Aug 15, 2010

patriotism is so passé

Update: The NFL chose this for the national tournament topic. (Follow the link for the most recent discussion.)

Third in a series of previews of potential 2010-2011 LD topics.

Resolved: when forced to choose, a just government ought to prioritize universal human rights over its national interest.
Another of the potential topics for the 2010-11 NFL LD season cuts right to the heart of the social contract, and, in a way, is reminiscent of the UN vs. sovereignty resolution from a few years ago.

Some key questions:

What is a "just government?" What is the nature of its social contract? And which contractarian gets it right? If the world is a Hobbsean "war of all against all," the argument is quite different than if the ideal of justice is Rawlsian egalitarianism.

I'd imagine that many Affs would have a value of justice aligned with a criterion of "protecting rights." But the Neg has to ask in Cross-Ex, immediately: where do rights come from? What defines or limits them? If "universal human rights" includes, for instance, trade or labor rights, must nations abandon protectionist trade schemes, or, conversely, stop trading with nations that allow sweatshops--even if it means a loss of economic security?

Why have nations at all? Why not have a universal government? Wouldn't that be the best way to protect universal human rights? Would affirming the resolution lead to a super-state?

Who or what defines "national interest?" Who is the "agent of action" in the resolution? The people? The government? Can we make any assumptions about the nature of the government in the debate?

What situations might lead to a conflict between universal human rights and a nation's interest? (Some might include, but are not limited to, war, torturing terror suspects, immigration / refugee crises, trade agreements, dealing with dictatorships / oppressive societies.)

If a nation's citizens know that its government is going to prioritize universal human rights, will they remain loyal in a time of crisis? What are the upsides of nationalism?

1 comment:

Michael Dickens said...

I recently argued for the affirmative on this subject in an online debate ( I originally wanted to make an argument based on Utilitarianism, but it turns out that that's very difficult to do in something as short as a debate, and it would probably turn into Utilitarianism vs. Social Contract Theory. By Social Contract Theory, the resolution is virtually guaranteed to be negated; the opposite for Utilitarianism.

The definition of "just government" turned out to be pivotal -- not just the definition itself, but also the idea of the definition. My opponent argued that the resolution cannot be affirmed because it is impossible to correctly define "just government".