Oct 5, 2008

defining democratic society in the Nov/Dec LD resolution

"In a democratic society" establishes the context for the November/December LD resolution. Defining "democratic," then, is important to determining the choice of a value and a criterion. In fact, I'd argue that this could be the most important definition. Any value chosen by either side must be defended as the core value of a democratic society.

So, let's see some definitional choices. You have several options: you could define each word separately (which we'll do first), or define the phrase (which we'll attempt at the end).

Dictionary.com (Random House):
1. pertaining to or of the nature of democracy or a democracy
And, of course, democracy means:
government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
Merriam-Webster: 1: of, relating to, or favoring democracy. Democracy, of course, meaning:
1 a: government by the people ; especially : rule of the majority b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
Black's Law Dictionary (8th edition) defines democracy thusly: Government by the people, either directly or through representatives.

Notice a pattern? All of these are focused on democracy as a form of government, which is fine--and defensible. When combined with "society," the phrase would mean a people or culture sharing a representative or directly-elected government. This is the definition that probably squares best with a "social contract" case based on Rousseau's conception (in particular) or Locke's version (with slight modification or allowances).

However, "democratic" also has a different connotation. Dictionary.com:
2. pertaining to or characterized by the principle of political or social equality for all
Merriam-Webster's:
3: relating to, appealing to, or available to the broad masses of the people <democratic art>4: favoring social equality : not snobbish
These definitions work best with a value of equality or equal treatment under the law.

Next, "society." This shouldn't be too problematic. I like Merriam Webster's here:
3 a: an enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another b: a community, nation, or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests
Either one would probably work for the purposes of your case.

Can we define the phrase as a phrase? Perhaps. A definition that comes quite close is found in an analytical passage from Cuban Communism, by Horowitz and Suchlicki, p. 430:
A truly democratic society is defined not only by its party structure, constitution, delegation of authority, or electoral representation, but by its capacity to tolerate and incorporate dissent.
If felon disenfranchisement becomes a way of squelching dissent, we have a germane definition.

If I can find better examples, I'll update this entry.

Last, for a more substantial analysis of the normative attractions and problems of democracy, see the Stanford Encylopedia's entry on the subject. Particularly useful is the section discussing the values justifying democracy--a few of which could be used as core values in your constructive.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

My value for my Aff IS democracy. The ideals of the democracy can subsequently be the VC.

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, that's one way to go about it. How do you warrant your choice?

For example, I'd argue that democracy is instrumental to achieving some greater good--whether that's the "greater good," or liberty, or a fulfilling life for all, or peace, or...

Emmett said...

One of the best discussions on democracy, its development and nature, is from "We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families," a review of the 90s political violence in central Africa.

I can't find this passage in particular online, but a president of a central African nation responded to calls from the west for his country to have more and more democratic elections.

He responded that while he was interested in more direct political responsibility given to his people, he'd rather see enforcement of human rights be a greater priority.

My take on his response was that the nature of a society, such as one that would defend human rights, is a necessary precursor to more narrow governmental and political democracy.

Captain Princess said...

I think there is an argument for the neg using democracy. I'm thinking specifically of the Rawls' veil of ignorance. Granted, that specifically pertains to a progressive tax system but hear me out. Certain rights are inalienable not only in theory, but also in practice.

In a democratic society, equality is hard to quantify. Equality of access and under the law is generally how we go about assessing democratic values. Felons, by the nature of their crimes, impair others' abilities (temporarily or permanently) to participate in a democracy. Democratic societies, drawing collective strength from individuals has the right to punish individuals who are anti-democratic. While it might not be the most practical move (see Jim's earlier posts) the symbolism does have a value.

I imagine the value would be a "democratic society" and the VC would be "rule of law", or maybe even a Maoist "reeducation".

As one can guess, the word retain will have some value here. Do felons not retain for the prison sentence or for life? A specific definition of democracy is a must, as well as rights. Everyone can have rights but they can be in fact, forfeit.

Anonymous said...

The prepositional phrase in the beginning of the resolution sets the stage for the resolution to be specific to a democratic society only. Therefore it makes sense that if the negative proves that allowing felons to retain their rights is undemocratic, even if it is just, they would win the round. Justice and morality is only being looked at in a democratic context, and by valuing justice or any other concept, you ignore the modifier in the round, and thus are arguing a flawed conception of the resolution. Give an example similar to mine about the Negative. By valueing justice your ignorant of the fact that you can undemocratically achieve justice, and thus you would lose the round out of negligence to resolution wording, and are only proving part of the resolution true (conditionality). Therefore you must prioritize Democracy before anything else, as the implicit value in the round that is predicated upon in the resolution.

Sexy Beast said...

First, I think the affirmative has the advantage with the democratic society context. I am, and I'm sure a lot of affirmative cases will, that in a democracy, every voice must be heard. With a criterion of Mills Marketplace of Ideas, that's pretty easy to show isn't it?

And anon, I like most of your reasoning, but I definitely wouldn't attack an affirmative who shows that affirming leads to justice, because all he/she has to do is link justice to democracy (easily done) to win the round. At least, make sure not to agree that the affirmative achieves justice if your the negative and you're attacking them for achieving justice and not democracy.

Koreena said...

I honestly don't understand how "captain princess" can even attempt to run Veil of Ignorance of the NEG side. it is so easy to tear down...

I use it on my aff.




but...
do you think you can explain to me, how someone would run categorical imperative on the negative.
I find it entirely dumb, but thats just me.

Captain Princess said...

kareena,

Thanks for the insult.

