Oct 1, 2009


Update: The November/December Lincoln-Douglas debate resolution has been released:
Resolved: Public health concerns justify compulsory immunization.
Scientists and public health officials get frustrated, even angry, by vaccine dissenters, a small, but increasingly vocal minority. After all, the argument runs, vaccinations have undoubtedly saved millions of lives since their inception. The risks are minimal; the benefits massive. Besides, without compulsion--without the greatest possible protection of the population--those benefits aren't seen.

So, from an LD perspective, how might we approach the resolution?

Affirmatives will probably use broad-based utilitarian reasoning. If, on balance, compulsory vaccination saves more lives than it puts at risk, then the decision, societally speaking, is a no-brainer. Assemble a few statistics and expert quotes, value "life" and set your criterion to utility, and let logic do the work.

Negatives could respond by attacking the stats, or taking a more philosophical approach, citing the John Stuart Mill adage that "Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign." This is the classic argument against inoculation; go back to the 1907 anti-immunization book Vaccination by John Pitcairn to see an example.

The rejoinder to this sort of argument is to quote Mill against Mill, as the Washington State Board of Health does in this vaccination briefing [pdf].
John Stuart Mill in On Liberty wrote that “The only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” This thesis has become known as the harm principle. The Immunization Advisory Committee endorsed the harm principle and interpreted it to mean that vaccine mandates are justifiable when without them:
• An individual’s decision could place others health in jeopardy
• The state’s economic interests could be threatened by the costs of care for vaccine preventable illness, related disability or death and for the cost of managing vaccine preventable disease outbreaks
• The state’s duty of educating children could be compromised
The crucial thing about communicable disease is that it requires no agency on the part of its victims. Innocents are vectors, too.

Since the recipients of vaccinations are most often children, the persons being harmed--or at least risking harm--aren't legally able to accept or refuse inoculation on their own. As the briefing shows, this adds an "it takes a village to raise a (healthy) child" dimension to the debate.

Returning to Pitcairn, at the close of his book, a diatribe against "man-made science" interfering with "God's handiwork" points to another classic argument: that vaccination tampers in God's domain. Updating this logic for the evolutionary era, some anti-vaccinationists will argue that inoculations destroy natural immunities or upset nature's balance. (Want to really go crazy here? Open to a page from the policy playbook, and argue that vaccination is responsible for overpopulation and its concomitant harms. Just don't be surprised if your judge finds you scary.)

Lastly, the Board's briefing cited above refers to allowable exemptions for religious reasons, another argument both sides must prepare for.

For a backgrounder, Wikipedia's page on anti-vaccination arguments is a great place to start. I also like Douglas Diekema's accessible intro to the ethical debate [pdf].

Added: An example of the practical effects of the contemporary debate on vaccination.

Added 10/1: For an accessible introduction to the vaccination controversy from a pediatrician's perspective, I highly recommend Jamie Loehr's The Vaccine Answer Book. It's clearly organized, scientifically minded, and humane.

Added 10/4: I survey some critical definitions.

Added 10/11: An initial list of value/criterion pairs.

Added 10/12: Some thought-provoking links, and a critical question. What if they had a vaccine for smoking cessation? Would public health concerns--which in the modern day certainly include smoking--justify compulsory anti-smoking vaccination?

Added 10/16: How far does the logic of immunization stretch? One blogger considers Gardasil as a paradigm for the question.

And read this NewScientist article on the potential for a "universal flu vaccine."

Added 10/18: An article discussing the tensions in public health law, with implications for the resolution.

Added 10/21: Two parents talk about why they're in favor of vaccination. Hint: it's for the children.

Added 10/22: Why public health law threatens us with "medicalized tyranny."

Added 10/25: Some lines of argument for the affirmative.

Added 11/14: An open thread: what good/bad arguments did you face this weekend?

Added 11/22: In which I tackle the dubious 98.5% statistic.

Added 11/24: The Siracusa Principles as a criterion for the Neg.

Added 12/7: The future brings us... personalized vaccines?

More links and analysis to follow. Add your questions and thoughts in the comments. (This post was updated and edited from a preview written during the summer.)


JeremyB-TN said...

Mr. Anderson in doing research for this debate I recommend looking up one Gordon Pierson. His father is the pastor at our church and he is THE reason we no longer have live virus Polio vacinations. Worth a look.

Jim Anderson said...

Thanks for sharing, Jeremy. For those interested, Gordon Pierson is one of the subjects of this news article about vaccine-related complications and legal fallout.

Grif O. said...

