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We got an email from a debater in Region 8 with several pertinent questions, answered below:

Hey Ethos,
Had a couple questions for you:

Is it a good idea to run multiple alt. causes? Seems like it would weaken your stance by provided an ultra-broad area to debate…
What generic briefs are there to run against the obscure cases with no NEG brief in ethos? i.e. Coca-Cola, Pre-emption…
And finally, how would one argue a stance that the judge comes into the room pre-prejudiced against? For example, outsourcing is good?

The generic briefs are great this year!

Is it a good idea to run multiple alt. causes? Seems like it would weaken your stance by provided an ultra-broad area to debate…

First off, let’s talk about the angle at which alternate causality argument can approach: When you are negative, I personally think the strongest way to run “alternate causality” is as a solvency barrier. From this perspective instead of “this harm has more causes” you end up with “this plan has too many barriers to solving the problems laid out.” While more nuanced and less effective in a net-benefits environment, it often helps demonstrate impact to your argument. The best possible way to run alternate causality is to cross apply to both the harm and the solvency. And then, if you are particularly clever, you can tie in alt causes to Disadvantages as brinks or impact chargers. A common technique is to say “here is an alternate cause to their great harm, by supporting their plan which purports to solve such harm you are MASKING the underlying causes and dooming the harm to actually perpetuate.” This is called a “masking disadvantage” and requires skill to run effectively.

Now on to the question: Essentially, whichever way you choose to use the alternate causality, it tends to mitigate the affirmative case even more greatly and make it matter less the more alt causes you use. Additionally, if running the masking disadvantage, the more causes masked, the more impact you have. But remember, alternate causality is primarily defensive mitigation argumentation and not offensive disadvantage material. If you’re choosing disadvantage vs. alt. cause, go with the disadvantage because then you’re saying their case is BAD instead of “doesn’t do enough.”

Let’s take an example from last year, say an internal enforcement case against immigration (CLEAR Act or something). One common alt cause argument was that lack of border security means even if you succeed in throwing undocumented aliens out, they’ll come right back. Imagine if you also ran that even if you solved border security, the other alternate cause is the ease with which you can overstay a 3 day visitor/tourist visa (which is how much of illegal immigration occurs anyway). Then you’ve got two big solvency barriers that you can impact with an argument of “outside first, inside second.” As inherency it is not as strong as this solvency position.

But lets try it as a disadvantage. Wasted Resources is the disadvantage:

Link: Affirmative case spends many more resources on internal enforcement of illegal immigration

Brink 1: There are enough other crimes to solve with the same resources (local cops)

Brink 2: They’ll keep coming back via lax border security

Brink 3: They’ll keep coming back via visitor visas

Impact: Non-ending expenditure of resources

Impact: Real crime ignored

(Obiously there are responses to this disadvantage)

I personally like the alternate causes as this disadvantage rather than as solvency, but I think it is clear that having both makes a deeper argument against the aff case.

What generic briefs are there to run against the obscure cases with no NEG brief in ethos? i.e. Coca-Cola, Pre-emption…

That’s a good question and deserves a couple of notes. First, whenever you are up a creek, your first thoughts should be: counterplan, topicality, kritiks — in that order. Some of my most enjoyable debate rounds have been the ones where we had no evidence against an obscure case and came up with many logical/general knowledge based arguments. Much of this is up to your skill and mind, but you’ll also find some help in Ethos.

We do actually have a generic meant specifically to be used against preemption doctrine repeal, and the reference to that (and some strategy against preemption doctrine repeal) is found on the very last page of Ethos. The “Solvency/Generic: India’s Foreign Policy is Independent” brief in the generics section really helps to show that the U.S. repealing of the doctrine of preemption will not cause India to follow suit. Of course, I constructed the (very extra-topical) case with that in mind, basically risking extra-topicality debate for that argument–saying it is important to repeal the doctrine anyway.

So if the generic doesn’t work (though we should definitely de-link the case from achieving anything in regards to India), let’s first think counterplan: if we counterplanned a more effective version of the aff case, we’d actually end up with…the aff case (since it is extra-topical). This should remind us to run extra-topicality arguments. Additionally, we can counterplan that the U.S. adopt the “Just War Theory” which you would argue is competitive because instead of doctrine repeal, you’d actually be replacing doctrine. This has permutation issues though, so let’s think topicality…

The case does not at all change policy towards India since the policy being changed is in no wise directed towards India. India was not even mentioned when the U.S. policy was crafted.

