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What do you value? This is the question that at its core Lincoln-Douglas strives to answer. While in Lincoln-Douglas you can have a very effective debate where you are both arguing for the same value, there are also situations in which it makes more sense to disagree with your opponent’s value and offer your own. This begs the questions: when you present your own value, how do you prove that it is superior to your opponent’s? It may appear to be a daunting task to demonstrate that one abstract concept is more valuable than another, but these types of debates can be quite fun. They give you an opportunity to make the round a unique experience for your judges. Here are some strategies you can employ when trying to prove your value is more valuable than that of your opponent:

  1. Evaluate your value in light of your Actor. Depending on who your actor is in the round you can claim they might have a stronger reason to prefer and honor one value over another. For example: if your actor is the government and your opponent presents a value of truth, you could claim that while pursuing truth is important especially for individuals it ought not be the government’s highest prerogative. You can present the countervalue of general welfare and claim that for the government specifically that value is of greater importance.
  2. Take the moral high ground. You can claim that your value is more intrinsically important than that of your opponent. For example: if your opponent offers the value of national security, you can claim that while yes national security is valuable it is not as inherently valuable as individual rights. They ought to be honored and respected above all else because their protection is why governments were created in the first place. 
  3. Take the practical route. You can claim that your value offers more practical real world benefits. For example: if your opponent presents the value of human dignity, you can claim that while yes human dignity is important it is not very concrete and does not provide as much practical benefit as another value such as national security.
  4. Narrow the focus of the round to the specifics of your resolution. Your opponent may present a very compelling value, but you can contend that it’s not as important to discuss in the context of your round. For example: if your opponent presents a value of general welfare you can claim that it is uncontested how important that value is. However, it is non-unique and achieved by both sides thus we should be looking at a value that is more narrowly tailored to your specific resolution such as knowledge. 
  5. Argue that your value has more clarity. If your opponent has a lofty value that is somewhat ambiguous or not universally understood, you can offer that as a critique. For example: if your opponent offers the value of the quality of life, you can claim that yes that is important, but it is an arbitrary and highly subjective standard. You can claim that because of this it is more important to accept your value of natural rights because those are clearly outlined as life liberty and property.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of strategies you can take when refuting your opponent’s value. However, hopefully this is a helpful starting point as you start thinking of ways to evaluate different values. 

Allie Satterfield competed in the NCFCA for four years, and she was the 2023 NCFCA Moot Court National Champion. She is currently attending Patrick Henry College, where she competes in collegiate forensics and is pursuing a major in Political Theory. If you would like to book coaching with Allie, Click Here.  

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