Am I the only one who feels that "justified" resolutions are helping to make LD more and more like CX? =/

Still, interesting squirrels could result if you win nuanced definitions of the scope of "public health concerns." For example, does it constitute "concern" if a disease will primarily affect governments? Small businesses? Scientific enterprises? Military? (People must be immunized to seasonal influenza because it especially hurts the older, sleep deprived intelligence officers who keep us safe from terrorists, perhaps?) What if we argue that HIV/AIDS must be included in the scope of affirmation - can we fairly force people to be immunized against a virus they're able to avoid on their own? If so, is that a slippery slope that allows us to ban potentially dangerous activities as well?

...Just some musings.

Matt said...

I would go with a Societal Toolbox argument against alot of those totally out of whack arguments. No logical society is going to use it for HIV/AIDS.

The Topic is going to have lots of nuances to it if you think hard about it. There are some interesting implementation issues that can be brought into play for either side.

oceanix said...

How do you think an Objectivist case would play out on the Neg?

V: Objectivism
Cr: Individual Rights

1. Compulsory immunization violates individual rights, religion (i.e. Jehovah's Witness)
2. Forced immunization takes away power of reason; objectivism suggests persuasion rather than force
3. Individuals choice whether or not to get immunized and potentially get the diseas

One of the points I'm concerned about with this is the use of Objectivism while also using the Jehovah's Witness example. Objectivism seems to be contradictory completely to religion. Any suggestions?

Maestro said...

Wow, thanks for all the help over the years. I am a 3rd year freshman LD'er, and your site has nudged me in the right direction several times. I just realized it was blogspot site, so I'm thanking you.

As for the resolution, it's the classic individual vs. society. I think for the neg, the social contract can be used a lot for personal sovereignty and the limit of goverment's power.

Matt said...

@ oceanix

1. Objectivism is not a value. What is inherently good about objectivism?

2. Indiv rights does not link to obejctivism. Objectivist theory justifies social Darwinism. Only the strong get rights.

3. Religion does not provide an absolute right to do something. This violated seperation of church and state if we adjust our policy around religion.

4. If religious rights cannot be violated we devolve into theocracy

5. Persuasion only goes so far. the refusal of a few jeopardizes everyone. Government needs to act now to stop the spread of disease.

6. Individuals choice not to can infringe on the rights of others not to be immunized. Under this FW diseases such as Polio would still be prevalent

John_Galt said...

@ Matt

1. I'd agree with you here, Objectivism isn't a good value, perhaps a Criterion.

2. Objectivism is largely about Individual Rights.

3. The actual Church-State separation is worded, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" One could argue that vaccination would prohibit the free exercise of it.

4. I highly doubt it. We respected the right of conscientious objectors during times of war but didn't devolve into a theocracy.

5. If an act is done by compulsion it is ipso facto immoral.

6. How? They can receive immunization, without infringing on the rights of others.

Even if it were, there is no right to be immunized any more then there is a right to have a TV.

Jim Anderson said...

Maestro, you're welcome.

Also, as far as the social contract goes, it can be used for both sides: more collective versions, like Rousseau's "general will," might be used to justify compulsion for the sake of "herd immunity."

As others have observed, it's only in moral theories like Objectivism that compulsion is inherently immoral. Most contractualist views allow for compulsion to uphold public safety. The SEP's article on coercion might be a useful read.

dlutyf said...

How would utilitarianism work as a vc for the aff?

Like, even if we violate rights, and religious beliefs,it does not matter since we are creating the greatest good.

Jim Anderson said...

dlutyf, absolutely utilitarianism can be run on the affirmative--in fact, utilitarian reasoning will probably underpin a vast number of Aff approaches.

Cherymenthol said...

What about arguments stemming from "public health concerns" I am mean drunk driving is a public health concern as well as global warming, but do they require compulsory immunization. And as far as that goes what compulsory immunization will we give, some wonder drug that cures everything when ever a "public health concern arises"? And finally what about individuals who have already been proven to be allergic to the vaccination (when or if they have previously been vaccinated)?

Leonard said...

I don't know about the beginning of your concerns, but I think I can address your final question:
from I've gathered thus far, I think that even in mandatory vaccinations situations such as the eradication of smallpox in the UK and parts of the US, the individuals who would be harmed more than helped by the vaccination were exempted. These would be people who might suffer considerably or even die from their allergies: it wouldn't be worth it to vaccinate them. I assume they were warned to be extremely careful in avoiding contact with possible places for infection.

Matt said...

