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Author Topic: Bigger is Better?  (Read 12280 times)
agswanlek
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« on: April 26, 2011, 02:32:37 PM »

While I was a co-author for the CIKR paper, I've chosen to start a new post because I think this question relates to many of the topic papers.

Each year i'm sad to see the discussion of topics always switch to how can we narrow this to prevent tiny affirmatives/"explosive" research burdens etc...  I believe a move should be made to allow for a broader resolution and I think many of the topic papers this year provide the ability for us to do so (albeit i'm a little partial to CIKR because I helped with it).  Yes, tiny, "crazy" one solvency author aff's are problematic, but that is true on every topic regardless of the "size" of the resolution.  I believe the world of a broader debate topic gives us an ability to counter those aff's because although most of us agree substantial is a hollow term, I think expanding the scope of the resolution at least allows for some sort of line in the sand to be drawn.  CIKR is good on this issue, as illustrated by the posts on its forum.  At least substantial makes sense in a world where you can say to yourself "You have a chance to save the critical infrastructure of the United States from waning in the short term and instead you thought to talk about the next Y2k" (By no means do I think we should arbitrarily look at the term but at least convincing a judge of the merit's of their interpretation for substantial become more feasible). 

Yes, a broader resolution will force negative work to be more DIVERSE work. The workload for any given team is pretty much already known, the amount of cards cut will not really vary from broad topic to narrow topic.  On the broad res at least the researchers will have to expand their search terms and read into "new" literature as opposed to on a smaller resolution reading the "same" new literature (hope that makes sense, finals are killing me).


Last year we we're presented with a chance to deal with a dramatic overhaul to a timely resolution with immigration, instead there was a box placed upon the opportunity to debate the timely nature of the resolution and dramatically undercut the educational opportunities that "might have been".  I've heard countless people complain to me about being forced to hear the same debates repeatedly, this year provides us with another opportunity to fix this overtly narrowed resolution focus and allow for us to get better educational opportunities.

Fears of large topics rarely pan out due to the wording process and inevitable narrowing throughout the year. What's more important is our collective interest in the topic area and a fair separation of ground, regardless of it's size.
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Hester
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Posts: 153


« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2011, 07:23:27 AM »

there's an additional warrant for a broad resolution: until we get into the literature base and do extensive research, WE DON'T KNOW ENOUGH TO MAKE SMART DECISIONS ON HOW TO NARROW A TOPIC.

take last year's resolution as just the most recent example. the issue of the distinction between eligibility and admissibility was unknown until we all came across it in the literature. it was only after digging deeper that we suddenly realized one could be eligible for a visa, receive that visa from the consular's office, and yet still be turned down at the border for reasons of admissibility. we basically had to "live a lie" last year - pretending that an affirmative could increase immigration to the US by simply expanding eligibility for who can obtain a visa, when in reality, an Aff needed to be able to fiat that the agent at the border would accept the visa (which they don't have to do, and due to recent changes, their decision in many instances is not something that can be appealed). This isn't the fault of people who are scrambling to write a topic paper and submit it in time. there will always be nuances in the topic lit that we can't know about until much more research is done my many more people. THAT's why a broader topic is better than falsely believing we can craft a well-worded narrow resolution months before we actually start learning about the topic area.
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Ryan Galloway
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Posts: 119


« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2011, 07:36:23 PM »

I agree with Hester.  The rush to narrow topics, especially the mechanism, happens too quickly in the process.  Frequently, we write out huge areas of the literature before we know what's going on.

I like a lot of the topics out there, but am surprised at how narrow they are.  For example, I think India is one of the best papers, and yet it is one-twelfth the size of the topic I debated my junior year.

