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I am often asked which case I would be running if I were debating this topic. Let me say first what I always say, which is “I’m going to frustrate you but you shouldn’t run what I’d run.” Each of us has different interests, different levels and especially different silos of knowledge. That’s only thing one, though.

Thing 2 is that NO CASE will achieve your victory. To successfully debate you must learn technique, theory, various argument, AND research–then pit these variables against your opponents with a judge who has their own knowledge, level of criticism, paradigm, and so on. My best advice: don’t put your faith in any case to see you to victory. Good debaters can succeed with mediocre cases.

So what would I be running? While I’m attracted to some of the “make-sense” policies like carbon labeling or saving the whales with whale-proof ropes, I have always been a big picture person. I like to find the PRINCIPLE of a thing and argue it as a long-term strategy, through its practical effects. In other words, I like to pick cases that have a thousand possible disadvantages against them but I plan to out-research the principle (usually economic) and argue for faith in that and historical precedent, rather than short-term consequences (examples of past cases I ran: unilateral free trade with sub-Saharan Africa, repeal D.C. gun ban (1,000 foot rule too, and etc) without a permit system either, repeal the preemption doctrine, repeal agriculture subsidies, repeal restrictions prohibiting single-sex classrooms in public schools, etc…). [photo attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/billselak/ / CC BY-ND 2.0]

So I guess I like to repeal things, put faith in the principle and avoid federal over-regulation and mires of policy mess.

So I would be running environmental federalism. As we have it in the Ethos case? Of course not. This case is going to require MEGA hours of research if you want to run it. We have varying levels of case difficulty in Ethos, but nary a one is intended for you to run without thinking (I mean, with zero research into why the mandates are there and what mandates you should have). If you don’t know the exact articles and words of the expert from which the mandates came, and the person who wrote the case does, then you are at a sore disadvantage (or, alternately, will reject the case as “stupid” too quickly).

The disadvantages to environmental federalism are huge and widespread. But I’m used to that. So let’s assume you’re like me and want to give federalism a try. Where to from here? This would be my strategy…

1. Narrow the scope of the mandates. Pick 1-10 broad areas of policy you specifically want to transfer authority to the states. No vagueness allowed. So find these things and put them into your mandates.

2. Have several possible combinations of mandates (for varying audiences) that pair with possible combinations of contentions. For example, with my preemption case we had I think 5 contentions, but only planned on using 2-4 any given round. Elderly or newer judges always meant only 2 contentions (for to go slow, step aside from the lectern, and really explain). Experienced or debate judges usually meant more. We also gauged the maturity/level of education of our opponents. Our most complex arguments were left out with younger teams (no good confusing them, usually confuses yourself, and doesn’t help anyone).

3. Research the THEORY behind the principles. Local control is a huge principle of this case. “Common law” research, reading the federalist and anti-federalist papers (both of whom would likely agree with the case), and some of the other older and then modern theories on local control… your parents will be happy you are reading this.

4. Look around you for all kinds of everyday examples. That’s the great thing about principles. Principles are demonstrated across different aspects of life, and even different policies just within the government and policy sphere. Real life examples support your theory (and show old theories are still relevant) and are good for explaining, complement your argumentation, and even make for some awesome CX material.

5. Avoid strongest DA links. This means the race to the bottom, and cross-state pollutants are disadvantages you absolutely do not want to be able to link to. Race to the bottom goes like this: if South Dakota can eliminate their environmental restrictions on said industry, they could compete better than North Dakota. Thus North Dakota responds and repeals the regulation as well, racing to the bottom in terms of the environment. The one exception is if you link to something you are completely willing to defend as an unscientific environmental fear (i.e. Massachusetts deserves to have its businesses squashed if it’s banning all motorized vehicles in an effort to stop killing mosquitos on highways).

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