My arguments better serve the neg. They aren't categorical imperative, which creates a burden of universal behavior. This about protecting the right to have equal rights in a society (what the veil of ignorance is predicated on). Felons, by their actions, alienate those rights from other people by making it hard or impossible to enact them. Society therefore has the right to determine an individual's democratic rights when that individual has violated the one most necessary to allow democratic societies to work.

And its not so easy to tear down. At what point in time are rights more important than the individuals that hold them? Isn't the point of jail time to deny criminals rights and opportunities they otherwise have in society?

Jim Anderson said...

I'll actually be posting some Rawlsian analysis later today, and we'll see how it squares with your thoughts, captain.

Everybody: chill.

Sexy Beast said...

Haha, you two are silly.

For the catagorical imperative, I would say, as the affirmative, that 1. It's universal. In fact, the affirmative advocates that in a democratic society, every citizen deserves the right to vote, whether felons or not. Obviously, that is a universal maxim as opposed to the negative, who advocates an arbitrary distribution of rights.

2. It doesn't treat felons as a means to an end. Neither negating or affirm treats felons in such a way, because the action proposed by the resolution does not propose any consequential result, it simply says that they ought to have the right. So because of that, we should look to the side of the resolution that respects the principles of a democracy, which clearly is the affirmative, because a just democracy allows every person operating under government jurisdicton the right to vote.

3. Affirming can stand alone in a kingdom of ends. If I have shown that the intentions based on affirming are just because we preserve the ideals of a democratic society, then the intentions operate soley upon goodwill, and affirming can stand alone in a kingdom of ends. But I don't even need to show that, because it is highly doubtful that the negative can show malicious intent in universal right distribution, so really, the catagorical imperative simply fails on all three acounts on the negative.

So as you can see, though I wouldn't recomend using the catagorical imperative on either side, the affirmative clearly upholds it better.

Buh! said...

Rawls is a illogical to run on affirmatve.

The point of the veil of ignorance is to judge by the actions of the individual, and these individuals are CRIMINAL, therefore, by the judgment of their actions, they are disenfranchised, which upholds the idea of a TRUE democracy.

Jim Anderson said...

buh, the point of the "veil of ignorance" is to establish a just society--it's a thought experiment about getting from the "original position" to, at least as Rawls sees it, liberal democracy. But I'll save the rest for my forthcoming post; I'm not going to steal my own thunder.

Shun the Nonbeliever said...

"At least, make sure not to agree that the affirmative achieves justice if your the negative and you're attacking them for achieving justice and not democracy."

Definitely, I am going to have my own definition of justice in my aff case just in case, that emphasises social dues, which of course I can link back to democratic society pretty easily. The argument I made previously why you should accept democracy over justice, I'll attack the negative conception of justice on a completely different level before I go on to justifying democracy. So you say why the neg justice is wrong, then you say why democracy should be the value. Two point attack.

I look forward to some extension on Mills Marketplace ideas for this resolution, so far the only impact I can think of is legitimacy and truth.

Sexy Beast said...

Well nonbeliever, if your thesis is that in a democracy, all citizens, whether felon or not, must have the right to vote, then the criterion of Mills Marketplace of Ideas and value of democracy just seems to fall into place. I can further exaplain if you need me to.

And for the whole rawlsian debate going on over here, I think that buh and Princess have a point, it seems to work better for the neg. However, the aff could turn that by saying that since a person under the influence of the veil of ignorance does not know what their position will be in society, they will always chose to have the right to vote held universally. They don't know whether or not they will be a memeber of the african american population, statistically proven to commit the most felonies, or a felon when the veil is lifted, so they will always affirm.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that the veil of ignorance could work on either side, although the affirmative may have the advantage of being able to connect Rawl's other philosophical works to affirming, such as his difference principle.

Hmm.... His difference principle... sounds like a viable affirmative criterion...

Virtuoso said...

I highly suggest that you don't predicate a negative case on "the veil of ignorance." If you did, I personally would:
- just turn your case on the basis of the original position (to which the veil of ignorance suscribes to) and the corresponding principles of justice (especially the first principle)
- outweigh your impacts because I'm achieving the Rawlsian conception of justice as fairness as a whole better then you are.

Read Jim's post on Rawls. It is a pretty decent summary of how Rawls can be used for this resolution. More importantly it warrants why Rawls can be better achieved by the affirmative. Either way, get ready for a lot of case turning if either the aff or neg are running Rawls or the Social Contract. Know the finer points of your philosophy well or you're in a world of hurt from better read debaters.

Anonymous said...

can somebody please further explain to me Mill's Marketplace of Ideas? thank you =)

Anonymous said...

Hi......LADY JUSTICE FLORIDA AGAIN SO SORRY ... SAW THAT ARTICLE ON THE DEATH PENALTY ...... AWWWWWW THAT IS SOMETHING THAT IF THEY MADE ME GOVERNOR ON FRIDAY, BY MONDAY I WOULD START SIGNING DEATH WARRANTS , AND HIRE THE BEST MEN TO BE ON MY STAFF 24 HRS A DAY TILL WE ELIMINATE DEATH ROW INMATES AND BRING DOWN THE COST OF FEEDING AND CLOTHING THE LOW LIFE SCUM OF THIS EARTH THAT KILLED AND RAPED ALOT OF PEOPLE YOU AND I OR PEOPLE WE KNOW AND LOVED OR ARE FRIENDS WITH ? OR WERE FRIENDS WITH ASHES TO ASHES AND DUST TO DUST . MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON THERE SOULS .... LADY JUSTICE.... ITS THERE TIME BEEN A LONNNNNG TIME COMING FACE IT decorabilla ?