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Monday, we covered the new Stoa LD topics. Today, we’ll analyze Stoa’s choices for the new policy resolutions. Remember, you can view all the proposed topics for voting here!

In the last post, we organized it by resolution. But our policy analysts all took a very different approach to evaluating the resolutions. So this post is organized by contributor. You’ll be hearing from the new CEO of Ethos as well as two new additions to the Ethos team.

Disclosure Note: Isaiah McPeak was heavily involved in developing these policy resolutions.

Thaddeus Tague:

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reform its transportation policy

Overall Grade: B-

This resolution, at first glance, is narrower than the other two. Don’t let that fool you, however. It still deals with absolutely way too much. Sitting here thinking about this resolution for five minutes, I can think of at least 25 case ideas, with around 5 super good case ideas. A resolution that broad means the national case list will be massive by NTIOC. My first gut feeling is that I like it. But let’s explore why


  • Even ground when dealing with judges that bring presuppositions into the round. For every judge that thinks America’s transportation is failing, you will have a judge who thinks that spending millions to fix it isn’t worth it
  • Transportation in large cities really sucks. DC, LA, ATL. This resolution is somewhat timely
  • The potential for debate around true social drivers and the why behind what plagues the current transportation infrastructure is huge! I love this aspect.


  • Any relevant 1AC will be hard pressed to get away with no funding. Any 1AC that cuts funding will have to face massive constituency DA’s
  • People will run something involving self-driving cars. Please don’t.
  • Good Examples to start looking into for ideas? TSA, WMATA, Cal Trans, VDOT etc.

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reform its labor law.

Overall Grade: B

As resolutions go, this one, while poorly worded, actually makes up for itself in sheer topic brilliance.


  • Labor laws deal with tough questions. Which jobs can the USFG regulate? Does the USFG actually need 1.3 million employees? But what happens when we fire all these people? Is it actually possible to fire a federal employee? Why is bureaucracy so inefficient? As a smart nerd, you might ask all those questions and be like… “But I know the answer to all those.” False. Think again. When you deal with policy implementation, especially the kind that takes into account people jobs and careers, you absolutely never know what could happen.
  • The good cases will most likely win out. Labor law needs reforming at a federal and state level.


  • Much of the worthwhile and true analysis that wins rounds may travel over teams (and judges) heads. This means rounds will grow confusing, and good teams will lose. Keep hard to understand topics simple and don’t read long pieces of evidence from Public Administration experts. In general, read anything you can about this topic by John W. Kingdon, Woodrow Wilson, or even Jay Shafritz.

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reform its monetary policy.

Overall Rating: C


  • The topic is relevant
  • Asking debaters to examine monetary policy is a real exercise in critical thinking. Especially if the student is willing to think beyond the immediate boundaries. As Isaiah Mcpeak said it – ” Monetary policy is how the rich white guy dominates the world. People need to understand how it really works, how messed up it is and try to fix it. You will live an entire life attempting to earn this money and need to understand the policies that govern it and the institutions that make it.”
  • It’s also a topic area we don’t devote a lot of brainpower towards. Isaiah went on to encourage debaters to think beyond normal taxes and money, “It also includes fractional reserve system, loaning regulations, fannie mae, freddie mac, federal assistance, diversity of citizenship, multinational corporations, international financial crime, federal reserve banks powers, fair market regulations, actual printing of money/inflationary issues, interest rates, how the fed works.”


  • There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth from the seniors.
  • The national case list will be 100 cases long. The squirrels will have babies, and teams with true but irrelevant cases will win lots of prelim rounds
  • It’s bi-directional. (you can create OR cut ANY united states monetary program you want)
  • “Monetary Policy???” I can’t hear what it means. I just hear the groans from thousands of debaters as definitional debates claim the majority of the round, and not the attention of the judge.

Samuel Woodell:

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reform its transportation policy.

