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I wrote a version of this for HSD (homeschooldebate.com) a while back, but the Ethos blog-master wanted me to write up a version for Ethos in case you missed the article before. This article is more closely affiliated with a stream of consciousness, than a well-thought-out thesis. So without further ado…

Does the resolution imply that “other nations” are to be viewed as “other governments”?

It seems that the distinction between government and nation is pretty important. Here are three interps that I believe are pretty much the only three available:

 1. A government has an obligation to help another government

 2. A government has an obligation to help a nation state (being defined as something beyond just government)

 3. A nation state has an obligation to help another nation state (again, “nation state” as something beyond just the government)

[Note 1: Technically you could have a fourth interp of “nation state -> government,” but that’s silly, so I didn’t include it.]

[Note 2: These interps are focusing more on what constitutes the actor and the object i.e. the “government” and the “other nations.”]

Each of these has several repercussions.

 Conclusions of #1:

– Non-governments (territories seeking independence, failed states, people groups, etc.) are precluded from discussion

– Humanitarian crises not recognized as such by the government are potentially precluded, depending on whether or not the government must acknowledge the need for it to be a need in the first place

– If the need is purely the need of the official government, then either a) the aff can say that all needs have a moral obligation to be met (or at least attempted to be met) by other nations who are able to (and this extends to requests for arms to deal with uprisings, for example), or b) the needs are to be evaluated by the obligated nations as moral or immoral and acted upon as such; the rationale for b) stems from the idea that the obligation itself stems from morality, therefore the needs must also be judged upon the same moral system.

The issue with #1 is figuring out what constitutes a need. If one is very restrictive, “need” could be defined as something along the lines of “without assistance, the entity in need will perish.” Conversely, “need” could be defined more loosely along the lines of “a goal deemed as important by the ‘in need’ nation , which, without outside assistance, will not be met.” Obviously these are slightly abstract and certainly not precise; I’m only trying to express a general feeling for both ends of a “need” spectrum.

If the former interp is taken, there is rarely an instance where a government is in need and rarely a possibility that outside assistance will remedy the need. If the latter is taken, a need becomes extremely (absurdly) relative and must be considered in terms of morality, because the importance of a goal is only determined within a value hierarchy.

Conclusions of #2:

– “In need” becomes murkier, because the types of potential entities in need becomes broader; no longer must the need be “owned” (so to speak) by the government itself, but instead could belong to those which make up the nation state itself i.e. citizens. So at what point does a need of the citizens become a need of the nation? Some have suggested a majoritian interp, but that seems more arbitrary in context.

– Territories seeking independence are precluded, because they are neither a nation state, nor a government e.g. no government has a moral obligation to help Chechnya.

– Failed states are fair game as long as they are recognized as a state regardless of the functionality of their governments e.g. Somalia is included despite the fact that it’s largely run by gangs.

Conclusions of #3:

– If one adopts the idea that a need of the citizens can constitute a need of the nation (which essentially means that a group of citizens-after a certain numerical threshold-can be identified as the composition of a nation), then that means NGOs and NG groups are fair game for the target of the moral obligation side of the res. Except that no one really agrees with that. The only way to defend it is using the word “other” in the res. If you establish one side, then the other side must be congruent.

– Same implications of interp 2

For interps 2 & 3, the question being begged for is this: how large must a need of the citizens be to make it a need of the nation itself?


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