This is Ask the Panel, where a panel of coaches answers questions that you submitted to us via our facebook, PDT comment, twitter, or email. Look out for the next “ask the panel” announcement to see what the next topic will be and submit your questions then. Message Ben Koh on facebook if you have suggestions for potential themes for the next “Ask the Panel.”

On this edition, the panel of Daiya Massac, Bob Overing, and Chris Kymn answer your questions about the just released 2014 September-October topic.

Anonymous messaged Premier Debate on Facebook: What do y’all think the big Topicality args are going to be? is it presume maybe?

DM: I think the biggest topicality argument will be what the definition is of a “Just Society.” Like, I have honestly no idea what can constitute a “Just Society.”

BO: Presume consent is the big one. From my research there are different models used around the world and a distinction made between hard and soft consent. This won’t be as important for general affs but certainly for specific plans. It is odd to have “just society ought” because it includes double normative language. Does this mean that only just societies ought to presume consent? So if the aff gives a specific example, can the neg win a T argument by proving that society is not just? Maybe there’s an easy answer here if we get into some philosophy of language literature, but it’s still pretty weird.

DM: I think it will be difficult to spec a country because most countries aren’t “just.” Like, I feel like a lot of people will want to spec America, but America is clearly not “just.”

CK: There also seems to be some implementation questions of whether or not the presumption can be overridden. At least in some countries with a presumed system consent model, the family is allowed to veto organ procurement. It’s an open debate whether such a veto constitutes an example of affirming or should be thought of more of as a neg PIC instead

DM: Well I think affs should be allowed to defend family consent and Opt out systems. My understanding of “presumed consent” is as a term of art and with my cursory research, most countries with “presumed consent” have those systems in place.

CK: I don’t think the “just” will be a particularly big T concern on this question. After judging practice rounds on the living wage topic (Just governments ought to require that employers pay a living wage) most debaters assumed the US to be the actor, and there was never a T-just debate that I heard. If it does come up, I think the aff should frame the question in terms of topical limits (ie a list of countries that would be just). Even if a debater were to find a random card that said a country like the US wasn’t just, if very few other countries or countries lacking scholarly topic literature would meet the criteria of just governance, that’s probably a bad term to use.

Bob already touched on this phrasing issue, but Pro Cure Ment on PDT asks, “How do you think the phrase “just society will be used in cases? Will it maybe exclude things like government based interpretations of the topic?”

BO: That’s interesting, but given that governments are in the position of ruling on presumed consent, it makes the most sense to think of the government as the actor.

CK: I agree with Bob. With regards to grammar, interpreting “just” as meaning “only” seems inaccurate. That definition of just is for the adverbial form according to dictionaries, whereas the adjective forms usually refer to some sort of moral correctness.

DM: I agree that the government is the actor. I think the actor should be a hypothetical government as opposed to allowing the aff to specify one real country as that would probably explode limits as well as open the door to a litany of objections as to what constitutes a “just government.” It will be interesting to see how debaters will interpret this one.

BO: Well, I think that if the literature reveals a few important cases where organ donations matter the most, it would be predictable for teams to defend specific countries on the aff. It all depends on what you think is a reasonable limit on two month topic and what you think makes better debates.

So there are three questions posted on PDT (from Db8tr, E, and Alina) that are fairly similar. What do you think the common plans, CPs, and disads are going to be on this topic? Advantages?

DM: I think common plans will mirror a specific country. The most successful country (in terms of numbers of organs donations) is Spain, so I am expecting a lot of people to defend Spain’s system. I doubt that this topic will lead to too many big extinction type scenarios, but people are creative and I am sure they will come up with something.

BO: There are different mechanisms – hard vs. soft consent, informed consent, specific model based on Austria, Brazil, France, etc. You could also specify where it takes place as discussed above. Similarly, there are a lot of potential CPs, but it depends where affs go with their advantages. If it’s just about increasing organ supply as you’d see in a lot of generic affs, then CPs like legalize organ sales, tax credits for those who sell, and states will be common. Any of the mechanisms I listed could also be potential neg strategies.

BO: The advantage areas will probably be impacts from increasing the supply of organs, which means better and more medical treatments available and decreased preventable deaths. Black market trade would likely go down, which decreases organ trafficking and medical tourism in poorer countries. International precedent or modeling is relevant, since many countries seem to take off what other countries have done with regard to organ donations, except China, which could be a potential aff. They actually harvest organs from prisoners, which is something an aff could claim to stop as a human rights violation. Finally, economic impacts from huge transplant costs.

BO: The best negative strategies will be counterplans with more minor disads as net benefits. Body part theft, slippery slope to legalizing organ sales, the politics DA. And some of the advantage areas that could be better solved by a CP might be neg disads to affs. Anything big I’ve missed?

CK: There are certainly a few CPs that scoop large parts of the aff or attempt to do even more. One is the mandated choice CP, which requires a yes/no decision on consent for organ procurement. There’s also some debate on whether “presumed consent” is a good term to describe an opt-out system, and whether alternative wording such as “specified refusal” would be more publicly acceptable.

