The Evolution of Plans In Policy Debate, Part 5: “Normal Means” PICs and Process Counterplans

This is the fifth article in a series about the history of plans in policy debate. The first article explained the early history of plans, covering the 1910s to the 1960s. The second article discussed the era beginning in the late 1960s and ending in the mid-1980s. The third article covered one of the significant developments in the late-1970s and 1980s: extra-topicality. The fourth article documented the other major development of the 1980s and early 1990s: the topical, plan-inclusive counterplan, which shaped debate through the 2000s. This article discusses the rise of “normal means” PICs and process counterplans during the 2000s and 2010s and documents the plan writing adjustments made in response to them.

By the mid- to late-2000s, “PICs” had evolved into something quite different from those pioneered in the 1990s. Because affirmative teams downsized their plans to only include a direct (and often vague) mandate, the negative had fewer opportunities to design counterplans that competed with the text of the plan. As details about the plan’s mandate(s), implementation, and enforcement shifted from the plan text to “normal means,” negatives responded by designing counterplans that “PICed out of normal means.” These counterplans defined the plan writing era of the late aughts and early-2010s.

In 2007, David Heidt — at the time (and still) one of the most preferred judges in national circuit high school and college policy debate — added this provocative note to his judge philosophy:

It is increasingly hard to be affirmative over the past few years; not because negatives have gotten better but mostly because negatives get away with more types of unfair counterplans than they used to. This is partly because there is a weird adoration of PICs by judges and partly because affirmatives are really poor at calling the negative out (maybe because they think judges will never vote on PICs bad arguments). I see this as a big problem:

1. It’s really difficult to be aff because it’s too hard to predict what counterplan the negative will run. It’s not enough to have read every article about your affirmative; you also have to think of every contrived manipulation of fiat the negative will use or anything the negative can imagine that is supplemented by generic process evidence.

2. It hurts the quality of education in the community as a whole. If you can get by 4 years of debate without knowing anything about the cases you’re debating, then you’re not being well served. And why would you do policy research when you can more easily get away with short cuts? A common, if laughable, negative theory argument is “our abusive argument increases 2ac critical thinking”—which, ironically, is a device deployed to shield the negative from ever having to think critically about a policy at all.

And part of the problem is that a lot of people seem to think that these strategies should be encouraged. If the community praises someone for having a sweet new strategy, it almost always turns out to be a cheesy contrived counterplan that is designed to do the entire aff with a trivial net benefit that rarely even makes sense. The reason people will think it’s sweet is precisely that it is unpredictable and deprives the aff of all offense, and the reason it’s unpredictable is that it won’t actually reflect the topic literature in a meaningful way. I think debate is great because it encourages in-depth research of policies and fosters critical thinking in process of shaping arguments for and against change. The over reliance on bad PICs is dramatically moving us away from actual discussion of the merits of policy proposals and is causing negative teams to get by on what are essentially cheap shots.

This was a significant departure from Heidt’s judge philosophy from just a few years earlier (2003):

I generally try to keep my own biases from the debate, but if you must know, I can’t think of a reason why PICS or dispositionality are bad. I also generally think the affirmative should specify their agent, that negative teams should automatically lose the debate for running overspecification, that permutations are always tests and never reasons to vote negative even if they are theoretically illegitimate, and that textual competition alone is a bad standard. However, what I believe and what I’ve voted on are two different things—for example, I’ve voted negative twice on overspecification, to my regret.

It was also a significant departure from the “common sense” of this era. As Heidt noted, there was a strong consensus among most national circuit policy debate judges that plan-inclusive counterplans were unimpeachable negative strategies. Theoretical gripes by affirmative teams were typically met with sarcastic dismissals: at the risk of (slightly) oversimplifying, “it’s cowardly not to defend your plan — you had ‘infinite prep’ to write it,” “stop whining — the negative got you,” and “this should teach you a lesson — just write a better plan next time” were common post-round comments. As this consensus emerged and hardened, affirmative teams increasingly concluded that “PICs Bad” was a losing strategy, and most stopped trying to defeat PICs with theory objections altogether.

Notably, this pro-PICs consensus was in stark contrast to the consensus that had existed only a few years earlier. In 2001, for example, David Cheshier explained that:

I don’t know a single judge in America who finds the “PICs good”/“PICs bad” debate intellectually illuminating, but that has not much impeded its success as an affirmative counterplan response. As is the case with international fiat, most judges I know have no definitive objection to PICs (and many believe they have much improved plan-centered policy comparison), but because both sides can be reasonably defended, and since it takes little time to initiative the objection, PICs theory debating is now popular.

