Common Mistakes

After judging and scouting at a few tournaments this year I would like to address a set of common mistakes people have been making that relate both to strategy conception and preparation.

1. Stimulus bad- this is a good argument assuming the aff is a stimulus. Evidence about a “stimulus” is talking about things like Obama’s 700 billion package, not building a single road. A stimulus is generally where people decide “we need to spend a ton of money…. we will figure out on what at a later date”. They allocate the funds, and then people lower down the government food chain make important decisions about what projects get funded and how much etc. This is where arguments like “data cooking” come in- this argument assumes someone is tasked to select between competing projects and will be influenced by manufactured statistics into picking the wrong one. When the aff does something specific , spends little money etc these arguments fundamentally don’t link. Similarly, links like “crowd out” are linear to a point, but the impact has a threshold. When the aff is smaller than multiple recent government spending projects it is extremely difficult to prove your linear link crosses any meaningful impact threshold due to the plan.

2. The more generic your strategy, the more you have to prepare. If you want to win on the cap K, you need blocks. This is because everyone knows about it, and thus has a 2AC ready. If you aren’t ready to beat the litany of stock 2AC arguments like no root cause, economic¬†interdependence¬†solves war etc. ¬†you should not be reading the cap K. You should be reading something more obscure that doesn’t give your opponents a huge prep advantage. Most teams have prepped on a scale of 1-10 about a 7 or 8 in terms of how ready they are for cap. Teams who do well on the cap K have prepared to beat that by being at a 9 or 10. This requires them to have compiled all camp files, found the best cards, highlighted everything, written 2NC and 2NR blocks etc. You can steamroll most teams with that level of prep on any argument, but for common arguments it is a necessity because you are not likely to catch an aff team unprepared.

3. Cross X is a time to ask questions, not make arguments. Every cross-x I have seen this year goes something like this

“lets talk about your X card, doesn’t it say the opposite?”


“Well I think it does”

Good for you. Unfortunately I’m not flowing this and since your partner is playing tetris they aren’t making this argument in a speech. Someone out there is giving CX lectures and telling people “read the other teams evidence in CX”. This is generally a bad idea unless you have some kind of strategic purpose in mind. IE you are reading strategy X, so you read parts of evidence in CX that relate to that strategy. Instead what we have is a generation of students who pick random sentence fragments from random 1AC cards and read them outloud as if they have sprung a trap and auto won the debate because the other said something that divorced from context means the aff should lose. If you are reading a piece of evidence in CX please

1. Make sure it relates to arguments in the debate

2. Make it an issue in a speech

Something I drilled into my lab over and over and over again this summer is don’t ask opinion questions. An opinion question is a question that doesn’t have a clear cut and dry factual answer. “dont you think” “wouldnt it be the case” etc. The other team will never give you the answer you want to these kind of questions because every single one of them boils down to “don’t you agree you should lose the debate”.

Lets take an example I saw recently. The aff read an economy advantage. The neg is trying to get at the argument that economic decline causing war is empirically denied. Here is how they went about it

neg “How come we aren’t having a war right now if our economy has collapsed?”

aff “our economy hasn’t collapsed”

neg “Well I disagree”

Aff “…..”

neg ” how come the housing collapse didnt cause a war”

aff “well our advantage says only the collapse of free trade can cause a recession big enough to cause war”

neg “well hasn’t trade collapsed like 50 times”

aff “…no”

neg “well i think it has…”

And scene. Nothing was accomplished here. They were trying to make an argument and vaguely wording that argument as a question, not getting the answer they wanted, and just spinning their wheels in the process. Here is a better way to go about it. What you are trying to do is prove that empirically the economy has passed the same threshold the aff is saying it will pass, without causing a war.

So you could ask an initial question like:

“Do you have a piece of evidence that indicates how far the economy must fall before we see war”

This is factual- yes or no. In reality the answer is always no, because no one writes that card. But the aff will likely hem and haw for a bit and make up some nonsense. Now you have a few options

1. If they give an answer like “two quarters of neg gdp” or something STOP. Now make the argument in a speech, here are a list of recessions that meet their threshold that didn’t cause a war. Don’t ask in CX “why didnt june 1965 cause a war” -you are making an argument and giving them free speech time to answer it. What do you hope to accomplish with this ” assume the best case scenario where the aff is KOed and can’t answer… you still have to bring it up in a speech.

2. If the aff totally stonewalls, make it a point in the speech “they can’t explain”- dont ask 5 follow up questions that let them waste the rest of your cx time.

3. They can give a ludicrous answer you think is wrong- move on. This isn’t the time to make arguments. You have to in a speech point out how ludicrous it is.

If you ask follow up questions, make them follow the sequential path of cause and effect. So you asked about the threshold, now ask “how long from crossing threshold till war”. Aff has to say something, which feeds your empirically denied argument or makes their impact long term.