Analysis: The fascinating thing about this resolution in particular, and the distinction it has from the other possible alternatives is its massive scope. Already, we can see that there would be cases, not only about how to transport people and goods, but also about the methods for moving those items. This contrast manifests itself in the real world in a couple of ways:

Impact 1: (Pro) This year in Stoa, it seemed at the start of the year that it would be tough to comprehend a broad spectrum like agriculture and food safety in less than a year. However, as the season has progressed, what I’ve realized is that, despite the resolution’s breadth, there really aren’t that many cases. If you sit down and look at it, there are really only 5-10 “big cases”, or cases it seems like everyone is running. Additionally, having a broad resolution is beneficial for educational purposes, because it encourages us as debaters to tackle a big topic, and be able to understand small facets of a wooly-mammoth sized discussion.

Impact 2: (Con) If you aren’t quite the research-oriented type, or are more of a philosophical debater, this may not be the resolution for you. When talking about things like privacy, Stoa’s TP resolution two years back, you can get a little more theoretical, as opposed to a resolution like this that will require a lot of evidence, and a commonsense analysis of cold hard facts. Also, you may end up doing some research over the summer on various possible cases, and then arrive at your first tournament and realize that no one is running what you researched for. (This may or may not have happened to me this year.)

Overall Grade: B

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reform its labor law

Comparison: This resolution is, in my view, probably the simplest of the three, and one that definitely needs some serious reform. This resolution has a great scope, with plenty of possible cases but not too many options. In addition, you can draw more links to real political topics with this resolution than you can with the other two

MPX 1: (Pro) The good thing about having an obviously relevant resolution is that you can fulfill one of the primary purposes of debate: speaking on topics about which you are passionate. We shouldn’t choose our cases based solely off of what we think will win rounds, unless we also believe in the idea on which we are speaking and are passionate about it. Having a resolution like this would allow us to take well-known subjects and debate about controversial and important topics.

MPX 2: (Con) Where this resolution could run into trouble is in the area of judge bias. We already saw the great part of having a resolution that entails controversial topics, but the bad thing about it is that most people, including your judges, are going to have firmly fixed opinions on a lot of the topics that are going to come up. For example, in Stoa South where I compete, I can totally see a case to abolish the minimum wage being very successful, for the main reason that judges would usually support it at first glance.

Overall Grade: A-

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reform its monetary policy

Analysis: The resolution stands in stark contrast to the first two, and seems to me to be the most complex by far of the three. Although this resolution could really get into hardcore economic topics like how to control inflation and credit, there is also ground here for interesting debates about how to lower the national debt, and what options the country could take concerning tax reform.

MPX 1: (Pro) This resolution is comparable to the first in that it forces debaters to do hard research and unpack the complexities of US monetary policy, something that would have immense real-world skill. On top of that, you can advocate for things that matter like tax reform, and make a topic that might seem dull initially into and exciting and important discussion.

MPX 2: (Con) My primary problem with this resolution is that, unfortunately, I just don’t think most judges are going to want to listen to a discussion on monetary policy for 90 minutes. After all, even focusing on one aspect of this resolution, tax code, incurs daunting minute details, and thousands of pages of regulations. Finally, because monetary policy includes basically anything that affects a country financially, topicality could become an issue.

 Overall Grade: C+

Joshua Hu:

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reform its transportation policy.

Background: This is a broadened rehashing of the NSDA’s 2012-2013 resolution, Resolved: That the US federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States. Something to note about this topic is that it is not purely domestic—as transportation policy without a qualifier of “in the United States” can include oceans outside US jurisdiction, space, as well even some international military operations (this is debatable). This topic lends itself to needed discussion about the quality of current infrastructure, efficiency and safety of current transportation.

Plan & Advantage areas: Possible advantage areas include emissions and the environment, security or safety, efficiency of transportation, scientific research, economy, manufacturing, etc. Plans could focus on airports, cars, highways, rail and trains, shipping routes, space transportation, icebreakers, ports, etc.

Aspects of the Topic:

#1: Uniqueness: This topic area hasn’t been debated much in Stoa, so there are many new opportunities to debate new types of policies, plans, and advantage areas.

