incorrect in how it defines its own transportation policy?  Is Title 23 also transportation policy?
  2. This definition also includes things that wouldn’t seem to be transportation policy.  A prime example is Subsection VIII of the Title.  It deals with pipelines – standards, safety, &c.  Why is this transportation policy, but not highways?

Here are the links to Titles 49 and 23.



As a quick note, there is a clear strategic advantage of using this definition.  It provides extremely clear lines on what is and what is not topical, avoiding any type of in-round confusion.  In a round, you’d be able to distinguish for a judge if a plan is topical by simply running your finger over Title 49’s table of contents.

Hofstra University

The federal government is not the only place we can look.  Hofstra University, located on Long Island, gives us another possible definition.  Their definitions of “transport policy” is as follows (URL included)

“Transport policy deals with the development of a set of constructs and propositions that are established to achieve particular objectives relating to social, economic and environmental development, and the functioning and performance of the transport system.”


Again, let’s examine the pros and cons of this definition.  The arguments are pretty simple, and a lot less complex than for the Title 49 definition.

Arguments For

  1. The definition is credible.  Hofstra is a well-respected university, so there’s not trouble with the source.
  2. The definition is detailed, adding to its reasonability and ethos.  It doesn’t leave us wondering if the author thought this through.

Arguments Against

  1. Too vague.  The definition may be detailed, but it is unclear on what some words within the definition actually mean.  At the end, it mentions the “transport system.”  The question seems to be, “What is the transport system?”  That could be a whole new debate over definitions.
  2. This definition is “affects topicality”.  Affects topicality is when a case is only “topical” because it has an impact on the resolutional topic (i.e. if the resolution was to reform policy with Russia, a case would be “affects-topicality” if it reformed policy with Ukraine on the Russian issue.  Russian policy would be affected, but the case is not policy WITH Russia).  The Hofstra definition states that transport policy deals with constructs related to the transport system.  The definition would allow for teams to run cases that only affect the transportation system, which broadens the resolution by tens of times, if not more.

The strategic benefit of this resolution is it can be used to add credibility to your team if you need to define the resolution.  Quoting a well-respected, detailed definition will add to your Ethos.

Ultimately this resolution will be an interesting one to define.  On a “common-man” level we all know what transportation policy means.  On a more technical level, defining it is quite troublesome.  Let’s strive not to stray from what is obviously transportation policy — squirrel cases never help.  Instead, avoid getting into topicality collisions in-round by running a case that is obviously transportation policy.  Have definitions ready, however, so you can take out non-topical cases when you’re on the negative.  These two should get you started.



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