@ John_Galt

2. Objectivism is about certain rights. The problem is when we get into Social Darwinism the question becomes are we actually upholding rights? Objectivism's flaw when it comes to rights theory is it assumes that all rights exist externally of intervention. However negative rights require active protection which cannot be offered under an objectivist FW first because that would be an interference into the daily lives of others and second because that would restrict the rights of other people to do what they want.

3. However we are not impeding the free exercise of religion. If are simply saying that some religious values need to be suspended. Its the same situation as the one with polygamy. Just because a practice is supported by a religion doesn't mean we cant make laws contrary to it. Otherwise religions have conflicting beliefs and we have major areas where there are legal grey areas. If my religion says I am allowed to, then under your interp, shouldn't I be able to make human sacrifice? Or unwilling human sacrifice if that is justified?

4. as an extension to my last point. If we need to adjust our policy around religion our entire government becomes one that is constitutionally governed by religious beliefs.

5. oh? there are a couple different arguments against this. The first is of course the simple utilitarian FW where we justify actions if they produce the most good. You could also look at it under a contractualist perspective, and the problem encountered is there are thousands of things compulsory. Like following the laws, giving up freedoms to the government. Are these also ipso facto immoral? The third looks at this problem from almost a Foucaultian perspective. Power is everywhere, and thus actions and societal norms stem from the flow of power, be it uni or mulitdirectional, depending on your power schema. Then the logical next step is that many of our actions are coerced by society even if unconsciously. For example rules of etiquette.

6. Assume there are ten people in a hypothetical town. If there is an outbreak of disease X and 5 people choose to get vaccinated and the other 5 do not. 5 People will get sick or become carriers. This means if we go into another generation the next 10 people will be automatically susceptible to the disease and are at a risk for getting sick. Conversely if we mandate that all ten people get immunized then we eliminate the ability of the town to contract the disease. As we move out into a more holistic view this problem magnifies as communities will begin to infect each other and introducing the disease in previously healthy regions.

Matt said...

@ Cherymenthol

The answer to the first part of your question is no, drunk driving is not a PHC. Drunk Driving on something similar is a public safety concern. Public health is about diseases not cars. There are some good definitions available.

dlutyf said...

How would you feel, on the affirmative, for an observation, that says we don't have to make everyone take it. Because let's say 80 percent of the people take it, and the 20 that don't take it are the people that have religious beliefs against it. So it would be very hard to spread, if that many people have vaccinated.


Anonymous said...

With the last resolution i was really tempted into running skepticism, wasn't best res for that, but i think there might be something behind this, I am not sure maybe just its not possible or because there really is no means to determine what is justified and what isn't we can not negate.

Once again just a thought....

Anonymous said...

@ dlutyf

Well the resolution doesnt talk abou whether or not they all get it. An assumption can made that everyone or no one gets it depeneding on the Neg or Aff way your thinking.

Jaycie said...

Does anyone have a good way to define 'pubic health concern' as a whole? I have it separated and I don't want it that way. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

@dlutyf Saying this would open up a huge oppertunity for theory args if you advocate that the aff can claim examptions. If you are going to run it you'll need some soild backing on how this doesnt violate reciprocity.

Klank said...

I know that with a criterion of utilitarianism, you could build a solid case for the aff. The only problem I have is that I'm one of the few that like to have a unique case. I believe the neg would be able to be just as equally prepared to face utilitarianism and therefore possibly utility would be rather difficult to use after all. I was wondering (and I don't know if your working on a list of value and criterion pairs right now) how societal welfare as value with any of these criterions 1.universiality, 2.cost-benefit-analysis, 3.veil of ignorance, 4.Duties ( the half the coincides with positive rights, part of kant's categorical imperative).

Klank said...

also 5. Harm principle-other regarding. any of these criterions that any one thinks would be bast to go nicely with the value of societal welfare? thanks

Anonymous said...

http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/Books/lbb/x790.htm is an excellent source to start with to get an idea of the whole evidence aspect of this resolution.

Jim Anderson said...

Klank, yeah, a list of V/C pairs is on the way. But in the meantime, a few thoughts / questions about your ideas, which are, I should add, interesting:

1. Not sure what you mean by universality--universal rights? If so, is there a universal right to life that trumps someone else's autonomy?

2. Cost-benefit is utilitarianism in disguise, if the costs/benefits are largely a matter of lives saved/lost. (Economic arguments can also be spun in utilitarian terms, because they're how people put quantitative values on qualitative things. See "hedonic damages," for example.) It definitely works with societal welfare; it's how governments (which represent their societies) mostly make these kinds of decisions.

3. The veil of ignorance is a general approach to justice--how would you show that a person behind the veil would choose a society in which compulsory vaccinations are justified?

