Mar 18, 2009

guest blogger offers Neg arguments for vigilantism resolution

Guest-blogger and frequent commentator comakid has graciously offered to share some favorite Neg arguments on the vigilantism resolution. I edited lightly, mostly for spelling.
It's rather hard to write this, because I didn't really have a "set," pre-written case; on the neg, I found it more useful to go through my opponent's arguments one-by-one. I (and my judges, apparently) liked the extreme amount of clash.

On the other hand, I did have my favorite arguments, so I'll post the ones that make it nigh impossible for the affirmative to win.

My bias is a Policy background; I debate based on what outcome will be best. That means I tend to go for reductio ad absurdum and other stuff. Also, empirical examples make or break the round; reality always overrides theory.

Here we go:

I negate the resolution, Resolved: Vigilantism is justified when the government has failed to enforce the law.


Should be easy to defend. Yes, that IS a Hobbesian state of nature I'm referring to.

Value Criterion: Obviously, Governmental Legitimacy. I usually referenced the need for a federal monopoly of violence (thanks Jim!).

Here are my favorite contentions/ideas that I used during the round; they're solid.

Zero: Effort
Vigilantism is a short-term solution; my opponent can agree that a long-term application of vigilantism in any situation wouldn't solve crime, as violence perpetuates violence. Also, such a system would depend on vigilantism ALWAYS being morally correct and perfect, and at that point, there's no need for law or government anyway, since individuals would be... Christ-like, apparently. Ignoring that line of argumentation, the only real solution would be to put effort into rebuilding a NEW government or REFORMING the old one. Otherwise, you undermine the government's ability to rule, and we fall into a Hobbesian state of nature.

One: Naturalistic Fallacy
The resolution states that the government only needs to fail to enforce the law to justify vigilantism. But, is vigilantism justified when the law isn't good? My opponent has assumed that all laws are good and righteous, when I can easily point out such things as Jim Crow laws. Does my opponent REALLY want to stoop to that level? If he does, then:
A) He agrees the government doesn't have to support Jim Crow laws.
Oh, then all laws aren't justified then. And, therefore, vigilantism isn't justified (sometimes) when the government fails to enforce the law. That's conditional affirmation. He loses.
B) She says that a vigilante wouldn't support such laws.
My opponent fails to take groups like the KKK into consideration.
C) She finally admits that such laws would have to be enforced, for whatever reason.
My opponent has no moral standing. She's freely advocating, at this point, a government that freely abuses and dehumanizes certain members of society. And, at that point, there's no point in the law for those members of society; (and, by now, your opponent has probably turned her whole case around. You can say why vicious racism is wrong, right?)
D) He says Jim Crow laws don't count; I need a broader view.
How about China's One-Child policy? Should vigilantes enforce THAT law if the government fails to do so? It gets worse and worse from here on out.

Two: Social Contract Theory (don't bring up the word: "Hobbes")
A government's job is to represent the people's best interests; the reason we concede power to it is because it NEEDS that power to protect our interests. Therefore, we also put power into the GOVERNMENT to decide when and where to enforce the law. It is not the right of the people to choose when and where to support the government's decision; otherwise, my opponent is directly choosing a state of nature, with no government. I already said why that's bad; that's why peace is my value.

Three: Overkill (My fav.)
Killing shoplifters.

What? Not enough?

Okay. Obviously, the resolution has stated that the "jury" part of due process has failed to work. I'm fine with that; it's the single advantage (for all intents and purposes) that the affirmative has. The other part of due process is the punishment. The resolution only says that vigilantism is justified; we have no clue what such a person could do. Let's say the government decides that a shoplifter (a single mother in poverty) doesn't have to pay a fine or spend jail time. At that point, the government has failed to enforce the law. Let's say Joe Brown, our vigilante, comes up and brutally murders the girl to "enforce" the law.