But the “PICs” of the mid- to late-2000s were meaningfully different from the “PICs” of the late-90s and early-2000s. Instead of basing competition on particular words or phrases in the plan, these new counterplans competed based on “normal means” — either the “normal means” described or explained by the affirmative, or the “normal means” introduced and argued by the negative. “Normal means” referred to the most typical or likely way that the affirmative plan would be carried out. With affirmatives no longer committing to any particular “means” of plan implementation and enforcement in their plan text, the meaning of the plan became subject to debate based on evidence and analysis. Denied the option of PICing out of specific language in the plan — clauses like “funding and enforcement through normal means” or “implementation through normal means” were no longer written into plans — negatives adapted by arguing (essentially) that these clauses were implicit in every plan text and that counterplans could therefore “PIC out of” them.

These “normal means PICs” sparked new theoretical controversies. The language of “textual competition” and “functional competition” was increasingly used to distinguish between different models for establishing competition. While textual competition was based on a comparison of the plan text and counterplan text, functional competition was based on a comparison of the mechanics or “function” of the plan and counterplan. These two methods of comparison reached very different conclusions about whether particular counterplans were competitive with affirmative plans.

Because “normal means PICs” did not compete with the text of the plan, the negative needed to argue that a better model for determining competition was to compare the plan’s function with the counterplan’s function. If the counterplan is functionally different from the plan, negatives argued, it is functionally competitive. This was more consistent with “real world” policy comparison, they claimed, and it encouraged in-depth analysis of the policymaking process.

An important part of the negative’s argument was that any potential problems with the functional competition model were the affirmative’s fault. Because affirmatives had crafted increasingly vague plan texts without any details about implementation and enforcement, the negative needed functionally competitive counterplans to restore their lost ground. Affirmatives, in turn, argued that it was the negative’s fault that plan texts were so vague; their infatuation with PICs, and the increasing triviality of PICs, forced the affirmative’s hand.

This era gave rise to a wave of new supergeneric, trans-topical counterplans: veto cheato, line-item veto, delegation/non-delegation, signing statements, earmarks, sunset provisions, consultation, conditions, etc. These counterplans argued that there was a disadvantage to implementing the plan via “normal means” that implementing the counterplan in a different way could avoid. The most common net-benefit was a Politics DA. Over time, the “disadvantage to the normal means implementation of the plan” part of the counterplan was often replaced with an “advantage” to the implementation of the counterplan via its alternative process that could only be accrued by the counterplan alone, not by a permutation. This allowed the negative to win debates with only their generic counterplan; they didn’t even need a Politics DA or other “external” net-benefit.

“Veto Cheato” is a good example. It began as a popular PIC at the end of the era when “normal means” was specified in the plan. After those clauses were removed from plans, negatives argued that normal means was implied by plans that did not specify a means of implementation and enforcement. Against an affirmative plan that called for the U.S. federal government to adopt a new policy, the negative argued that the normal means for USFG policy adoption involved legislative passage by both chambers of Congress and the president’s signature. Instead, they proposed a counterplan that only involved legislative passage by both chambers: Congress passes the policy, the president vetoes it, and Congress overrides the president’s veto. The net-benefit was a politics argument: the negative claimed either that veto overrides destroy the president’s political capital by making them look weak (presidential agenda bad) or that presidential vetoes allow the president to avoid culpability and backlash for an unpopular policy, conserving their capital for future legislation (presidential agenda good). (The name “Veto Cheato” was a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement that this counterplan was unfair, but that didn’t stop negatives from going for it or judges from voting for it.)

While some of these counterplans had been first developed in earlier eras, they gained new popularity during the 2000s. Others originated in this era. As the negative continued to push the boundaries of competition, normal means PICs became increasingly absurd — or “strategic,” depending on one’s perspective.

For example, the “Stealth Friday” counterplan from 2003 and 2004 argued that the “normal means” for plan implementation involved immediate passage (or at least immediate announcement); this was also arguably required by the resolution’s wording (“resolved,” “substantial/ly,” “should,” etc.). Instead, the negative proposed a counterplan to announce the plan on Friday afternoon. The net-benefit was (again) a politics DA: Friday afternoon announcements minimized media coverage and helped keep the policy “under the radar,” conserving the president’s political capital. This was a strategy that President George W. Bush had often used, so there was a small literature base discussing it. In effect, negatives argued in favor of delaying the plan’s passage/announcement until the end of the (next) week, claiming the additional political risk required by immediate passage outweighed any harm caused by a few days’ delay. (For obvious reasons, this counterplan was not popular during Friday afternoon preliminary rounds.)

