One thing that has annoyed me a lot recently is the proliferation of a million rapid fire permutations in the 2AC. These things work because oftentimes the other team won’t here them all, or the judge will allow the affirmative to clarify later in the 1AR/2AR what the 3 words said in the 2AC meant and how that avoids the net benefit. So I’ve put together some thoughts on how judges should evaluate permutations and how debaters should respond to them.
Some thoughts on Judging permutations
1. The permutation is really the only argument in debate that judges require no explanation about whatsoever. Even topicality, if extended without an explicit voting issue, judges will have no qualms ignoring. Permutations on the other hand, are just assumed to be important without any impact analysis by the aff at all. Conditionality bad- you have to explain why the negative running a conditional counterplan is illegitimate. That a counterplan has to be “competitive” and that a 3 word argument can prove that it isn’t is just generally assumed. It may seem silly to require the aff to explain why a permutation matters, but the system we use now is clearly broken. Judges default to thinking that it is the neg’s burden to prove both A. the permutation is illegitimate and or links to the net benefit and B. that the net benefit to doing the CP alone is meaningful/outweighs a solvency deficit. In a certain sense, this being the neg burden is reasonable. But when combined with the fact that the average permutation is < 10 words, and that judges give the aff serious leeway in explaining what “do both” means in later speeches this burden is entirely unreasonable. One or the other needs to change. Either
A. there needs to be an expectation that a permutation requires a certain level of coherent explanation before it becomes an argument
B. The presumption should be negative that the perm is illegitimate/links to the net benefit until the aff makes an argument as to why it isn’t/doesn’t.
2. If you were unable to flow the text of the permutation because it was so short/fast and the debater moved onto the next argument so quickly, don’t credit it as an argument. I have been on quite a few panels recently where the judges didn’t get the perms in the 2AC, had no idea what argument the 1AR extended, and then voted aff after an OK 2AR because the neg didn’t do a good job explaining why the CP was competitive. Now granted, the neg could have been more aggressive in saying “this isn’t a coherent argument” or they could of asked in CX, but why is that their burden? I don’t think on any issue other than a permutation would the neg be given this kind of leeway.
3. A ridiculous/illegitimate counterplan should not lower the threshold for voting on a permutation. Some CP’s, say consult, are ridiculous. Lopez is another good example. Their ridiculousness doesn’t necessarily stem from their lack of competition. A well worded lopez CP text that bans the plan correctly is undeniably mutually exclusive. It is still ridiculous because it creates a new fake federal government and has that federal government do the plan. It should be defeated easily by the aff on a theory argument, not a permutation. Many people I have judged with however view a bit of neg fiat egregiousness as carte blanche to vote on awfully explained permutations that just don’t make sense. Obviously you can judge however you want, and if you want to write in your JP that is how you work fine, but no one does. Not explaining that you do and then judging this way is about as legit as lopez.
1. You should all write the following blocks
-short unexplained/vague perms are illegit
-presumption on perms should go neg as a meta level fw- including its aff burden to prove legit/avoids nb
Together they should take about 25 seconds to read. Reading these every round you go for CP and the 2AC does the 3 perms in 2 seconds strat will save you from untold headaches later.
2. think about/plan for how to handle it in the 2NR when the 1AR radically changes/develops a permutation. Most 2N’s just say “this is new reject it” and move on, which isn’t enough for most judges. You need to think through a well explained objection to what happened, and then think about how you are going to answer it substantively. An example of this is with any agent CP and timeframes for when different agents act. A classic aff shenanigan is to just say “do both” in the 2Ac and then in the 1AR make a series of arguments about how different response times from different agents mean that the perm is something other than immediate simultaneous action by both agents. This has been going on for the last 2 decades, and yet few coaches/debaters spend time thinking about these issues and how to deal with them in the 2NR. Remember the permutation is always going to be the most threating argument from the aff- both because of its actual utility and the importance judges attribute to it.