by Matt Hazell
Many motions in debating will have proper nouns in them, and examples are always useful in these cases. However, you can never win or lose in BP debating via example alone. The purpose of outside knowledge in debates is to illustrate the arguments you are making. Importantly this means that facts, without good logical analysis underpinning them, are of little merit. In this article we will look at one specific motion set at the Amsterdam Open 2018, and look at how to approach this seemingly technical debate without knowing much at all. The motion is as follows:
Structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) consist of loans provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to countries that experienced economic crises. The IMF requires borrowing countries to implement certain policies (e.g austerity measures, reducing trade tariffs etc) in order to receive these loans (or to lower interest rates on existing ones).
This House Believes that the IMF should pay reparations to countries that experienced severe economic hardship as a consequence of IMF restructuring programs
Firstly – don’t panic! Remember that in debating, teams do not win or lose on the “truth” of their arguments. It is impossible to determine, within the confines of a BP debate at least, what the specific effect of a motion will be. Rather your aim as a speaker is to persuade the judges that it is plausible that a certain thing will happen. Whether or not that is true in real life, in debating anything you can construct sensible reasons for can be weighed in the debate. The average reasonable voter does not have a PhD in economics! You can say things that will have economic theorists like Keynes turning in their graves and still get an 87.
When approaching a motion you aren’t sure you know much about, the first thing to remember is that you probably know more than you think. You probably know that the IMF is an organisation that provides loans to countries that are undergoing severe economic crises. Often these loans are tied to specific conditions (this fact is given in the info slide as well as examples of such conditions). You also probably know (or can infer) that it is primarily backed by western countries, because those countries are the wealthiest.
From these basics, and a general understanding of the world in general , we can construct relatively compelling prop and opp cases.
As either team in the debate, it is always useful to work out what both sides are likely to agree upon. Namely that the IMF is in general a useful institution and we would like to preserve its capacity to act in future economic crises. Given that, we can predict that the two broad areas of clash in this debate are likely to be:
1) Countries that have experienced economic hardship as a result of IMF policies:
2) Effect this has on future IMF policy
Importantly, these two themes of argumentation can work separately from each other. For example, prop could argue that the moral culpability of the IMF means that it does not matter if the organisation is bankrupted by this policy and unable to give loans in the future. Similarly, opp could agree that the IMF has harmed these countries but that its role as a stabilising influence on the world economy is too important to lose. If either side wants to win then they need to provide good reasons (i.e weighing) as to why we should care more about one set of arguments than the other. In reality, it is always a good tactic to engage in both areas of clash, as well as explaining why the one you are focussing on is the most important clash.
Now let’s look at what each individual team might want to argue, without using specialist knowledge.
If you are OG, you probably want to define the motion. If you know very little, it is better to be broader and vaguer than trying to be very specific and missing the point. In this case you need to define:
An independent panel of economic experts is probably best suited to decide which countries deserve reparations. Reparations in the form of direct cash transfers to either governments or individual citizens works well here. The second part is probably more contentious: who do you give the money to? Governments will give the advantage of you arguing this money will be used sensibly to develop the economy, e.g infrastructure projects etc; but are also at risk of corruption / vanity projects. Individual citizens may use the money in a manner that doesn’t help the economy, and could potentially lead to local inflation. In any case, you want this decided quickly so you can get on to arguments.
The first prop argument you will likely want to make is the principle of culpability. The IMF gave money to desperate countries and imposed specific economic conditions on them. As a result these countries experienced hardship. You can argue that A) the IMF did this with bad intentions, or without full diligence (e.g things like reduced tariffs were imposed to benefit the economies of the IMF’s international backers) or B) it doesn’t matter whether the IMF knew this would happen or not, because the end result is the same.
We might also want to argue that these conditions were imposed under pressure – the counties did not have a meaningful option to not accept these deals, due to their financial collapse. This means they did not fully consent to the conditions attached, and so were incapable of performing their own due diligence.
We may also want to argue that, if the countries had not taken IMF loans, they would be materially better than if they had done. This argument can be made to sound plausible even if you know nothing or that it is factually untrue in the real world. We can do this by claiming things like:
Reparations are a proportionate and fair recompense for this because they will make the country richer. Governments can use this money to directly reimburse those who lost out due to the IMF programs, or to grow the economy presently. We can also argue that one of the biggest harms of the IMF program was that it stripped the countries of their own autonomy in decision making – hence giving them money with no strings attached is the only fair solution.