4. Which duty would compulsory vaccinations fulfill?

5. The "harm principle" seems, on face, to support the Neg; even if you can make it work for the Aff, I'm not sure if it links as strongly to Societal Welfare as a value, since its focus is so much on the individual as a rights-bearer.

dlutyf said...

Does anyone have any critique ideas for neg?

Matt said...

@ Jim

I have to disagree about Harm Principle. The Harm Principle is the fundamental argument FOR vaccination. The Harm Principle is defined as

"That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right... The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."

This is why any negative based on the idea that "Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign" is a complete strawman. Mill talks about how this is only true when its at an individual level but can be overridden by society to prevent harm to others. Mill even says that the individuals own good isn't enough to prevent that harm to him if it will prevent harm to others. Mill is a utilitarian and the harm principle reflects that.

Matt said...

@ dlutyf

I assume by "critique ideas for neg" you mean Kritikal positions?

Bio-Power is obvious
Fear (maybe?)

Jim Anderson said...

Matt, the problem is, the non-vaccinated person isn't necessarily harming others by refusing vaccination. There is certainly a risk of harm--but that risk is decreased by others' voluntary vaccination. Is the risk substantial enough to merit compulsion? (If only Mill had tackled this particular subject!)

Of course, this can be rebutted in at least two ways: first, that vaccinations are not necessarily complete immunity, as the vaccine might only reduce symptoms or make a disease nonfatal, and thus the risk of harm is conceivably greater; and second, that children not yet old enough to receive the vaccine would also be at risk.

Overall, Mill's overarching value is liberty, and any socially punitive action must not decrease society's liberty--which compulsory vaccination arguably does. The Neg can claim that there's no risk at all of violating Mill's harm principle in a world where pervasive education and financial incentives lead to the same (or even greater) rate of vaccination as compulsion.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this resolution it has been a huge help to me. I'm in a debate class and I couldn't find anything good to hold onto for a solid case that i'm writing. Thanks again
Sincerely Greg

Jim Anderson said...

Greg, We're just getting started. Stick around for value/criterion pairs, article analysis, and more!

Matt said...


Mill himself was a rule utilitarian, so we can logically assume that the harm principle follows this idea. That means the actual harm in a given circumstance doesn't matter when making a general statement rather we must take into account the benefits and harms of the general scenario. This means that we can formulate a rule for the harm principle with recent historical examples so long as we remain in a similar social setting. Also The rule can be set via theoretical analysis.
Mill wasn't like Bentham in the regard that he looked at quality as well in the calculation of util. So we would balance the theoretical and precedent based benefits against similar harms.
Harm Theory actually ends up just collapsing to version util in a sense. If the action is good for others we can harm the liberties of the one.

Jim Anderson said...

Matt, I'm about persuaded. Mill has definitely been read as a rule utilitarian, although one of the most respected Mill scholars, Roger Crisp, claims flat-out that "Mill is an act utilitarian." (His book Mill on Utilitarianism is available, in pieces, via Google.)

And then, of course, there's the question of whether rule utilitarianism collapses into act utilitarianism anyway. I direct the interested lay reader to the SEP's article on the subject.

Regardless, I think you've stated a pretty good case for using the harm principle on the Aff.

Shannon said...

Will some one help me refine this argument? i was looking and found a good card against Mill.

Pediatrics in Public Health
Philosopher Joel Feinburg
(Refining Mill's Harm Principle)

"To be justified, restriction of an individual's freedom must be effective at preventing the harm in question and no option that would be less intrusive to individual liberty would be equally effective at preventing the harm."

the reason i think this would be good against the Harm principle is you can say something about Herd Immunization and how all individuals would protect themselves if given the option. But i am not sure i've been debating for two years and i am in middle school so its hard to come by quality help...

Matt said...

Yeah with philosophy you can almost an unlimited number of interpretations often with no right one.
Also In a sense all moral theories collapse to at some level to consequentialist ethics. Even Kant collapse to consequentialism when the Justification for the universality CI as well as the KoE.... Im not sure how Rawls/Nozick at what level they become consequential but im sure they do. Rawls I suppose gets their when we look at the justification for the original position which is the pursuit of fairness.

On an interesting side note I wonder how Deconstructionism could be used in a block against any deontological theory. Although im not sure how that would work really since Derrida argues that everything becomes contradictory at some level but there has to be a logical limit of deconstruction.

Matt said...


The card as I see may be better used on Neg as a FW justification for A counter-plan. Although I see your point that it would be very effective at pushing Aff to achieving their solvency rather than just the "sufficient risk of a link" that is sometimes used.