This likely shows my age, but I'd like to see more AFF flexibility built in so that we can ensure strong debates for the Affirmative throughout the season. 
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Malgor
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Posts: 220


« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2011, 07:51:51 PM »

agreed, bigger is often better. FYI- the tax paper only presents some of the biggest/most balanced areas of corporate tax reform.  It can be made larger, the only constraint provided is the aff has to broaden the corporate tax base.  specifically, the area of capital gains can be added, which would make the rez a bit bigger. 

but, i don't think anyone disagrees that the general trend in resolutions has been to go smaller.  even when presented with broader options on the ballot, the more limited topic usually wins.
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charrigan
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Posts: 105


« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2011, 08:01:45 PM »

Its interesting that this thread emerges at the same time that there's a serious discussion of what the "core neg ground" is for potential topics, apart from "generics" that most seem to agree are less desirable than specific debates about the case.

How do the "bigger is better folk" reconcile the two? Its possible to have both a broad topic and one where there's specific engagement, but it sure doesn't encourage it.

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RGarrett
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Posts: 53


« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2011, 08:04:11 PM »

agreed, bigger is often better. FYI- the tax paper only presents some of the biggest/most balanced areas of corporate tax reform.  It can be made larger, the only constraint provided is the aff has to broaden the corporate tax base.  specifically, the area of capital gains can be added, which would make the rez a bit bigger. 

but, i don't think anyone disagrees that the general trend in resolutions has been to go smaller.  even when presented with broader options on the ballot, the more limited topic usually wins.

I don't understand this statement, capital gains taxes are taxes on individual's capital gains.  And it is factually incorrect that they only deal with income from stocks or corporations literally anything you own can be taxed if you sell it under capital gains.  This would make the topic individual and corporate tax reform, which is something never defended in the paper.http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=106799,00.html
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PaulK
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« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2011, 08:17:53 PM »

Its interesting that this thread emerges at the same time that there's a serious discussion of what the "core neg ground" is for potential topics, apart from "generics" that most seem to agree are less desirable than specific debates about the case.

How do the "bigger is better folk" reconcile the two? Its possible to have both a broad topic and one where there's specific engagement, but it sure doesn't encourage it.

To a certain extent, this is a false choice. The previous two resolutions were pretty narrow and there was still a lot of generic negative positions being shelled out close to the end of the year.

My problem more has to do with generic counterplans than disadvantages. The mechanism of the resolution doesn't change over the course of the year, which means a lot of debates about those counterplans are pretty stale. If we picked a broader topic that actually had link-uniqueness for generic disadvantages I think that the ability to make links specific to the aff would allow "core" ground to still be based on generics, but it will still encourage the breadth and specificity of research that the previous posts are clamoring for.
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charrigan
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Posts: 105


« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2011, 08:38:49 PM »

Generics are inevitable. No matter what, I will probably write a bad Word PIC and someone, somewhere will go for Sunsets or Veto-Cheato.

The question is: what types of debates do we want to incentivize with topic construction?

There's a choice: broad topics, where the Aff has substantial latitude in mechanism and many schools feel--rightly or wrongly--that their only recourse is consult Japan, the K, or signing statements, or narrow topics where the Aff has less choice but the Neg will feel like preparing to debate the case is manageable and will thus make the *research choice* to pursue that avenue.

You're right, its not one-to-one. Some squads will cut a specific CP/DA strategy to Cuban baseball or Societas Europaea no matter what. Some people just viscerally prefer to talk about threatening Israel with the plan.

But, given that we have *some* choice in topic construction, why not pick the avenue that we think will *best* influence the direction of the debates that we have?

In an era of "neg case" (meaning that, usually, debates are about what the Neg says, not the Aff; see debates featuring the Nietzsche K, Conditioning, etc.), the ONLY way we can have specific engagement is if the neg starts it. So, lets do what we can to make that happen.
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KnOlsn
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« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2011, 10:41:59 PM »

I do not think small topics prevent the negative from doing creative/abusive things.

The court topic was painfully small.  The amendment counterplan was still a ballot machine.  There were cards about all the affirmatives so the counterplan "looked" okay.   The same  sorta happened with the NPR CP and the "pay the farmers to do something else CP." They looked okay because there were cards about the affirmative.  We were just lucky the CPs weren't  slayers like the Ammendment CP.  