#2: Relevance: A large message of both presidential candidates in the past election was the need to reform and improve infrastructure. Efficiency and security of transportation hubs are continually seeking to be improved. The topic is an extremely relevant topic that many debaters and judges will find appealing.

#3: Scope: This is a double-edged sword. The scope of the topic is tremendous. Debates will continue to evolve over the course of the year, and there are countless plans and cases one could run on the topic with vastly different focuses and advantages. At the same time, the topic seems too broad; negatives (especially novices and intermediate debaters) would have a harder time running specific strategies, possibly leading to more generic disadvantages and strategies, which are not the most educational or appealing to argue and judge. However, perhaps this works both ways. Because the topic is so wide in scope, a “substantial” reform could possibly force “big-stick” affirmatives which speak to the core of the topic.

D. I like the intentions behind the topic and wanting to debate a new topic area, but I would rank this topic last, because of its scope. If the topic framers could narrow down the topic in some way, it would certainly rank higher on my list.

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reform its labor law.

Background: Labor law is a topic area which has not been debated in homeschool debate leagues, as the topic framers acknowledged. It provides a pertinent discussion concerning the role of the US federal government in regulating both public and private employers, and an interesting discussion on positive and negative rights of companies, employees, and in general, US citizens.

Plan & Advantage areas: Plans on this topic can deal with labor unions, wage laws, hiring practices, workplace discrimination, maternity leave, child labor, job benefits, illegal immigrants, federal work-study programs, etc. Advantages on the topic will range from philosophical benefits such as justice or fairness to practical benefits such as the economy and improved work environments.

Aspects of the Topic:

#1: Philosophical and Pragmatic Debates: This resolution lends itself to many philosophical questions concerning equity or what employers are due, allowing affirmatives to have value-centered debates, which could provide interesting conflict with more pragmatic-focused arguments. This provides a unique area of conflict often present in LD which bolsters the educational aspect of debating the topic.

#2: Novelty: Not that the topic covers any new conflict, but this topic has not been debated in any of the major high school debate leagues. It provides new plan areas to debate which are issues we will have to face after high school.

#3: Moderate, Focused Scope: There are a wide range of cases one could run on the topic, but they all boil down to similar conflicts relating to justice and societal welfare. This allows for deeper debates on the practical benefits of certain options, and the philosophical questions of a government’s responsibility and citizens’ rights.

A-. I think this topic will produce some very interesting and engaging debates for both competitors and judges. A moderate scope and philosophical underpinnings make this a very appealing top resolution choice.

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reform its monetary policy.

Background: Many debaters argue for economic benefits when arguing for certain trade, environmental, or ocean policy reforms, but do not understand the “why” behind the “what”. This topic will lead debaters to understand the relationships between size and growth rate of the money supply, and the practical implications of such actions.

Plan & Advantage Areas: Possible plans could cover regulating interest rates, buying or selling federal bonds, cutting money production, etc. Advantages would generally focus on economic stability, growth, or sustainability of a market.

Aspects of the Topic:

#1: Education: In order to effectively debate the resolution, debaters must learn fundamentals of economics. The topic provides a tremendous educational value to high school students.

#2: Less Engaging & Pragmatically Focused: Debates on the topic will inevitably be a bit “dryer”, more focused on the practical and numbers rather than moral or compassionate appeals. This may create a topic fewer debaters are interested in, but at the same time, knowing how to convey a more “boring” subject in a way that is persuasive takes a lot of skill and rhetorical knowledge.

#3: Moderately Narrow Scope: This topic has a fairly narrow scope, with cases generally seeking to solve the same conditions of the status quo, or enacting similar policies. This is good, in that debates will evolve over the course of the year and force specific case debates and pristine communication skills to win over the judge.


B. Though the topic may not be as appealing to debaters, judges, and coaches at first, I feel this topic would provide great educational value, specific case debates, and force debaters to be engaging when taking a side on a more practical or numbered-based issue. I rank this topic second.


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