Even better, one opponent said that vigilantes could simply "imprison" bad people. That brings vivid images of poor shoplifters in basements, chained to a wall for months, maybe years, all across the nation... yuck. Clearly, there's no philosophical basis for this argument, but I (and my judges) liked it.


India Opal said...

Two comments:

My LD coach is recommending a theory debate standpoint (w/o mentioning the dread phrase) on the Overkill attack; we cannot affirm shoplifters/runners of red lights/jaywalkers being brutally, since that is simply immoral. Therefore, the extreme examples that would demand the judge always negate should be eliminated from the round. I feel uncomfortable doing this, but there's really no other defense.

And for the government choosing which laws to enforce and when, Affirmative would (probably) say alternatively, the government is from the people/the government fails the social contract. They could also give examples of the governments favoring hegemony towards majorities or those well-connecting, ruining equality before law.

I'm putting those down as rebuttals, but let me know if they're not enough, or if they help you.

~India Opal, Novice

India said...

**change "we cannot affirm shoplifters/runners of red lights/jaywalkers being brutally, since that is simply immoral" by making it "brutally KILL." Thanks and sorry for the typo.

India Opal said...

Also about the suggestions:
There are 3 ways of the gov't failing to enforce the law, not all involving the jury's failure. (If there IS even a jury.)

1) Natural Scarcity--there isn't a policeman on every corner. Applicable to both Aff and Neg (Neg by social contract providing for these failures, as in my previous post on the social contract).

2) Technical mistake frees criminal. Not much to do with this one, but for Neg say that we must respect due process even for criminals. (ex: warrants) Aff, use recidivism.

And 3) the one used to most frequently and generically, the gov't consciously dropping a case. Then, the possibly-existent jury would have dropped it. This is mostly affirmative's case.

Sorry to write so much and still plead for attention.

India Opal

P.S. Ignore other typos in my comments, I'm sleepy.

Matt said...


I think it is important for Aff to draw a distinction between, the government "not doing something" ie prosecute a crime and "not being able to do something"

In the first the government is still able to catch the criminal, it still has the proper rescources to do so. It has the ABILITY to enforce the law.

In the Second the government does not have the ABILITY to enforce the law.

As AFF I would try to go for the second...


Also for the overkill contention I would argue it is abuse for the Neg to specify individual crimes because then the resolution isn't being negated. If we were to debate a specific crime then the resolution would be required to specify in the text. The Negative must negate as a general rule.

Also I am going to run an analysis argument that says the purpose of the resolution is to look at violent crimes or other serious crimes.

I love the second point though... Thats amazing...

Yuu said...


Thinking of the opposite of the overkill point, how would the neg rebut when the aff goes on a rant about preventing mass murder? would you just assert that the aff needs a broader POV and shove the overkill point in? There's a wiser way to do it, isn't there?

Anonymous said...

A few things

I'm not debating this res (my state ends debate in February) but if I were on ff i would probably define the phrase "enforce the law" as providing a just code for society to live by or something (defining law in a philosophical sense, rather than a legal def). with that, I'm pretty sure your second point isn't an insta kill (as it would be with any other definition).

against your social contract argument, it seems as if you say we give up the power to check our government. Were the civil rights protesters in the 50s taking away power that they were due to give to the government because they wanted to only obey some laws?

I like your third point, as it really hits home the argument that vigilante enforcement is based off his mood that day. this is my favorite, as a vigilante is like an excutioner with no judge and jury to limit his axe.

Against your use of Hobbes, i would (obliviously) have to paint a more Lockian one. And, lets just take Hobbes to his extreme. In order to ensure total peace, why don't we chain everyone up and feed them a constant stream of sedatives. Any government that is not doing that has a higher interest than peace (changing the above situation would lower the maxium state of peace a society could be in, and thus would not be upholding your value.

Even though he got me to nationals against someone with 2 more years LD experience, i really don't like Hobbes. His governments always end up imprsioning everyone.

ldn00b said...

are you going to do anything on the NCFL rez? Obnoxious to research, kind of fun to debate, as I found out today.