Oct 31, 2008

LD mailbag: aff and neg case ideas

Today's LD mailbag, about the Nov/Dec LD resolution, comes with two shell cases. Let's see if we can add a little yolk.
I'm a fairly new debater and I'm having a little trouble building my case (I've already been working on it for two days) and I'm still a bit stumped. I was wondering if you could give me a few pointers or just point me in the right direction.

Here is my Aff case so far.

Value- Justice
Criterion-Distributive Justice

cont 1-Felons are citizens
(evidence)
sub point A -all citizens should have the same rights
(evidence saying because all felons are citizens and they follow the same laws and have same legal duties the government should not be able to take away their rights if the felon has already served their sentence or is serving at the time)

sub point B-felons are equal to other citizens
(evidence supporting that felons are just like other people not completely moral or immoral and disenfranchising them is unjust)

Cont 2 Disenfranchisement is unjust punishment (I'm not quite sure how to tie it into my value and criterion if possible)

subpoint A-does not serve as a deterrent
(no evidence yet)

subpoint B- works against rehabilitation
(no evidence yet)

cont 3-???
First, "distributive justice" doesn't seem to fit as a criterion, since it doesn't match the second contention, and only obliquely relates to the first. Instead, we might have a dual criterion. One is a utilitarian justification: just punishment deters crime and rehabilitates felons (Contention 2). The other is a side constraint: punishment must be given within the bounds of due process and equal treatment under the law (Contention 1). I think those, if properly argued and defended, could be sufficient grounds to reject disenfranchisement of felons.

Subpoint A of the first contention needs help, though. If all citizens deserve the same rights, what justification do we have for taking away felons' rights to life, liberty, and property? We have to show either that voting is fundamental to citizenship in a way that those rights aren't, or come up with some other principle of justice that disenfranchisement violates, and retool the contention.

Okay, on to another case.
I'm a novice and I was to hoping to get away from the social contract on the negative side.

A teammate gave me the idea of running how felon's mindset is bad for enfranchising them. Also, something about how that is demonstrated by a town with a non-felon population of 3,000 and in the same county there's a prison with a population of 5,000.
My value would be societal welfare, and my criterion would be governmental legitimacy.

The problem is, I'm having a hard time understanding how to link it all together and how to argue it without being subjective... especially after writing my affirmative case.
The first argument, that felons are somehow unfit to vote, is usually argued in this way: felons have committed a crime and therefore have bad moral judgment; the state has the obligation to protect itself against those with bad moral judgment; therefore, the state has the obligation to disenfranchise felons. Still, the social contract lurks just outside, reappearing should any affirmative ask one simple question: in a democratic society, where does the right to vote come from?

The mathematical hypothetical example given, at first, seems powerful. If 5,000 incarcerated felons vote en masse to elect a soft-on-crime candidate, despite the wishes of the peaceful minority, won't the social fabric be torn apart?

Not exactly, for several reasons. First, a society in which more than half the population are felons is hard to describe as "democratic;" it would be so awash in criminality to necessitate a tyrannical government, or have such terrifyingly bad laws as to strain credibility. Second, such a society would be so economically stagnant and hard to manage (who's going to keep that many prisoners under lock and key?) that it would soon implode. Third, the only realistic scenario under which this would take place is a "prison town" where the inmates are mostly residents of some other locale. (That's how it works in the U.S., at least. The prison isn't your legal residence.)

So, unless I'm making some huge error in fact or reasoning, I find that argument difficult to sustain.

If you have case questions, either post them in the comments or email them to me, and I'll tackle them here on the blog.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

If I define retain as to keep, and I know that to keep means that the felons have never lost it, can someone explain which side and why I can use that definition on?

LR4N6 said...

I don't think you have a choice as to which side you use it on. It's the only legitimate definition of "to retain" However, if you have Aff, and your opponent is less than talented, don't define it.

Anonymous said...

I am a novice and I'm still trying to figure out the whole value and criteria thing. so if i want to run justice as my value for my neg case and i said that justice is achieved through treating equals equally and unequals unequally, what should my criterion be?

Jim Anderson said...

Well, anonymous, are you going to consider justice as a matter of individual rights, or societally?

Anonymous said...

I think i'm going to go with societally because if i go with individual rights, it would sound more like a affrimative argument. Do you think that uphold the social contract is an exceptable creteria?

Jim Anderson said...

I think that would work. Of course, that brings up another important choice: which contract? Locke? Rousseau? Rawls? (Locke seems to be a strong fit for the Neg.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, by the way, do you think that saying that felons are not part of the "democratic" part of society is okay? Because I know that they are still part of society, but I want to say that they are not part of the "democratic" part because they impair others' ability to participate in the society.

Jim Anderson said...

You have to be careful there. Otherwise, your opponent could argue that the resolution would be meaningless--if they don't exist "in a democratic society," then what are we arguing about?

Rather, it's best to argue that a democratic society is founded on the rule of law, equality amongst its citizens, and human dignity. Felons lay waste to all three. Felons, thus, are anti-democratic.

Anonymous said...

One last question, do you have any arguments against the neg. argument of purity of the ballot box? (I know that's an aff. point, but I was wondering what I could say to refute it.) Thanks

Jim Anderson said...

Reiman's article (I wrote about it elsewhere) discusses that argument--essentially, we let all manner of "bad folks" vote. Alcoholics, adulterers, inveterate gamblers... people who are stupid or mean or ignorant all get to vote. Criminals aren't so different from the rest of us. Check out the Reiman piece--well worth your time.

Sexy Beast said...

I saw a girl run Hobbes on the negative. I like it, she was convincing

Jim Anderson said...

And the Aff didn't have a good Hobbes-ain't-exactly-democratic counter?

Sexy Beast said...

Nope. It was novice rounds. I still liked her use of Hobbes, though of course it appears to be the very definition of a totalitarian monarchy.

Dia said...

Do you know where i could find evidence for felon mindset as a reason for disenfranchisement?

Also, what other points could i argue along with that if my value is societal welfare and my criteria is governmental legitimacy?

Sexy Beast said...

Isn't Gov. Legit. usually a value?

Anonymous said...

do you think it would make sense to use the second contract of the social contract on the aff. I was thinking of using that the validity of the social contract is questionable because the felons don't have a voice in it.

Jim Anderson said...

Dia, I'm still looking for any good empirical evidence (or a strong philosophical case) that felons as a class would vote poorly or have the wrong "mindset" to vote well. If I find something useful, I'll pass it on.

Anonymous said...

In response to a question about how fit felons are to vote, if you want to bypass the standard "felons have shown unfit moral judgment, and, as society has a vested interest in upholding the moral views of the majority, felons must be disenfranchised", there was research done on a psychological level that found the frontal lobes of felons' was underdeveloped, making their decision making skills susceptible.

Anonymous said...

anonymous can you post a link to the article that states a felon's frontal lobe is less developed, it's good evidence

Parth B said...

Any one have any ideas for a good neg?

Anonymous said...

I still don't know how to make a criterion out of my value. If my value is liberty, what would my criterion be for the november/december topic? Also, tell me how you got there.

Veronica said...

I have a huge question. Has anyone found like any hard evidence proving that if felons were able to vote that it would have changed the election. I mean I know its common logic, but I need evidence.