Really,  we should be concerned if there is a CP the negative can go for every round with solvency ev. about the affirmative.  If you go for an abusive CP with no cards about the affirmative all the time, no one likes you and judges will vote against you on theory.  If you have cards about the aff, then judges tend not to vote on theory. Two teams being totally equal, you usually don't want to be the team going for Consult Argentina even if you have an awesome binding consult card.

So, it might be good if the topic forces people to go for Sunsets or Line Item Veto or Consult NATO.  People get tired of it and those teams will lose.  Although, this may make the NDT look ugly.  You can't get the reputation of being the annoying Process CP team if only do it at the NDT.


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Malgor
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« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2011, 10:58:02 PM »


I'm just starting on more capital gains research-I'm sure there is literature both ways on it, but I haven't read enough to determine how balanced it is.  But, capital gains is also part of the corporate tax code

corporate tax on capital gains is distinct from individual tax on capital gains.
Mihir A. Desai and Gentry in 3 Harvard University and National Bureau of Economic Research, William M. Gentry Williams College and National Bureau of Economic Research November 2003, The Character and Determinants of Corporate Capital Gains

This Analyses of the impact of the tax system on corporate behavior typically emphasize the
role of the corporate income tax in altering firm financing and investment decisions
. These
financing and investment decisions, in turn, have been shown to depend critically on the wedge
between the costs of internal and external finance. One obvious and important source of internal
finance, aside from retained earnings, is the disposal of assets and investments. The role of taxes
in influencing these types of financing decisions may be non-trivial given the system of taxing
corporate capital gains
and the distortions that arise from costly external finance.
Despite the potential importance of asset sales as a source of financing corporate
investment, relatively little research has been done on how corporate capital gains taxes might
affect asset sales. Analyses of capital gains taxes have focused almost exclusively on the
realization behavior of individuals
with particular attention on the revenue consequences of
changing capital gains tax rates and on the impact on risk taking and expected asset returns. The
relative oversight of the corporate capital gains tax system is surprising given the substantial
volume of corporate capital gains U.S. corporations realized $146.5 billion of net long-term
capital gains, or 21 percent of their income subject to tax, in 1999 and the potentially
distortionary impact of these taxes stemming from interactions with capital market
imperfections.
In this paper, we address this oversight by detailing U.S. tax policy toward
corporate capital gains, characterizing the nature and distribution of corporate capital gain
activity, and examining the effect of these taxes on the financing and investment decisions of
firms.
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Adam Symonds
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Posts: 349


« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2011, 12:23:00 PM »

The question is: what types of debates do we want to incentivize with topic construction?

There's a choice: broad topics, where the Aff has substantial latitude in mechanism and many schools feel--rightly or wrongly--that their only recourse is consult Japan, the K, or signing statements, or narrow topics where the Aff has less choice but the Neg will feel like preparing to debate the case is manageable and will thus make the *research choice* to pursue that avenue.

Given our past topic selections, I guess I don't see these as the only options. The lesson the community seemed to take away from the constructive engagement/sanctions topic (99-00) seems to be: lists are good, because they are constraining. But as some folks have pointed out on this forum, we produced list topics like Europe that seemed completely unmanageable. I would suggest the lesson from the sanctions topic was that a very constraining (and contested) mechanism with a diversity of advantage areas (in this case a list of countries) provides a very good balance for aff creativity and negative ground. The crucial element was that there was a substantial literature base on both sides of the mechanism (removal of sanctions and constructive engagement) both generically and in the context of each country. The nuclear weapons topic is a good example, because there was always the deterrence DA.

I agree with other comments in this thread that we've gone too far in the other direction. We're creating narrower and narrower options for the affirmative. Fitzmeier spent at least an hour at the topic committee meeting last year asking what advantages the aff might be able to read beyond the economy -- turns out he was right with few exceptions.

After a couple of reads, I currently think the Tax Reform, Arab Spring, and Education papers have substantial controversies surrounding their primary mechanisms, such that they could be constructed to support a resolution with aff diversity and core negative ground. Many of the others, I am worried that there is not a deep well of negative advocates who think the primary mechanism is a bad idea. While there are certainly multilateralism bad arguments, for instance, there's almost no treaties bad literature -- primarily because we sign them all the time (Bush signed 153 according to the topic paper). I don't think multilateralism bad sustains the core negative ground in the way that sanctions good did or the deterrence da did.