As they evolved, these “normal means PICs” challenged earlier attempts to categorize counterplan types. For example, consider Walter Ulrich’s description of the three categories of counterplans from 1987:

There are three types of counterplans. A counter agent counterplan argues that the affirmative policy should be adopted by another level of government (Ulrich, 1979, Dempsey & Hartmann, 1985). The state counterplan and international counterplans are examples of this type of argument. The counter policy counterplan suggests that another type of policy should be adopted instead of the affirmative plan. These counterplans are usually specific, if not to the affirmative case, to the current resolution. For example, if the topic requires that the affirmative team defend a uniform national policy, a negative team may advocate exempting parts of the country from the affirmative plan. A short term, incremental policy may be advanced as an alternative to a long term action. The counter procedure counterplan argues that we should develop alternative methods of evaluating and/or adopting the policy defended by the affirmative. This type of counterplan includes the referendum counterplan, the study counterplan, planning counterplans, and other counterplans that advocate alternative processes for evaluating the affirmative policy.  

Normal means PICs were not (exactly) agent counterplans, although many involved agent-related arguments and some did (at least partially) utilize a different agent. Nor where they (exactly) counter policy counterplans, at least not in the sense that Ulrich described. Some could accurately be called counter procedure counterplans, but many did not fit neatly into that category, either. Whereas a counter procedure counterplan proposed a different procedure from the plan, the normal means PIC proposed a different procedure from the status quo.

In 1989, Roger Solt offered a different way to conceptualize the types of counterplans. He suggested that there were twelve categories:

  1. Foreign/international counterplans
  2. International organization (of which the U.S. is a member) counterplans
  3. Private (self-interested) institution counterplans
  4. Private (public-interested) institution counterplans
  5. Fundamental change to basic form of government counterplans
  6. Radical topic-related reforms counterplans
  7. Sub-federal level of U.S. government counterplans
  8. Process counterplans
  9. Exceptions counterplans
  10. Offset counterplans
  11. Advantage counterplans
  12. Uniqueness counterplans

Most normal means PICs fit best in the process counterplans category:

The eighth type are process counterplans. Rather than directly denying the desirability of the affirmative policy, they have argued for a different process than the affirmative employs to decide on the best policy. The study counterplan was the grandfather of this genre, but it has had many descendants: referendums, negotiations, planning and prioritization, and consultation being among the most prominent.

But “process counterplans” as defined by Solt — and “counter procedure counterplans” as defined by Ulrich — did not anticipate the reconceptualization of “plan-inclusive” that normal means PICs relied on to establish competition. While they were (at least in some sense) “plan-inclusive,” they weren’t plan-inclusive counterplans as those had been originally defined. Combining elements of PICs, exceptions counteplans, and process/counter-procedure counterplans, they were eventually referred to as “normal means PICs” (as I have been calling them in this article), although that term was itself contested and never universally accepted.  

By the 2010s, this spurred further re-categorizations of counterplan types, with many evolving into what are today called something else. In my opinion, there are now three relevant categories:

1. Plan-contingent counterplans — similar to Solt’s process category and Ulrich’s counter-procedure category, these counterplans propose plan enactment if (and only if) some contingency defined by the negative is met. They claim to compete based on “immediacy” (the plan must pass immediately; the counterplan does not) and “certainty” (the plan must definitely pass; the counterplan includes the possibility that the plan does not pass). Popular examples include consultation (pass the plan only if a consulted third party agrees), conditions (pass the plan only if a particular condition is met), and referendums (pass the plan only if it is approved by voters).

2. Process counterplans — these are now defined as generic, trans-topical counterplans that “do the plan” via an alternative process and which typically claim to compete based on mutual exclusivity, but not based on the “mechanism” of the resolution. The more hyper-generic “normal means PICs” from earlier eras like veto cheato, signing statements, and sunset provisions are now commonly included in this category, although the term “process counterplan” remains fraught; some still refer to all three of these sub-categories of counterplans as “process counterplans.”

3. Mechanism counterplans — these are generic, topic-specific counterplans that “do the plan” via an alternative process and which (like process counterplans) typically claim to compete based on mutual exclusivity, especially based on the “mechanism” of the resolution. The mechanism is the verb/action called for by the resolution: “increase its protection of water resources,” “enact substantial criminal justice reform,” “substantially reduce Direct Commercial Sales and/or Foreign Military Sales,” etc. The creation of this category is intended to differentiate between trans-topical and topic-specific process counterplans, but there remains significant overlap between the two. Generally, mechanism counterplans are viewed more favorably by judges than trans-topical process counterplans.