Lauren said...

On the Aff do you think a good counteradvocacy would be that compulsory immunization is for all except those with government permission not to be vaccinated?

Anonymous said...

Why is no one mentioning paternalism? I would think that would be the most used philosophical concept in this resolution.

The Fundamentalist said...


I don't really think that you want to push counter-plans or solvency here, considering that this is LD debate. I mean, even if the negative presents a legitimate counter-plan to compulsory immunization, that doesn't prove the resolution to be false; it just proves that there are two just options. And, as far as 'solvency', I don't think that anyone is going to buy that the affirmative has to prove that immunizations are always perfectly effective. Leave the policy arguments in policy debate. :)

Anti-Insular said...

The Fundamentalist,

You are wrong. Arguments that were initially restricted to Policy such as Theory, Topicality, Conditionality, etc. have become firmly integrated into Lincoln-Douglas debate. The difference is that we add our own twist to it.

Don't say that we shouldn't accept typical policy arguments such as Plans and Counter-plans, especially when the vast majority of successful TOC debaters have them at their arsenal. If you really want to advocate their removal, why don't you work on making a sound theory argument against them instead of claiming no one will buy them.

oceanix said...

If that's the case, is there any room for objectivism in LD?

Jim Anderson said...

Anti-Insular, all well and good for the TOC, but for NFL LD, plans and counterplans aren't part of the game. That's what the ol' fundamentalist is talking about.

From the NFL's official description of LD: Lincoln Douglas debate is designed to center on a proposition of value. A proposition of value concerns itself with what ought to be instead of what is. A value is an ideal held by individuals, societies, governments, etc. Debaters are encouraged to develop argumentation based upon a values perspective. To that end, no plan (or counterplan) will be offered by the debaters. In Lincoln Douglas Debate, a plan is defined by the NFL as a formalized, comprehensive proposal for implementation. The debate should focus on reasoning to support a general principle instead of particular plans and counterplans. Debaters may offer generalized, practical examples or solutions to illustrate how the general principle could guide decisions.

Matt said...

Honestly I find Counter-Advocacy A Big part of Value debate. For example on this resolution, while maybe not a traditional counter-plan, I think It is important to think about the value of voluntary immunization or an incentivized immunization. Is a proposition of value correct if their are better options? that being said I dislike the random Plan Inclusive Counterplan's that talk about consulting people, or doing the resolution in a month, or basically doing the same exact action.
However i do think that traditional arguments are best and that if you base your case on semantics that you should lose.

Geordin said...

Jim -- Or anyone else for that matter --

Do you think there is room in the scope of "Public Health Concerns" to look at measures taken to combat overpopulation? I was thinking of looking at the case of India in the 1970s, where citizens where tricked into and forcibly sterilized to prevent them from having children. I mean, that is technically "immunization" of the kind. It's a bit of a stretch, but it might be interesting to ponder the possibilities of "public health concerns" and "immunization" being other than the classic disease-vaccine.

Jim Anderson said...


As I note at one of the links up above, the prospect of an anti-smoking vaccine is very real. Anti-obesity vaccines are plausible as well. There are many "public health concerns" beyond the classic conception of communicable disease. I don't know if there's an immunization available to sterilize people, but it's certainly within the realm of plausibility.

Matt said...

One of my original ideas for interesting negation has to do with Euthanasia. Depending on definitions and analysis you can argue pretty easily that affirming justifies Euthanasia.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have ideas about how "public health concerns" could be manipulated?
Also, does anyone have ideas about who would decide whether something is a "public health concern" in the resolution?

Danielle said...

One thing for the neg:
I heard about a malaria vaccine that is given to soldiers. There's just one, tiny, little problem: it tends to make some of them have a psychotic break. Let's see, soldiers with access to weapons, possibly flying a plane having a psychotic break. Something is NOT good here.

Of course we do have to establish a clear definition of "immunization" because I'm pretty sure there is a difference between "vaccination" and "immunization."

Jim Anderson said...

Danielle, indeed, there is a difference. "Immunization" is the umbrella term for any introduction of a foreign substance to activate the body's immunity; "vaccination" and "inoculation" are the two most common types of immunization.

Anonymous said...


Meuddha said...