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charrigan
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Posts: 105


« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2011, 10:44:13 PM »

Narrow topics are not synonymous with lists and are best when the Aff is limited in flexibility with relation to the topic mechanism but has a deep enough base of literature to innovate in terms of advantages/angles.

Some "small" topics are not as good as others. I doubt that many people would post defending Courts apart from the unique nature of learning about a legal topic. However, Courts would have been just as bad or worse if the Aff had been constrained by "overrule" but allow to select more than 4 cases to discuss. The Neg would have been less prepared and even *more* willing to abandon specific strategies in favor of generics like Amendment or Distinguish.

Europe had its own problems: no unified mechanism, and the Greece/Turkey portion was the *opposite* of narrow, allowing a wide latitude of assistance without a term of art to establish a T-style check on new Affs at the end of the year (I think there were like 8 hits for "conflict prevention assistance" on Google).

Of course, mistakes in topic writing will be made. Our community works extremely hard on the topic process (a task I greatly appreciate), but as others have noted, the schedule is compressed, at a time of the year when people are busy and hard-pressed to devote substantial energy to topic writing, and the crucial questions to be answered are often unclear and require an immense amount of work.

Still, current debate *practice* suggest we err toward the narrow. Specific engagement makes for the best debates. Given the predominance of "Neg case", specific engagement occurs *only* when the Neg chooses it. The way to encourage Negs to make that choice is to assure a degree of relative preparation, and that is best achieved when the topic seems manageable to research in a case-by-case manner.

Adam, your comment about "treaties bad" hits the point. The lack of generic ground is what makes the topic potentially *great*. Debates could be about the CTBT, the ICC, LOST, etc., and NOT about questions that demonstrate less specific engagement like whether or not the U.S. should be generally unilateralist. Of course, this depends on a topic that is relatively narrow (3, 5, or 7 treaties), but that is a choice we can collectively make.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2011, 10:45:57 PM by charrigan » Logged
Adam Symonds
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Posts: 349


« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2011, 11:50:33 PM »

Narrow topics are not synonymous with lists and are best when the Aff is limited in flexibility with relation to the topic mechanism but has a deep enough base of literature to innovate in terms of advantages/angles.

I 100% agree with this. But we diverge on the issue of topic specific generics. I get that your goal is to produce 3-5 cases to incentivize the negative to work on case specific research. My perspective is that without a core controversy negatives will inevitably go for super-generic process CPs with politics much more often than they would on a topic with a stable controversy. I use the example of treaties good/bad because other threads have already highlighted the high probability of process cps based on the history of the first treaties topic.

Some "small" topics are not as good as others. I doubt that many people would post defending Courts apart from the unique nature of learning about a legal topic. However, Courts would have been just as bad or worse if the Aff had been constrained by "overrule" but allow to select more than 4 cases to discuss. The Neg would have been less prepared and even *more* willing to abandon specific strategies in favor of generics like Amendment or Distinguish.

The problem with courts highlights exactly what I'm talking about: Courts had no unified controversy with solid literature on both sides. There is no ongoing legal debate about whether or not the current court should up and decide to overrule a bunch of cases or not. Had the topic been limited to desegregation cases or, hell, even just race cases, then perhaps there would have been a core controversy about the court needing to overrule bad case law to adopt a new social justice perspective. As it was, we had no core negative ground, only 4 unrelated areas. As a result, we got the Court Politics DA as our generic overrule bad da. What a terrific waste of time that was.

Still, current debate *practice* suggest we err toward the narrow. Specific engagement makes for the best debates. Given the predominance of "Neg case", specific engagement occurs *only* when the Neg chooses it. The way to encourage Negs to make that choice is to assure a degree of relative preparation, and that is best achieved when the topic seems manageable to research in a case-by-case manner.

