I'm one of those crazy people that actually read the monstrosity that is Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's 1200+ page book that was essentially a really long, complicated rant against communism. It was fascinating. Then I also read The Anthem, which is about 100 pages at most and which I would most definitely recommend. Ms. Rand, I believe, is an under appreciated genius, called “crazy” by many modern critics. While I won't disagree on your “crazy” point, I think her philosophical theory of Objectivism could be an interesting criterion. Maybe not for the current juvenile violent felonies topic, which deals more with the ideas of utilitarianism and society, but definitely for more individualistic topics.
Objectivism is basically individualism to the extreme. “There is no mental process that can change the laws of nature or erase facts. The function of consciousness is not to create reality, but to apprehend it.” It holds that man's only responsibility is to himself:
Reason is man's only proper judge of values and his only proper guide to action. The proper standard of ethics is: man's survival qua man—i.e., that which is required by man's nature for his survival as a rational being (not his momentary physical survival as a mindless brute). Rationality is man's basic virtue, and his three fundamental values are: reason, purpose, self-esteem. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.I could definitely see this as a potential criterion to counter basic utilitarian arguments (which come up a lot). As in, we can't make decisions for the good of the whole if a rational individual is harmed unnecessarily. It takes away man's ability to be an end in himself. It'll be controversial, but it's a legitimate moral stance that judges may find refreshing.
It also deals a lot with politics. “"The basic social principle of the Objectivist ethics is that no man has the right to seek values from others by means of physical force—i.e., no man or group has the right to initiate the use of physical force against others. Men have the right to use force only in self-defense and only against those who initiate its use. Men must deal with one another as traders, giving value for value, by free, mutual consent to mutual benefit.”
This could be applied to last year's sanctions topic, or other war topics. Instead of the regular “war is bad because it kills people” defense, you could use Objectivism as a “war is bad because it hurts trade, which benefits everyone and is the basic social principle of existence.”
Before I get any nasty anti-Rand commenters, let me be clear. I'm not advocating Objectivism as a philosophy, because it's definitely too cut and dried for my taste. But then again, so is utilitarianism. The fact is, philosophy isn't supposed to make us believe one thing over another. It's supposed to make us think. The reason I am supporting it as a potential criterion is because it's unconventional, which is always nice, and because it has value in certain topics. Sometimes you have to debate things you don't necessarily agree with. Does anyone remember the affirmative action PF topic from last year? Ugh.
Potential value pairings:
Governmental legitimacy, individualism, civil rights.
Brief Summary of Objectivism
Essentials of Objectivism
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Ayn Rand
Bri Castellini debated in both Public Forum and Lincoln Douglas during high school, and is now a college IPDA debater. She blogs frequently at Bri's Own World, and posts way too frequently on Twitter.