But these developments came later. In the golden era of the normal means PIC in the early- to mid-2000s, negative teams found great success designing and deploying generic counterplans that “functionally competed” with the “normal means” implementation of the plan. In an argument culture that was staunchly pro-PIC, it was difficult for the affirmative to win debates by proving that these counterplans were theoretically illegitimate. As mentioned earlier, “PICs Bad” was often perceived (rightly or wrongly) as a non-starter.

Of course, affirmative teams didn’t simply give up. In the years before, when “traditional” plan-inclusive counterplans were at the height of their strategic power, affirmatives adjusted their plan writing to shield themselves from PICs. They stopped specifying the source of their funding. They took out extraneous details about implementation and enforcement. They omitted a declaration of “normal means.” They even stopped committing to “clarify intent.” Eventually, they had crafted a type of plan that was (nearly) impervious to PICs: it only stated a direct and often relatively vague mandate, with everything else being left to (unspecified) “normal means.”

After negatives responded to this new plan style by “PICing out of normal means,” affirmatives needed to develop new strategies for plan writing that could counter these popular counterplans. If beating them on theory was too difficult or unlikely, the affirmative needed to disprove their competition. In order to do that, they needed to (again) adjust their plan writing.

In the years following Heidt’s admonition about “cheap shot” counterplans in 2007, several plan writing innovations became prominent. In the following section, I will document several of them. (These examples are from the national high school policy debate circuit rather than from college/NDT debate, but similar innovations were made in both circuits; I’m using high school examples because I am more familiar with them.)


Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its public health assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa.

1. Chattahoochee’s Plan: The United States Federal Government should increase access to improved water sources in topically designated areas.

To avoid the “Sub-Saharan Africa” word PIC — perceived at the time as quite powerful and difficult to answer — teams replaced that term with “topically designated areas” or other euphemisms. Some negatives responded with (mostly unsuccessful) theoretical gripes, but eventually they adjusted by PICing out of “topically designated areas” with various “euphemistic language bad” net-benefits.

The more important innovation in this plan is that it “fiated an outcome” rather than a process. Instead of proposing a specific policy that would have as its goal to increase access to improved water sources, this plan simply argued that the U.S. federal government should increase access to improved water sources. How it might do so and what it means to “increase access” to “improved” water sources was not specified. This made it difficult for negatives to “PIC out of normal means;” the affirmative used the vague and outcome-based language of their plan to argue that almost any counterplan was not competitive. In response to PICs that identified and PICed out of a “bad” policy to increase access to improved water sources, the affirmative contended that the policy being PICed out of is not part of the plan; definitionally, the plan only fiats policies that increase access to improved water sources. If a policy would reduce access to improved water sources (or increase access to worsened water sources), it wasn’t the plan. Many teams copied this approach in subsequent seasons.  

2. Colleyville Heritage’s Plan: The United States federal government should provide any necessary funding for implementing the topical areas of the Water for the Poor Act of 2005.

This plan was an early example of another plan writing innovation: “necessary.” By adding it as a modifier to the plan’s mechanism, affirmatives could argue that normal means PICs that identified a potentially disadvantageous part of the plan’s enactment were not competitive because the plan does not include them; they are not “necessary.” Again, this made it much more difficult for the negative to craft competitive counterplans.

The other innovation in this plan is to specify only the topical parts of a potentially untopical action. In this example, the plan funds “the topical areas” of the Water for the Poor Act, but the affirmative does not specify which parts of the act they think are topical in the plan. This was used to deflect topicality arguments; if the negative proved that parts of the Water for the Poor Act were untopical, the affirmative argued that (by definition/mandate), the plan did not include them. While not directly responsive to normal means PICs, there was significant overlap. If the negative argued both that a part of the Water for the Poor Act was not topical and PICed out of that part of the Water for the Poor Act, the affirmative could respond by conceding the topicality argument and using it to disprove the competition of the counterplan.


Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase alternative energy incentives in the United States.

1. Glenbrook North’s Plan: The United States federal government should domestically obtain necessary renewable energy systems for the ground forces of the United States.