@ Anonymous
There could be some interesting ways to play with "public health concerns." One really odd argument that could work would be to argue that public health concerns are the fears of the masses, not health officials. So any media hyped disease could be forced to be vaccinated, like avian or swine flu. Also, if it's the public's fears, even STDs like HIV could be included. This probably would only work on flow judges and would probably get you into topicality debates though.

mona said...

hey Anonymous!
If you dont like this blog why are you visiting the main page??? why are you checking it in the first place??? please keep the bad comments to yourself cause they are many people who love it including me.:) (sorry for the harshness)

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for the help guys. At first i really didn't understand what the resolution even meant, but now i have some ideas on what to use for my v/c.

Sincerely Emily
thanks again!!!

Taylor said...

What are the arguments against social contract on teh aff?

Jim Anderson said...

Taylor, the Aff doesn't have to argue against the social contract, necessarily. Compulsory immunization could probably be squared with Rousseau's "general will" or with Hobbes' conception of sovereignty (placing security above individual rights).

Any thoughts from debaters running the Social Contract on the Aff?

Anonymous said...

Jim: I'm having some trouble thinking of argumentation lines for the affirmative, insofar as a minority refusing a vaccine shouldn't affect the majority, because the majority has been vaccinated and is (of course, to a limited extent) immune. This is frustrating every brainstorm I have on affirmative argumentation lines. Some ideas?

LD said...

Would anyone be willing to email me the Victory Briefs topic analysis (ASAP: like now!!) for this topic in exchange for some camp files on this topic? Please email me at lddebater540@gmail.com with the file and I will send you some files back.

IdahoDebater said...

The Social Contract requires that we give up a few rights in exchange for security. Let's stick with one that most agree with - murder. If we give up the right to murder someone else, we are also giving up the right to cause someone's death, directly or indirectly. By not being vaccinated, we are (potentially) causing death for those who can't be vaccinated or for whom vaccination isn't effective.

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, I have some initial answers to your question here.

Taylor said...

Ohh, I misspoke. I meant blocks to Aff Social Contract. I can't really think of any besides social contract doesn't exist...

Jim Anderson said...

Taylor, I see. That makes more sense. It really depends on which SC theory your opponent is running--or, if they don't specify, you can nail them on that point. Hobbes' monarchy-is-good-for-thee SC has far fewer protections for individual rights than Locke's or Rawls' SC. Rousseau's general will is sometimes attacked as leading to totalitarianism. (And which one is really the best SC, if any?)

It also depends on what you'd plan as your own criterion.

Regardless, it's difficult to go straight from one version of the SC to the proposition that compulsory immunization is justified. There are quite a few intermediate steps, any of which will provide an angle of attack.

Avenger said...

Hi, I'm a freshman debater. This is the topic for my next competition and so far im drawing blanks. Can someone give me an idea of a value and values criterion?

Anonymous said...

How can the affirmative defend against allergies/health complications on the neg?

Is it just by saying that such exemptions can be reasonably extended from the resolution?

Maestro said...


The negative's argument about allergies is a weak one. All the aff has to do is talk about the amount of rights, if running it as a value criterion. Whoever gets the most rights wins, and the aff clearly protects all rights except for perhaps a fraction of a percent who have allergies. Also, compulsory immunizations themselves usually do exempt those with allergies.

The neg should focus more on individual rights and the limit of government for an argument to directly combat affirmatives.

Jim Anderson said...

Avenger, check the "value/criterion pairs" link above.

Anonymous, that's a tough question, but I think it's answerable. LD requires that either side establish the truth or falsity of the resolution "as a general principle." A general principle can have minor exceptions; one of which, you could argue, is whether a vaccine would immediately kill or sicken the patient.

The government has no compelling interest in vaccinating the immune-compromised, anyway, since it's not like they're going to develop immunity, which is the whole point of immunization. "Herd immunity" is. (In fact, you can argue that one of the benefits of mandating immunization for the 90% who can physically take it, is that you'll protect the 10% who can't.)

Anonymous said...

Could I have some ideas on what would be good values for the debate? I think the best vc is utilitarianism in this scenario but I am stuck on some values to use on the affirmative.
(I'm new to LD)

Anonymous said...

I had a question :) I am trying to prove that compulsory immunization is cost effective. To do so I'm trying to look for history in which compulsory immunization was used and was proved cost-effective.
I'm in a bit of a struggle looking for such evidence.
Any help appreciated <3

Avenger said...

So since i am supposed to prepare an aff case, can i choose:
V: life
C: Utilitarianism?
I'm confused on how to link those two.
Can I say - Contention 1 : It eliminates diseases and prevents them from returning?b

Anonymous said...

How do you defeat the harm principle when you go against it on the neg.? I tried arguing it was util, and util is unjust.

Anonymous said...

Also, could you post some strategies for the neg? That's the side that has the MOST trouble with the resolution.