BO: Daiya mentioned that it’ll be hard to find big impact scenarios on this topic. It might be the case that the ones found are slightly contrived, but it’s inevitable that debaters will do it, so that’s something to be prepared for. On face though, I’d have to agree that organ donations don’t seem to pose a question of existential risk.

Dan asks on PDT, “What do you all think the stock NCs on this topic will be? Deontological positions immediately come to mind, but the offense seems pretty bad considering that in the aff world anybody can opt out of donating their organs.”

BO: I think that means-based/side-constraint NCs will still be the core neg ground. Even though there is the ability to opt-out, there is still a sense in which the state is coercing some individuals, e.g. those who don’t know they should opt-out or those forced to opt-out because of the new policy. There is potential for mistakes where the state might procure organs from those who did opt-out. Maybe explicit consent is key. I wouldn’t worry too much. There have been topics in the past where negatives could get solid coercion links despite exemptions/opt-out policies.

CK: Veach and Pitt (1995, The myth of presumed consent: ethical problems in new organ procurement strategies.) do argue for the first idea Bob mentioned, citing evidence that about 30% of people would not want to donate their organs after death. Conclusion they draw is that we will be violating those people’s wishes by affirming. I think negatives need to do an especially good job weighing this argument and pre-empting common affirmative objections, but it is definitely a viable strategy if well-researched. I also believe some authors draw conclusions about the legality or constitutionality of presumed consent, which means those positions might become common on the neg.

DM: Not much to add. I think that to answer opt out systems people can just point out that a lot of people are ignorant on these laws. Also, there is a lot of evidence that indicates that opt out systems are confusing and not easy to navigate which deters people from attempting them.

Inquisitive on PDT asks, “Is there a way to justify religious freedom arguments on this topic without going the 1st amendment route? It seems like a fairly topical neg argument, but having it in conjunction with a constitution framework doesn’t seem that strategic to me.”

DM: I think that constitution negs are not strategic because they beg the question of winning some type of spec argument. I think the easiest way to justify religious freedom arguments would be through a deontic framework. I don’t think making that the crux of your strategy is really strategic though.

CK: Definitely. I think there are ways to situate religious freedom arguments through arguments about discourse ethics, or claims that governments have obligations to allow tolerance and difference of opinion. Here’s a short article defending the importance of religious freedom: The section starting with “Religious Freedom in the Architecture of Democracy” has an argument in the context of governments.

BO:  I’ve never found the Constitution to be a compelling framework overall, but I’m not sure why it wouldn’t be strategic especially if the offense clearly favors the negative. There are definitely 1st, 5th, and 14th amendment concerns with presumed consent. Although, historically, it seems that it’s been ruled constitutional. See “Modern Models of Organ Donation: Challenging Increases of Federal Power to Save Lives” by Jonathan G. August and “Presumed Consent to Organ Donation: A Reevaluation” by Maxwell J. Mehlman. I agree with Daiya that it’s not super strategic to rely on given that a lot of affs won’t be just about the U.S. That decision will have to be made after the first few tournaments of the year.

Anonymous emailed Premier Debate to ask, “What are possible critical arguments that affirm on this topic? (it seems to me that most critical arguments negate)”

DM: Agreed. Most critical arguments obviously favor the neg. I think that the only real strategy for the aff if they want to be critical will be to use the resolution as a spring board for discussion about an assumption that the res makes. For example, the aff could criticize the notion of a “just society” or question what constitutes as death. Obviously these aff will have to be prepared to engage a lot of theory so it is best if these affs are as reasonable as possible.

BO: The aff has potential ground talking about medical tourism and how a low supply of organs encourages the black market to come up with ways to find organs that subjugate the poor, especially in Third World countries. They’re tricked or coerced into selling organs or they’re even forcibly taken. That’s something the aff might solve for that could be a part of a ‘critical’ case.

K on PDT asks, “how would a discussion of what it means to be dead look like in a round? For example, there are debates on whether a brain dead patient is truly dead.

BO: This doesn’t seem super relevant. Maybe there’s a plan somewhere in here, but I don’t think that there’s any way the state would presume consent for those still supported by life-sustaining treatment. That seems like an unreasonable scope for the aff to defend, but that’s why it’s important for the aff to define the terms of the debate.

CK: Not much to add. There are cases of beating heart cadavers where the organs of a person are kept functioning so they can be transplanted, but the case mentioned in the question doesn’t seem to be mentioned much in the preliminary literature.

DM: If the aff is defending more traditional notions of death the only thing they will have to worry about would probably be the distinction between cardiac death and brain death. Forcing the aff to defend cardiac death is obviously abusive because organs are not useful after cardiac death and thus leaving the aff with essentially 0 ground. If the neg wants to be more creative they can also introduce concepts like social death (Baudrillard) and criticize the aff for focusing on biological death.

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