Disclaimer: There are no rules in debate strategy, so our answer here is completely debateable. What follows is an argument as to WHY a certain theory is correct.
Question from a Debater: “At the past few tournaments, people have run topicality (impacted to a lack of fiat) on funding because it isn’t cutting something toward Russia… For example, getting funding by cutting the climate investment fund money that goes to the UN- it’s not something toward Russia- is that a legit argument? How would you respond to that?”
Answer from Isaiah:
It’s not a legit argument. Good question. You will just have to “argue it out” though–every couple years some people with really twisted debate theory start to argue this. Basically, you are recommending a policy change with Russia, and have some other details showing HOW you might do it. Those aren’t properly considered the “mandates” or “the policy change”.
Here are the usual options to respond:
AT: “Interpretation that Resolution requires funding to come from current programs towards Russia”
A. Counterinterpretation: “Normal government processes at a sub-policy level are legitimate to support policy changes–we can use the Government in ways that the government works”. That whole USFG phrase in the rez gives us this power.
1. “Normal Means” — Instead of identifying funding, argue that the government will simply appropriate money through its usual processes. Then defend this instead of the specific funding you are using. If not,
2. “Support Mandates”/”Enabling Mandates” are always legitimate — The primary mandate of “what we are doing”, our “course of action” is what we mandate to get our advantages from.
a. “Vacuum test it” — Every policy has policy changes that aren’t certain words of the rez (like towards Russia, or significantly change), such as if you have a new task force to work with Russia, you’ve got the elements that go into it to enable it–hiring people to do the work, for example. Vacuum test the case to see what the recommendation is based on what the advantages are. Are the advantages “hiring this guy will be good” or “cutting the funding to X program will be good”? If so, then there’s a violation. If not, then they are just enabling mandates.
b. “This is how policy works” — Policy debate is supposed to mirror the real world. In the real world, policy is made first and funding follows as a support. The appropriations process is part of it.
c. “Allows debate at all” — Look at the alternative. NEG interp makes it so even if you want to make a really big change, the ONLY resources you can use to support that change are the resources in the status quo..
B. “We meet their interpretation”
1) It IS a change of policy towards Russia. Let’s say you abolished NASA to fund Russia. The old policy was that money goes to NASA. You changed that policy so the money NOW goes to Russia. (this one is awesome)
2) Argue that ALL of the changes are part of a “total policy change” towards Russia. So you’re looking at the total package. (this one is fishy)
1) Reasonability: If you take what they’re saying to its logical conclusion, you can’t debate about new things to do towards Russia, because you might like all the other programs we have towards Russia and not want to cut that funding — we should be able to look to wasteful parts of the government to use on this new good thing.
2) Real World Policy — Let us do policymaking like the real policymakers at Congress do. If CONGRESS is our Actor, we should be able to act in any way that Congress normally does. If only the State Dept. were our actor, then yeah, we’d just have to REQUEST funds. But we’re Congress and we get to appropriate them.
Perhaps the best way to avoid this argument is to not specify your funding. That is, just use normal means. If I know the case this particular person is running (and I think I do), then the amount of funding necessary is a drop in the bucket.
If this case can be paid for by normal means its fine, but some cases require greater amounts of funding, and so make such “normal budgetary means” abnormal.
I totally agree. Some people have told me they will argue non-topical funding against me, but I always answer with your response of:
“We meet their interpretation” point 1. It’s so true. If you take funding from a US program and send it toward Russia, then you’ve changed policy toward Russia. Good post 🙂
So I agree with you that topicality arguments are illegitimate, but could you run a “no-fiat” argument? I am aware that fiat is simply a theory and has not practical implications, but it is an officially recognized theory (www.exp.etelos.com/ruf/RU1_F072505120639_TD_Judges_Manual.pdf) and as such has as much credence as an argument as a topicality argument that has a quote from the league saying that “a ‘non-topical’ plan is against the rules.’