The “necessary” innovation was very popular during this era. In this plan, the affirmative could use that wording choice to argue that the plan does not include renewable energy systems that the negative proves are disadvantageous. If solar power weakens military readiness by slowing tank deployments, for example, the affirmative would argue that the plan does not obtain solar power; solar power is (if the negative’s argument is true) unnecessary. While this could be used to spike out of disadvantages, it was more powerfully used to shield the plan from normal means PICs. If the negative “PICed out of solar power” with the tank deployments argument as its net-benefit, the affirmative could concede the disadvantage to disprove that the counterplan competes. This was extremely frustrating for PIC-dependent negative teams.  

2. Westminster’s Plan: The United States federal government should procure necessary components from its industries for the International Thermal Experimental Reactor.

This plan used the “necessary” spike in similar ways. If the negative claimed that particular ITER components were disadvantageous, the affirmative could argue that the plan does not procure them (because they are unnecessary). In many debates, the affirmative conceded that no (additional) ITER components were necessary — zeroing the link to negative disadvantages — but that the international signal of support sent by the plan was advantageous in and of itself. Against normal means PICs, they could use this “unconditional signal of U.S. support good” advantage to demonstrate a non-zero solvency deficit. Coupled with the link-zeroing “necessary” argument, this made it very difficult for their negative opponents. They went on to win that season’s Tournament of Champions.


Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase social services for persons living in poverty in the United States.

1. Damien’s Plan: The United States federal government should means-test Medicare.

Plans had already become extremely vague by the mid-2000s, but affirmative teams took vague plan writing to its most extreme level beginning around 2010. This plan did not specify how or at what income level Medicare should be means-tested, making competition for normal means PICs very challenging for the negative to prove. (Means testing an existing entitlement program was also an innovative way to hack topicality, but that’s unrelated to counterplans.)

2. Westminster’s Plan: The United States federal government should substantially expand the earned income tax credit.

This is a similar example of extreme plan writing vagueness. Most of the debate in the literature about the EITC was about details: how to expand it, at what income thresholds, whether to adjust benefits for families, etc. Negative teams that specialized in normal means PICs wanted to argue that a particular type of EITC expansion was bad, and PIC out of it. With this plan, that was basically impossible; in response to normal means PICs, the affirmative would argue that the counterplan was merely an example of how the plan could be implemented. That language became increasingly popular over the next decade, and it eventually led to to the decline of the era of the normal means PIC.


Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its military and/or police presence in one or more of the following: South Korea, Japan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey.

1. Damien’s Plan: Independent from any decision regarding the location of the headquarters of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force, the Department of Defense should agree to gradually redeploy Marines from Japan other than the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit as well as a comparable number of Marines to maintain pre-positioned equipment and maintain access arrangement for the emergency use of Japanese facilities.

2. Juan Diego Catholic’s Plan: Independent of any decision regarding the 129th Medical Detachment, Korea Service Corps Battalion, Special Troops Battalion-Korea, 175th Financial Management Center, US Army Corps of Engineers – Far East District, participation in United Nations’ standing mission, the United States federal government should remove ground forces from the 8th United States Army, except for the 501st Military Intelligence Brigade as well as a comparable number of members of the Army to maintain positioned equipment and maintain access arrangement for the emergency use of South Korean Facilities.

Both of these plans utilized the same innovation. Expecting to debate “exception” counterplans, the affirmative simply adjusted their plan texts to spike out of those counterplans. In the former example, the plan denied the negative its Third Marine Expeditionary Force PIC. In the latter example, the plan denied the negative several PICs: those out of the 129th Medical Detachment, the Korea Service Corps Battalion, Special Troops Battalion-Korea, the 175th Financial Management Center, the US Army Corps of Engineers – Far East District, and “participation in United Nations’ standing mission.”

Like the previous innovations, this one was immediately copied and utilized in subsequent seasons. For negative teams that specialized in PICs, it complicated their preparation; once a PIC was read once, the affirmative might choose to spike out of it in future rounds. This pushed negatives away from plan-specific PICs and toward broader, more generic mechanism counterplans, a category of counterplan that grew in popularity in the 2010s.


Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its exploration and/or development of space beyond the Earth’s mesosphere.

1. Glenbrook South’s Plan: The United States federal government should substantially increase its space-based climate monitoring capabilities.

This plan combines earlier innovations by fiating an outcome using extremely vague language. Negative teams that attempted to PIC out of particular methods of space-based climate monitoring would struggle to prove competition. As with previous examples, the affirmative would argue that disadvantageous or ineffective forms of space-based climate monitoring were not mandated by the plan because they do not increase the U.S.’s capabilities.