Kritiks…I’m not really seeing an obvious one.

So next you go to logical argumentation: Solvency. Here I like to first think of Alt Causes (ironic), and I’m thinking of several to the idea of U.S. legitimacy:

1) We’re overstretched militarily, so we are viewed with suspicion

2) We act unilaterally, so we have undermined legitimacy

3) We pretty much mock international institutions

4) We have already acted exceptionally, and with more than just the preemption doctrine

5) Most of the world viewed us as the hegemon before the doctrine of preemption as much as after

There are 5 good solvency barriers showing that legitimacy will not be restored to the U.S. because of the doctrine of preemption. Is this a good time to whip out a masking DA? Sure! By focusing on the doctrine of preemption, which really is something we’ve DONE all along just not articulated (Bosnia, Kosovo, Missile Strikes against Osama in 1998, etc), we are keeping ourselves from looking at those other things that make us lose friends and appear to the world as imperial (Free Trade, Unilateral Sanction, Unilateral Action, Military Deployment, Hypocrisy when it comes to domestic policy, etc).

The Coca Cola Case. Here you will find less in Ethos, but plenty from your general free market/government classes. The U.S. is regulating business in a way that it shouldn’t and can’t with success. You can also approach it from the standpoint of India needs to enforce such things itself and the solvency argument that such a company could simply re-register as an Indian corporation and be impervious to U.S. law.

Go to the Water Treaty aff backup to find more about “Water Wars” and the drought facing India. You’ll see the problem is more widespread than Coca-Cola and again find plenty of alternate causes (Pakistan, China, drought, overpopulation, poor resource management), such that quantification of the Coca-Cola problem is actually quite small and perhaps masks the larger issues (water shortage coming!).

Okay, counterplans…Simply that this should be our policy worldwide with any business that does business in the U.S. That counterplan would help demonstrate the non-topical nature of the aff case as well as be a counterplan they could not disagree with. Then it becomes a disadvantage war–you give them a disadvantage that the CP doesn’t have. Let’s see…what’s different…yours is fair. Bingo, they say we have such policy in regards to India BUT NOT anywhere else–this is inconsistent, unfair, and really just sends the wrong message. The aff case has this problem, the neg CP does not as it is worldwide.

But I’ll admit, I’d probably be going back to topicality on this one too. How is this case a change of policy towards India and not towards U.S. businesses (and Coca-Cola)?  Basically they’ve done something they’d like to do for a plan and mashed it into the India resolution.

And finally, how would one argue a stance that the judge comes into the room pre-prejudiced against? For example, outsourcing is good?


The point of debate is to learn to persuade others, even those that disagree. While you still get the occasional person that is completely unwilling to judge arguments in the round but inserts own opinion, you have a unique opportunity to educate from a different perspective. If you think you are REALLY far out there, then insert a very subtle and polite “we urge the judge to decide between the arguments presented, not on previous knowledge, knowing that this is an intellectual activity in which sides are assigned rather than chosen.” But if you can’t believe the argument you are making, I say don’t run it and find something different that you can argue convincingly.

I, for one, think you have to take more time with the outsourcing good argument, but its not impossible.

A. Realities of the world today (use The World is Flat type material): We are globalized, there are international businesses, we will either outsource jobs or insource foreign workers to do the jobs–either result the same.

B. Such outsourcing tells us we have to now equalize and perhaps raise their standard of living and even lower ours a hair (heaven forbid) in order to effectively compete in a world marketplace.

C. Note the alternative (consequence of opponent team thinking): in today’s world, the only way to prevent outsourcing is to prevent international demand/trade. To basically be isolationist sticks us back to the 19th Century while the rest of the world passes on.

D. Nobody likes changing the status quo, but it is inevitable and we need to not just roll with the flow, but ride the wave. Thus, we should embrace the inevitability of the future, even if we hate it.

Here you’ve never said you like outsourcing, you just have said look at the alternatives and you’ll see we’ve GOT to accept it.

Hope this helps.

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