Yes, specific engagement occurs only when the neg chooses it. I really see no reason to believe they choose it more when the topic is 3-5 unrelated treaties versus a strong central mechanism that has great literature for both the aff and the neg. I'll walk through this logic with you - If there are less aff cases, then it's easier for the negative to produce case specific research, therefore they will presumably decide that since they can accomplish this, they should do it. Sounds fine, but what's missing here is that 2NRs will have VASTLY different speeches against each of the treaties when the are neg. 2Ns don't like this - they want to reduce uncertainty as much as possible. Without a core generic neg approach, we get 2Ns who inevitably want to go for a politics DA and a process CP. My point is that for education's sake, we ought to have a topic that has intermediary ground - something that allows the neg a core negative approach towards the topic. Some generic CP options that may actually have topic specific net benefits. Sanctions had this, nukes had this, the environment topic in the 90s had this, good topics center around controversies.

Narrowing the topic cuts both ways - the narrower it gets for the aff (especially on list topics), the harder it is for the neg to do anything but read politics, process cp, and case takeouts.

Adam, your comment about "treaties bad" hits the point. The lack of generic ground is what makes the topic potentially *great*. Debates could be about the CTBT, the ICC, LOST, etc., and NOT about questions that demonstrate less specific engagement like whether or not the U.S. should be generally unilateralist. Of course, this depends on a topic that is relatively narrow (3, 5, or 7 treaties), but that is a choice we can collectively make.

This part really makes no sense to me at all. Lack of generic ground will not make this topic great. Your premise is that lack of core negative approach to the topic means negs are "forced" (although you euphemistically call it incentivized) into case debates. To that, I say no way. I think you are assigning far too much credibility to the internal link between topic size and neg strategic choices. Just like critical aff teams who don't want to debate the topic, neg teams that want to read process CPs and politics will do exactly that, topic be damned. I think this is MUCH more likely on a topic without unified negative ground. I am confident that if the sanctions topic had not required the aff to eliminate sanctions or if the agriculture topic had not required the aff to reduce/eliminate subsidies, the negative teams would have gone FURTHER from the case debate to get their process cps and politics da. Providing a controversial, contestable mechanism means the case debates dovetail with the general approaches the negs may take, making the case debate more inviting (or incentivized if you prefer). Tax reform, Arab Spring, Education - these topics all have clear controversies where the negative has a unified approach.

Lastly, I'll add that I think teams that want to debate the case will do so, regardless of topic. But I think we have more ability to influence the type and nature of off case arguments by virtue of how solid a debate the literature supports for the core mechanism of the topic. This is just one more reason why I think a topic like treaties, which is really a list of affs, is worse than several of the papers written this year.
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charrigan
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« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2011, 02:46:32 AM »

TOC time, so I have to be quick. Apologies if I pass over anything major.


Unified mechanism is good. A core DA that links to the topic is good, relative to the alternative of less-engaging generics. Specific debates about the case are best.

Or:

Narrow, unified topic >> Broad, unified topic >> Broad, disjointed topic

For those uncertain 2Ns, lets do what we can to make them feel comfortable enough to go into a tournament knowing that they can give 3 different winning 2NRs against the cases they'll likely debate. Then, maybe we'll hear more of the CBW DA vs. No First Use and less of the more general "Deterrence DA".


*Also: despite its use as an example, none of this is meant to be a broad endorsement of the treaties topic (which I'm "meh" on because I don't think a topic including the CTBT would win and don't want "treaties leftovers"). Just "narrow good", pick whatever controversy area you like, but when voting for the Rez, pick small.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2011, 02:53:09 AM by charrigan » Logged
tnielson
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« Reply #14 on: April 29, 2011, 02:54:28 PM »

I wrote the prison reform paper with the concept of a narrow topic in mind. There are a limited number of reentry programs with good solvency evidence. The mechanism is largely block grant funding which is pretty unified, even if uncovered in the actual paper - that's how it gets done federally. Adding a list of acceptable reentry programs at the end of the res would limit the discussion reasonably. There is excellent solvency debate about rehabilitation in both directions. A 2NR would always be ready. Reentry programs offer a unified, narrow research base for the season with little chance of losing inherency in an election year, unlike some of the other topics.

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