Even more importantly, this plan was an early example of a trend that dominated the rest of the decade: the use of resolutional language in the plan, or planicality. While this has always happened to some degree, the intentional use of the resolution’s mechanism in the plan text was a relatively new development. In this example, the plan fiats that the USFG “substantially increase” its capabilities. What does “substantially increase” mean? The plan does not specify. By choosing not to specify beyond the resolution’s mechanism, the affirmative altered the available counterplan options for the negative. Over time, this led to the emergence of the aforementioned mechanism counterplan. With more teams relying on the language of the resolution’s mechanism, negative teams increasingly concluded that a “PIC out of the mechanism” counterplan was a better option than a “PIC out of normal means,” especially because affirmatives had now gotten quite good at crafting plans that were relatively impervious to that genre of counterplans.

2. Greenhill’s Plan: The United States federal government should develop space based Space Guard civil space situational awareness.

The final plan writing innovation from this era is the use of a noun as an adjective, something that allowed the affirmative to draw a strategically valuable (to them) distinction between the plan’s “mandate” and its “effects.” That distinction had been acknowledged for many years (at least since the advent of the “effects topicality” argument a few decades earlier), but affirmatives began using it in newly strategic ways to inoculate their plans against both topicality presses and counterplan competition. In this example, the Space Guard did not yet exist, and the affirmative could not topically establish it. As a workaround, this plan proposes that the USFG develop “space based Space Guard civil space situational awareness,” meaning space situational awareness done by the Space Guard. While the plan does not “mandate” the creation of a Space Guard, the affirmative argued that this would be an “effect” of the plan. In this way, it allowed the affirmative to claim advantages from establishing a Space Guard without specifying a plan mandate that would be very vulnerable to topicality.

This innovation also significantly altered competition for counterplans. “Space based Space Guard civil space situational awareness” was not a term of art that was discussed in the topic literature, so identifying the “normal means” for this plan’s enactment was quite difficult. In a sense, the affirmative had already claimed a “normal means advantage,” so the most logical PIC (increase SSA, but don’t create a Space Guard) was unstrategic.

Even if the negative thought they could win the “Space Guard good/bad” debate, they still had another problem: any counterplan that proposed increasing SSA but not building a Space Guard was permutable. Because “Space Guard” in the plan is an adjective, and the creation of a Space Guard is an effect rather than a mandate of the plan, the affirmative argued (usually successfully) that the plan could be legitimately combined with a counterplan that “bans” the creation of a Space Guard. In order to defeat that permutation, the negative needed to win yet another layer of the debate: that “Space Guard” in the plan is part of the plan’s mandate, not simply an effect. The accumulated hurdles the negative needed to jump over in order to win this counterplan usually proved too daunting.

While the noun-as-adjective plan writing innovation remained somewhat popular, its more general strategic approach proved to be extremely prominent for the rest of the decade. Because negatives had been relying so heavily on normal means PICs (and by this time, those counterplans had evolved into something closer to today’s process counterplans), the affirmative’s number one priority when writing their plan should be to deny the negative access to those counterplans.

Together, these plan writing innovations (and other similar ones) gave affirmative teams a new winning strategy against normal means PICs. Instead of proving that these counterplans were theoretically illegitimate, affirmatives pivoted to proving that they were not competitive. To do that effectively, they crafted plan texts with vague language, flexible mandates, and resolutional language.

This strategic pivot was largely successful. While normal means PICs were not completely extinguished as a viable negative option, their popularity waned. Other counterplans emerged to take their place, and this led to the modern era of planicality and what I have called hypothesis planning. That will be the subject of the final article in this series.  

Works Cited

Cheshier, David. “Is The Consultation Counterplan Legitimate?” Rostrum, 2001, pp. 25-28.

Solt, Roger. “Negative Fiat: Resolving the Ambiguities of ‘Should’.” Journal of the American Forensic Association, Volume 25, Issue 3, 1989, pp. 121-139.

Ulrich, Walter. “The Legitimacy of the Counter Procedure Counterplan.” Journal of the American Forensic Association, Volume 23, Issue 3, 1987, pp. 166-168.

3 thoughts on “The Evolution of Plans In Policy Debate, Part 5: “Normal Means” PICs and Process Counterplans

  1. Pingback: The Evolution of Plans In Policy Debate, Part 6: Policy Testing, Planicality, and Hypothesis Planning | The 3NR

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  3. Pingback: Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Ulrich on Counter-Procedure Counterplans | The 3NR

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