On the second set of arguments, about the future of the IMF, we may want to say things like:
These arguments can all be made from first principles and very limited knowledge of the world, and cover many of the bases in this debate.
Opp have a tactical choice in what arguments they want to prioritise in this debate. I think a good approach is to think about which clashes are easier to win on, and prioritise them. For example, prop have reasonable fiat to exclude countries that were primarily harmed by other things (governmental policy, commodity price drops (e.g oil)). This means that it is probably true that the IMF definitely caused economic hardship to these countries. It will be hard to win on culpability.
However, this does not mean you should ignore this area of the debate. A good approach is to try and make parts of the debate you can’t win on sufficiently messy that the other side can’t win on them either. Hence, we want to claim things like:
Hence, even if the judge does not entirely believe you, there is sufficient doubt in their mind as to whether culpability is absolute and so they will be unlikely to award the debate on these grounds alone.
The next step in this analysis is to explain that, given you cannot definitively assign moral blame, the overriding concern should be the ability of the IMF to act in a useful capacity in the future. This is because, though harm was done in the past, the primary function of the IMF is to prevent future harms. If the IMF is unable to do this then a) more harm will accrue to more people as financial crashes spread more rapidly, or b) other worse actors will provide these loans.
Now it is incumbent on you to explain who these other actors are and why they are worse, and how exactly the IMF will lose the ability to fund things in future. For example:
Other arguments you could make are that these changes in the IMF (if the organisation continues to exist), are very damaging:
With this done, you have a solid two-pronged approach to the debate that will serve you well.
Of course examples and specific knowledge is useful in a debate, but their absence doesn’t mean you are automatically going to lose the debate! Most debates have a set of clashes that can be derived from logic alone, and the arguments can be made based on very limited information about the real world. A useful tactic against teams that know a lot is to claim the inverse of their arguments (with some analytic reasons as to why) and then side-step them by claiming their arguments are unimportant or less relevant than yours. The brunt of this work will be done not by factual arguments but by logical reasoning.
Some Case Studies
You might have got to the end of this and wondered, “that is all well and good but what if I do want some knowledge?” Well, here are some handy articles to get up to speed on the IMF and some of the examples that are most relevant to the debate:
The IMF in its own words:
Opinion piece/explainer on how Structural Adjustment Funds can cause poverty: http://www.globalissues.org/article/3/structural-adjustment-a-major-cause-of-poverty
Simple explainer of criticism of IMF loans:
Short article explaining some negative consequences of IMF Policy:
Article on the Asian Financial Crisis and how the IMF contributed to it:
Website dedicated to critiques of IMF (and WB)
Article on the evaluation of the IMF about the policies in 1990’s in Argentina:
Written by Jos
Today is the final day of the Dutch Debating League! Filled with excitement because… I don’t know, Groningen and Tilburg are battling for 6th place? I mean Leiden already won this thing right? Any way. On to the preview of the teams!
Cicero: David and Mike
Wait, is Mike still a member of Cicero? Didn’t he move to Leiden? And who is this David guy? Couldn’t Roel be bothered to show up? Any way. I’m sure they’ll do great. Mike did break at EUDC after all and has 11 years of debating experience. David did judge the finals of Dutch nationals. This is a team that’s going to kick some ass!
Bona: Marike and Tom
Would have sort of expected Marike to have made the move to LDU by now where she would be an organizational powerhouse instantly. Guessing this is prep for EUDC. Kind of expecting these two to do well at EUDC, they did so last year as well. Kind of surprised Tom is still this invested in debating tho, heard he’s doing well in fiscal law. I think the former love birds are going to fly away with it at this event!
Delft: Niels and Reeti
Man… Delft. I love Delft. Such a nicely organized debating society. We have Niels, former champion of BDT, and Reeti, engineer. Are any of them attending EUDC? I don’t know. Delft will take the 8th place. I think they nevertheless showed they belong at this stage. They only missed one event right? I bet UCU is going to be like “We want to join DDL!” at the next Bondsraad and then they are going to get some non-committal response “Yes. We will look into it.” And Delft is like “No, that’s our spot.” Except Delft probably won’t be present for the meeting, because, honestly, why would you show up to a Bondsraad?