What's the idea behind bio power? How do you attack it if someone runs it against you?

Matt said...

On Exemptions

While compulsory may mean obligatory currently U.S "compulsory Immunization" statutes in all 50 states allow for medical exemptions (known allergies, pre-existing condition) So I think its safe to say that medical exemptions do exist for people that would be knowingly harmed. However don't try to argue for religious or philosophical exemptions. The more exemptions you try to include based purely pre-existing, known medical conditions, more and more of your solvency slips away...

The concept of burdens that you bring up is an interesting one. You talk about "a general principle" as the universal reciprocal burden in LD. However aren't there resolutions that can warrant a switch of burdens? For example on this one. What are the implications of "justify" Does Justify mean to establish as just or to be morally allowable? In the first circumstance Aff needs to prove compulsory immunization to be the right thing to do and the Neg proves that it is not the right thing. In the second Aff needs to prove merely that it is an option and Neg proves that it is not an option.
The First Interp is like you "general rule" burden.
However, the second gets interesting. If anything that is not forbidden is allowable don't I merely need to prove that circumstances exist that warrant compulsory immunization? That would "justify" the resolution. Also it flips the burden to the Neg and gives presumption to Aff.

Anonymous said...

I've developed a strong aff case, but I'm curious as to how to defend against a neg case based on reducing biopower. Are there good arguments against foucault?

Jim Anderson said...

Matt, that's a great question. There are a couple potential options in response.

1. "Justified" means either "right" or "warranted." In other words, the definitional bar is set higher than merely "morally allowed" or "excused."

2. "Right" and "morally allowed" is a distinction without a difference. (Don't know if I'd buy that, but it's available.)

3. Even if the bar is set low at "morally allowed," there is plenty of ground for the Neg to argue that, as a general principle, public health concerns don't excuse compulsory immunization. (A strong libertarian / autonomic stance would work best here, along with an argument based on the too-vague concept of "public health concerns.")

Regardless, I think it's important, in the face of your observation, for the Neg to define "justify" narrowly, focusing on either "rightness" or "warrant" as the primary meaning of the term.

Matt said...


Well in a definition clash, generally the best standards for evaluating which is better are textual relevancy, and common usage. I think "morally allowed" wins on both of those standard.

1. Topic literature doesn't say that compulsory immunization policy become "compulsory" but rather that its an option of needed.

2. I am justified in getting a drink of water. This has no moral implications whatsoever

Anonymous said...

Jim: Thank you very much for addressing my concerns for "affirmative argumentation lines"; my first contention will be herd immunity (one infected person threatens others) and my second contention will discuss the negative consequences for national security associated with poor public health. Again, thx s0000000 mucH.

Jim Anderson said...

Matt, I think it's interesting to consider the moral implications of getting a drink of water.

1. If you need the glass, then the water is necessary for your survival, and it's morally obligatory to survive.

2. If you don't need the water, you're wasting a shared resource, which is arguably immoral.

I wonder if there actually are any human behaviors that have no moral implications.

Matt said...

Looking at that example though drinking water cannot be morally obligatory in situation X, but it can also not be morally forbidden. Hence it becomes permissible, not obligatory and not forbidden.

Anonymous said...

Hi Im doing a debate for mr. limitaa and I need 5 facts for and against this. Please give me actual credible sources.

Avenger said...

@anonymous ^ - This is isn't a site where people will spoonfeed you the answer. It has a good collection of resources which you can use like the v/c pairs and stuff but no one will actually tell you 5 points you can say with evidence.

Jim Anderson said...

Avenger, amen to that. This is a no-spoonfeeding zone.

If you want help, anonymous, dig around through the links, and if you don't find what you need, ask a specific question.

hdigga said...

@anonymous wanting free evidence.
Check this out~ http://www.mediafire.com/file/zemmum4zuiz/Compulsory Immunization Topic 50.doc
It's originally from here (http://www.whitman.edu/rhetoric/camp/briefs.htm) but I upped it separately to save you some time. Not all the evidence is good though. (Sorry to hand out arguments, but most debaters should at least know these cards are out there for the taking to prevent only a privileged few from getting the advantage.)

@anonymous who wants answers to foucault
The best way to answer kritikal arguments is to be smarter than your opponent and more knowledgeable about the argument. If you can hammer them in C-X, crush their link story, outweigh the impacts, and perm apart the alternative, then you've won. The two free answer files have super generic (and mostly useless) answers to Foucault: http://www.planetdebate.com/search?k=biopower

If you used the permissible form of "justify," it would be very tempting, at least to me, to first make you look squirrelly with it, and then run a PIC saying that in "negative-land" compulsory immunization is always required, not just in some circumstances.

