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A few years ago the NCFCA had the resolution: “When in conflict, the government ought to value fair trade over free trade.” Now while there were certainly plenty of problems with this resolution, it had two very important phrases: “the government” and “when in conflict.” Both of these phrases added tremendous clarity in the resolution analysis and in this post I specifically want to talk about the phrase “when in conflict.” First I’ll go over why it is important, then how to handle a resolution without this standard, and lastly how it relates more specifically to this year’s NCFCA resolution.

Why is when in conflict important?

The “when in conflict” standard can serve a few purposes. 

First is to add clarity to the resolution and narrow the scope of the debate. In any given debate round there are a million applications for concepts on both sides and to try to go through them all would take forever and get confusing. Limiting arguments and applications to situations where both sides are possible or even desirable, but only one can be used cuts down on the area of debate significantly. 

Second is to provide a clear standard to decide the round. In a debate we’re not tasked with just proving our side is valuable, we have to prove our side is more valuable than the other side. A situation of conflict provides a clear standard by which to prove which side is more important. Whichever side you choose in conflict is more valuable.

Third is to make the debate more practical. Which is more important doesn’t really matter if you can have both or if one isn’t even an option, but if you have to pick between the 2 suddenly which is more valuable becomes important to know.

How do you handle a resolution without a “when in conflict” standard?

When the resolution doesn’t include an explicitly stated “when in conflict” standard you have 2 options.

Run your case as if there were a “when in conflict” standard. Despite most resolutions not including an explicitly stated when in conflict standard many debaters will choose to argue the round as if there is that standard anyway. If you want to run your case this way, you would include it as a point of resolution analysis and you can use any of the reasons stated above to defend your resolution analysis.

The other option is to look at the resolution outside of conflict situations. While I’m not personally a big fan of arguing resolutions this way, if the resolution doesn’t state when in conflict, it is a perfectly legitimate strategy. The defense of this strategy is simple: no matter how helpful the standard is, it’s not in the resolution so it isn’t what you’re debating.

How does this apply to this year’s NCFCA resolution?

This year’s NCFCA resolution is unique in the fact that not only are property rights and economic prosperity compatible most of the time, but property rights leads to economic prosperity in the vast majority of situations and is one of the strongest reasons to support property rights. The ‘when in conflict” standard can vastly narrow down the number of situation applicable to this debate round and change the debate nearly entirely. This can be really beneficial to the negative considering it takes a way one of the strongest reasons to support property rights. However without a “when conflict standard,” it leaves the door open for the aff to claim many of the benefits of the neg because property rights are often the best way to achieve economic interests.

D. J. an economics major at North Carolina State University. Her debate philosophy is that debate should be fun for everyone, so keep it ethical so your opponent can enjoy the round, keep it entertaining so the judge enjoys it, and keep it lively and humorous so you can enjoy the round too.

To learn more about D. J. you can read her bio here: https://www.ethosdebate.com/djmendenhall/ or book coaching with her here: https://www.ethosdebate.com/xl-3/

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