First, I just want to give a shout-out to the Mountain Brook tournament in Birmingham. This is the second year I’ve been, and once again the hospitality and timeliness have been exceptional. Jeff Roberts really goes out of his way to bring good judges to the tournament and put on a good show (and the MB students do a great job keeping things running). If you live in the South and don’t make it to this tournament, you’re missing out!
On to the substance of today’s post: what position will win the TOC?
I’ll try not to answer my own question (since I’m more interested in others’ thoughts), but I will say this: debaters are doing themselves a strategic disservice by running away from the plausibly true positions on this topic. I describe the loss as a “strategic” one, because I’m reasonably certain that no one will be persuaded by pedagogical risks.
The debates that start off on dubious premises (thanks to ridiculous case positions) almost always become side-tracked by theoretical and procedural questions that can rarely be resolved predictably. This is especially true in elimination rounds against strong competitors—the marginal utility of a “non-stock” position is significantly diminished when assured that your opponent will either shift the debate to theory or respond with an even more “outside the box” argument. The race to the bottom of absurdity can quickly become a counterproductive exercise, or one that at best terminates in a coin-flip decision.
While I hesitate to make any predictions, I certainly hope that high-level debates will explore the contextually unique accounts of self-defense that tend to permeate this topic in real-world discussion. I believe that the most researched account of this issue can and should take center stage. Off-the-wall positions may be decisive in prelims and lesser tournaments, but the most consistently and universally successful positions are true ones.
What do you expect to see come out on top?