GDS: Henk and Linsey
Is that GDS dino Henk? So many great tournaments in Tilburg every year and he shows up for this? And of course Linsey, finalist of Dutch nationals, showing up for her 4th debating event in Tilburg this year. Kalliope has shown a strong presence at DDL events, what they lack in new members they make up for in enthusiasm among existing ones. I’m pretty confident they’ll secure that 6th place finish on Linsey’s road to a possible EUDC break.
UDS: Jelte and Pieter
I think I can tell these two apart now. Only took me like three years. We have Pieter, future doctor and Jelte, future person-that-tells-corporations-what-they-want-to-hear-for-money-without-adding-any-real-value, or consultant as he likes to say. These two have been training hard together for years now and are in tip-top-shape. Jelte also stands out for being the person that made the Debatbond do something useful for once in my lifetime (as opposed to just draining time and energy) by starting the DDL, so shout-out to him for that. It doesn’t matter how they finish, the fact that this event is happening is a win for Jelte.
EDS: Emma and Fenna
These two average like 80’s at tournaments. And they were super-close to breaking at EUDC last year. Shout-out to Fenna for having a top notch board year, with EDS recruiting like 70 members. I’m sure they’ll do great and kick some ass. If EDS has a hall of fame it’s pretty much about time to start making room in it for Emma and Fenna!
LDU: Roel and Ybo
Son-of-a-philosophy-teacher turned philosophy student Roel and son-of-a-judge turned law student Ybo are continuing a lifelong streak of never leaving their comfort zone by showing up to a debate event where there’s nothing at stake for them. For the team that previously reached a EUDC and a Dutch nationals finals taking home anything below 8 points is considered a defeat. All in all, if we look at the narrative for next DDL LDU being dominating is pretty great as every story needs a villain. LDU racking up points is like Ivan Drago beating the crap out of Apollo Creed. Now all we need is a Rocky!
Written by Huyen
Interview Novi Sad EUDC 2018
2018 marks the 20th installment of the European Universities Debating Championship (EUDC), which will take place in Novi Sad, Serbia. At the end of July, hundreds of debaters from all across Europe will travel to the Championship to debate, party and make new friends! The Dutch delegation is of course well represented, with almost every society sending teams and judges. But, teams and judges are not the only representatives of the Dutch debating community. Daan Welling and Gigi Gil have been selected to become Deputy Chief Adjudicators of the Chief Adjudication team at Novi Sad EUDC. Both Daan and Gigi are of course famous Dutch debaters, who themselves have achieved many great things at past EUDC’s. Time to get to know them a bit more and see how they are experiencing the whole build-up for the biggest European tournament of the year. 720 reporter Huyen talked with both of them!
How did you decide to apply for DCA spot at EUDC 2018?
Gigi: I was nominated actually. Until I was notified I had been nominated, I had not seriously thought about it. Then I was like “Actually it sounds like a lot of fun”, and if people consider me qualified then it’s worth applying. And to be honest, I just really enjoy CA-ing.
Daan: I think the selfish part of my reasoning is that, I had just been part of the core organizing team for Dutch Worlds, which took a lot of time and effort to prepare, and I found I didn’t really get the chance to enjoy it. For most of my generation of debaters, Worlds would’ve been the peak of my career and I wanted to enjoy that peak. Given I didn’t, I wanted to take another shot at leaving university debate on a high note. But more importantly, obviously you don’t just want to apply to something just to get something, but because you also have something to offer. And in my regard, what I have to offer the team was a healthy dose of experience, particularly running large internationals. I think most people, when thinking of being a CA team, think primarily about motion setting. Although that is an important task, tournaments of this size also require us to recruit judges and keep in close contact with the Org Com. I thought that was the part that I could play a role, that’s why I applied.
What do you think about the emergency switch from Scottish to Novi Sad EUDC? Any specific changes to your duty as a DCA in EUDC because of this incidence?