Anonymous said...

what kind of value would best work for a governmental case

Anonymous said...

I'm striving to prove, through historical precedence, that conceding Liberty in face of perceived threatened safety is ineffective and detrimental to justice.

Any historical examples come to mind?
I intended to go with post 9/11 wire-tapping, but am now looking for something more international.

Limeaway said...

I just wanted to say thanks for all the new stuff to think about. I haven't been this interested in the topic since it started! Mr. Anderson, you bring up some great points and Matt, you are very smart. I've been reading and couldn't you consider Mill's harm theory and Rousseau's "general will" the same thing?
And one more thing... how would you fight against the aff if they're saying that the tenth amendment (police power) says that individual rights are not violated through compulsory immunization?

Jim Anderson said...

Limeaway, there are certainly similarities between Mill and Rousseau--but I'd like to see a quote from the latter where any bright line like the Harm Principle is drawn. To me, it's always seemed that Rousseau is less protective of individual sovereignty.

Also, two questions about your second question. 1. The 10th amendment concerns powers that are not "delegated to the United States," which automatically are reserved to individual states. Do you mean the 4th or 5th amendment?

Also, why should the U.S. constitution be held up as the standard for the resolution?

Kamran! said...

I think if you establish i your F.W. that this ought to be U.S. Specific that holding the Constitution or inthe affirmatives case the Supreme Court can win you a lot of ground. If you can effectively run the theory required to keep this framework from falling apart it would add an interesting spin on either side of the debate.

Also for the neg can i get some feedback on the following case idea:

V. Justice

K. Prevention of Human Extinction

It is a link story that basically states that we are in economic down times, globably. We don't have the infastructure to support compulsory immunizations. We are on the brink of economic failure. Economic Failure leads to war. In High tension nuclear terror is the most likely scenario. And that nuclear war eliminates possibility of justice even with survivors.

Cauley 33 said...

Hi, Im a first year debater. I have debated this topic and on my aff i used justice and Utility. And on my Neg i used Individualism and John Stuart Mill's Utility.

Now i debated andwon 2 out of 4 rounds but my casses are very week. I would like to know if you could please help me stringthen them an any way possible i am willing to change them to make them stronger. What would you say were aom good V/C pairs?

spencer said...

i believe that the united states should make it mandatory for student to be vaccinated before attending school, i dont believe that compulsory immunizatin is necessary. Considering the fact that compulsory means manded. People in the army have to get immunized before they can go to other countries which i belive is not fair. Considering the sidefects. People should not have to get vaccinated unless there is a great risk of them catching the disease or unless some start to become sick.

bleckk. said...

i have a question:
since it just says public health concerns justify compulsory immunizations..
will it be okay to specify who gets the mandated immunization on the aff?

Jim Anderson said...

bleckk., the Aff must defend compulsory immunization as a general principle. It's better to have a resolutional analysis ruling out those who can't be immunized for health reasons. Any exemptions beyond that and you're in danger of conditionally affirming.

bleckk. said...

jim, okay. i understand that
but if i still want to do that..
would it be a better idea to prove that.. and the GENERAL concept as well so im not running any real risks?
if anything it would be a win win situation...unless im REALLY losing the round..

Oregon Debater said...

For anyone wishing to revise their case or write a new one, I suggest using a contention against Utilitarianism (on the Neg, noting that it's immoral because in this res. people would be forced to be killed from side-effects) and have another one on Kant's Categorical Imperative.
Had I done better in C/X I would've won LD in my latest tournament instead of second place.

Anonymous said...

Hi i love this blog. i was a neg this past weekend and i got governmental legitimacy as a value and rousseau's contract as a criterion ran against me. my neg criterion is protection of individual rights. my value is individual rights. i was wondering how to defend against rousseau's contract and the social contract as a whole. i was also wondering how to defend against governmental legitamacy

Anonymous said...

I know this is kinda late, but I would like to point out a method to counter Mill's "Over himself...etc." If you click the link that was provided and read the previous two sentences you will come upon a direct refute! John Stuart Mill himself, before he states "Over himself...etc." states "The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others..." In other words, Mill says that one is free to do what he/she wishes as long as he isn't harming society!!! This will totally obliterate anyone who uses Mill's quote "Over himself..."

julio said...

Obviously the problem for politics is not whether to vaccinate or not but want to know also see government priorities and agreeing to take its course that priority in the next government although that is not their priority. We must also educate the policy not to delete elbow their writing hand.