Frameworks Wide and Narrow (Part III) by Jake Nebel

People have asked me why I think a wide framework is a good
strategy. I understand their confusion, since preclusive standards have such
obvious strategic merits that may never seem worth sacrificing. I don’t think a
wide framework is always strategic, but its strategic virtues include the

1. You can avoid many objections to theories that are entirely
outcome-based or entirely rule-based. Under a wide framework, you can sometimes
just “no link” these objections, and other times you can just concede
the objections and impact to your standard in the means-based or ends-based way
that the objections permit. If your position’s offense includes both kinds of
impacts, you can win this time tradeoff.

2. Your framework can be both shorter and more difficult to
answer. Shorter, because it takes less time to establish that something is
valuable (e.g., human dignity) than to establish that we must treat that value
in only one specific way (e.g., maximizing it). More difficult to answer, for
two reasons. First, some of the objections which you can avoid are the
strongest ones. There are more and better objections to the view that we are
always obligated to maximize the sum total of wellbeing in the universe (e.g.,
anti-aggregation, repugnant conclusion) than there are to the view that
wellbeing is intrinsically good. Second, you will often have access to
better arguments for the standard. There are good topic-specific reasons why
the criminal justice system should care about consistency, which do not say
that consistency is the only thing that matters, or that
consistency is only valuable as a means-based constraint
rather than an end.

3. Framework debate on the national circuit today is, by and
large, pretty bad in a few ways. Let me preface my explanation by saying: it’s
really good in the sense that it’s impressive that debaters
are familiar with philosophical arguments that they might otherwise not
encounter — although it’s unclear how much that’s due to reading and research,
as opposed to merely recycling. 🙁 But it’s bad in that it’s often a battle of
competing assertions, bastardizations, implausible claims, and lines and
arrows. The cards are often read way too fast for someone who’s never heard
them to understand them — a practice which judges shouldn’t accept, even if
they understand the cards after much repetition. The arguments are rarely
tailored to the topic, they usually trade off with substantive argumentation,
and the weighing debate is often just rhetoric and sophistry. My point is that
you can please your judges and win their ballots by making plausible framework
arguments that are germane to the resolution’s context, reflect the
philosophical literature more accurately, and return the debate to the
resolution’s conflict scenario. Even if you don’t share these complaints, you
should agree that a lot of judges are reasonably frustrated about
framework debate in the status quo. 

4. Wide frameworks increase your flexibility in the rebuttals.
In a plan debate, why have more than one impact scenario? Because you can weigh
between the scenarios and prioritize the advantages in the 1AR. The
same flexibility comes with wide frameworks. You can weigh between your
contentions in the rebuttal with philosophical argumentation. Of course, the
negative can start the weighing debate early — and you can preempt
it with weighing arguments in the AC. But that’s also true for policy
affirmatives with multiple advantages. This strategy is, in functional terms,
no different. 

I think the above considerations show that wide
frameworks have a strategic place in LD, without giving an illegitimate
advantage to one side.