Resolved: The United States Federal Government should add more seats to the supreme court.
What are your first thoughts from reading this resolution? Well, if you think like me, you’re thinking about all the reasons why the supreme court needs more justices. My partner and I were government (affirmative) on this resolution in a parliamentary debate round. We spent the first 10 minutes scrambling to find reasons why we needed more justices on the supreme court without success, until we came up with a brilliant idea. The top definition for seats was actually physical chairs, not presiding justices. So we wrote a plan to add more chairs to the supreme court to uphold transparency in the government. We ended up winning the round and breaking to outrounds as a result. Because of the way the resolution was worded, we were able to take a unique approach to the resolution that the opposing team wasn’t expecting.
Wording is such an important part of debate and more specifically your plan text. Your harms can be written perfectly, but at the end of the day, that’s all they are; problems with the status quo. The only thing that can fix those problems is the plan itself, which is why it is so incredibly important to make sure your plan text is completely fool-proof.
Why the plan text is so important
The most obvious reason is because it provides a course of action. It isn’t enough to simply present a problem or even the advantages of solving that problem. Problems don’t solve themselves. Everyone knows that there are murders every day, but simply having that knowledge won’t do anything. You would need an action that reduces crime such as funding the police force or putting higher penalties on murder.
Components of a plan text
The most important part of the plan text is the mandate. This is where you detail the specific actions your plan is going to do. This could include anything from repealing a law, to passing a bill, or providing additional funding to an agency.
Next is the agency/enforcement. This tells the judge who is responsible for putting your words into actions. As the affirmative team, you want to make sure you know the ins and outs of your policy. Who it will affect, who will be needed to enforce the policy. For example, if you were to mandate additional funding to the police force, your agency/enforcement might look like this: Congress (to make the funding change), the President (to sign that change into law), the Treasury (where the money actually comes from), and the police force (to receive the money and put it to good use.)
You also want to make sure that your agency/enforcement is credible and capable. A couple of years back at a local tournament TP finals, the affirmative had the World Health Organization as their enforcement. Unbeknownst to them, the negative had evidence that the World Health Organization was corrupt, spending more on “travel expenses” than on actual health efforts. Needless to say, the negative won the round because the affirmative lost all their solvency.
Your agency can also prevent over specific arguments. My team policy case this year uses airplanes. One team actually ran an argument that we didn’t specify that the planes would be refueled, and so they would crash somewhere in the atlantic ocean. The reason why this argument didn’t work is because our enforcement was the department of defense. Obviously the department of defense is going to take the steps necessary to ensure that the airplane mission executes successfully which includes fueling the planes. Some degree of specificity is necessary in team policy debate, but it would simply take too long to specify every single action and facet of your plan. Having the right agency fixes that.
Third is the funding for the plan. Without funding, nothing much will happen even if your mandates are well written and you have the correct agencies selected. A common practice is taking funding from the general fund, but there’s two things you want to be careful of if that is the source for your funding. First you want to have a general idea of how much money is in the general fund. Secondly you also want to have a reasonable estimate for how much your plan will cost.
Finally is the timeline. The timeline ensures that the policy will happen. If the government gets to decide when the plan comes to effect, it’s very likely that nothing will ever change. Your timeline should take several things into account. First, and most obvious is how long does it take for your plan to happen. If you’re sending troops to another country, it’s going to take time to plan out the logistics and time to transport the troops. You also want to take into account how long it will take for the status quo to adjust to your plan. If your plan is to close an agency, you might want a buffer time of 3 or 6 months to give time for the agency to wrap up it’s affairs and transfer anything needed to other agencies.
How to write your plan text
The most important factor to making your plan text fool-proof is to word it clearly. Like a badly worded resolution, an unclear plan text can be misinterpreted. A team was running a case to bring back our nuclear bombs from Turkey, but the mandates themselves stated that the US would bring back our bombs from turkey. We ran a solvency argument that they only provided funding and transportation for the 50 nuclear bombs and so they didn’t have the capacity to bring back all of the US bombs in Turkey. This would also lead to a disadvantage that we would lose all of our mission capability in Turkey because we wouldn’t have any bombs there. Of course the intent of their plan was to remove the nuclear weapons, but that’s why your wording is so important.
One way you can make sure your wording is on point is to isolate each word and look at it from every angle in every possible way. Imagine you are the negative team and try to look for flaws or any way the mandate can be interpreted in a unique and unexpected way. Having a badly worded mandate opens yourself up to all kinds of spec-arguments that are a pain to refute.
The second aspect of writing the plan text is ensuring that the plan is doable. This is more of a novice mistake. For example, there could be a mandate ending all corruption in the government. While that might be a good thing, it’s just physically impossible to do.
The final aspect of writing the plan text is making sure that you have fiat power over the actions and agencies that you use. In a Team Policy debate round, the only fiat power you have is over something under the resolution. First of all, you want to ensure that the mandated action itself is topical. It’s easy to forget about the topicality of the mandates because the case as a whole may seem topical. Remember, you only have fiat over what falls under the resolution. You also want your agency and enforcement to fall under the resolution. Every policy resolution will have an actor inherent in the resolution. If the actor is the United States Federal Government, having a non-governmental organization as your agency won’t work because you won’t have the fiat to control it.
A 1AC with an incomplete or poorly written plan text only provides half the information that judges need. Problems don’t solve themselves. Making your plan text fool proof and clear is vital to having a solid 1AC and winning your affirmative rounds.