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What we value plays a crucial role in the policies that we implement, on both a personal and governmental level. Take Democrats and Republicans for example, both value different things. Democrats value equality, progress, and privacy. Republicans, on the other hand, tend to value prosperity, tradition, and security. The result of these value conflicts, are two widely divergent political platforms for solving the problems that our society faces.  Since both sides tend to focus on the policy applications and not the principals, political disputes are rarely solved. Whether we like it or not, policies are inexorably linked to values, and policy debaters should adapt accordingly. Learning to use values in Team Policy debate can be a useful tool in the debater’s arsenal.

Say you’re negative against a case that channels $700 billion to Russia in an effort to improve relations. You run a DA about the US’s deteriorating fiscal situation which impacts to a weakened economy. Aff responds by touting their advantage of improved relations which impacts to an increased propensity for Russia to pressure Iran to end its nuclear program, which if successful would spare the world from a major threat. If left at this juncture, the judge has an impossible task of weighing the two impact scenarios. Using traditional impact calculus, neg has a systemic (continuous) impact scenario that affects a large number of people. Aff, on the other hand, has a onetime impact scenario, that would severely affect an even greater number of people, but the impact isn’t certain. There are two competing values here. On one hand, you have economic prosperity. On the other hand, you have a greater guarantee of global security. What happens in this situation? The judge goes into the hospitality room and votes on what he or she thinks is more important. This is obviously not desirable for two reasons. First, the judge has no clear basis for decision. Second, the debate was shallow because the main themes went unaddressed. This situation could have been avoided had both teams outlined the values that they were operating under and weighed the values and arguments accordingly.

So, if values should play a role in policy debate, what should they look like, and how can they be used advantageously? People use values in policy debate all the time, but they’re referred to under different names, the most common of which is Criteria.  The affirmative team will present the Criteria as the “weighing mechanism” for a round.  By weighing mechanism, they should mean the impact calculator or the overarching principle that all of their arguments should be impacted back to. However, debaters will often proceed to debate the round without ever mentioning the criterion again. Even when the Criterion is carried through the round, it’s often left unclear how it applies to the aff plan. It looks like this. I’ll use a foreign aid case, since it’s dear to my heart.

Example of criterion analysis:

Criterion: Fiscal Responsibility                                                                                                                                                                            Case: Cut foreign aid

There is a better way to bring the value aspect of the debate into the round.  The most effective method of conveying a value is by using a value/criterion construct which looks like this.

Value-What your case, affirmative or negative, purports to uphold.                                                                                           Definition-What your value means in the context of the round.                                                                                               Superiority– Why your value matters, and why it’s better than your opponents.                                                                    Criterion– How your case achieves the value.

Example of a value construct:

Value: Fiscal Responsibility                                                                                                                                                                        Definition: Spend money wisely.                                                                                                                                                 Superiority: Programs that spend money should be evaluated via this lens before all others.                                      Criterion: Accountable use of funds.                                                                                                                                                          Case: Cut foreign aid.

The beauty of a value construct is that it allows you to link the principles behind your case, to your case itself, making for a perfect scale on which to weigh impacts. It provides a syllogistic organization which is both easy to follow and more importantly easy to defend. What more could a debater ask for?

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