Gigi: Obviously it’s just regrettable how things happened. I’d say I’m most impressed and most overwhelmed by how amazing it is that people were willing to take over. That’s just wild, they really really are competent, and we are very grateful! I don’t think much has changed for us. The OrgCom has been really nice and open to us. The other CAs like Duncan and Olivia do so much more with regards to communicating with the orgcom anyway.So it’s been pretty smooth for us in terms of transition, it just was like a break in time, we couldn’t do anything between the two switches. Now everything is pretty smooth sailing, to be honest.
Daan: Euros is run by volunteers, which is crazy for a big event with such a massive budget. The budget of Euros regularly reaches near half a million, you have to accommodate over 600 people over a week. And all of that is done on a volunteer basis with no pay, and perhaps more importantly, all the work is done alongside people’s degrees. So any organization that says “We’re willing to host it”, beyond being slightly crazy, is an organization that I think we should all be incredibly grateful for. Given those numbers and the tasks, it is not completely weird that a bid sometimes fails to materialize. I’m not old enough to have experienced it myself before, but it has happened before, and I think it will happen again in the future. Moving onto Novi Sad, I am incredibly happy with Jovan. He and his team are working amazingly around the clock, and the fact that they are able to secure things this late in the game, I think, is truly a testament to their commitment to debating. Insofar as we needed to switch away from Scotland, I don’t think we could have asked for a better team to take up the amount of organizing a Euros in such a short fashion.
My duty as a DCA has not really changed. We all work with small teams. We are very fortunate to have Olivia and Duncan as incredibly hard-working CAs, and I think the organization has been made in such a way that they are able to do different tasks efficiently. So we are just doing the normal things as we do as DCAs. We are working both on the motions and on getting Independent Adjudicators in. If you are working with such a large organization, you can’t try to be the one that is aware of everything that’s going on. As that is such an impossible job, it’s only really the convenor’s task. And I think what we need to do is to make sure that the convenor’s life is better, by not trying to engage in his business, but rather do our businesses well.
How is the working collaboration going with the new Org Comm team from Serbia?
Gigi: We speak mostly with Jovan, and Jovan is just a f*cking “trooper”. He works very very very hard, and is super motivated. Also not just to run Euros to make everything excellent, he’s putting us on the spot, i.e the pressure that is exactly what we need from OrgCom. So I think he’s pretty phenomenal.
Daan: Similar as in my answer in previous question, I don’t there is much of a difference. That being said, the way in which we do, is primarily we work a little bit independently, I think that’s important. I think there is not anything I shouldn’t know, knowing too much about the ins and outs of the organization might in fact distract me from doing part of my duty. So most of the essential communication is done through the CAs. Obviously we communicated much more when it settles down, we needed to know much more information and task division gets clearer.
What are you most looking forward to in this Euros edition?
Gigi: I’m really excited, I really enjoy the whole process of finding judges across Europe, CA-ing across Europe and doing motion sets. It’s gonna be strange for me not to be there to see all that happens, but it’s probably gonna be amazing, especially given the pool of great judges I’ve seen across this year. I guess that’s what I’m most excited about!
Daan: I think every Euros is great, because it allows a large amount of communities to come together, which means you don’t just learn from people whom you always debate with. And that’s why I’m very happy to return to Novi Sad, because I think that debating is very important for this particular region. It is still within my lifetime that a war was waged here, it is still within my lifetime that people felt unsafe to speak up, and I think such opportunity remains fragile. And in that regard, I’m really happy to see many young people able to get engaged in debating, power-free thinking, critical reasoning and holding institutions accountable. I’m just happy to know I can contribute to a small part of that.
What do you hope to get out of your time in this Euros edition?
Gigi: So I already got a lot out of it, having been working super intensively with quite a big team over a pretty long period of time. A lot of them have taught me things about CA-ing that I didn’t know before, and I’ve changed my mind about some of the things that I was really dead set on. I think sometimes CAs tend to be very negative about ideas that they don’t initially understand, and this CA team is working really hard to get rid of that. All of our work is anonymized when we cooperate, so it’s very helpful to learn from that.
Daan: For me, this is my final big thing I’ll be doing. In that regard, I hope I set up something that is really cool, that we have amazing motions, that people are satisfied with the adjudication. If people tell me by the end that the tournament has been great I hope they don’t do that because they want to please me, but because they genuinely have a good time. And if that’s the case, I’d be really happy at Euros this year.