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Discourse on the Balanced Negative
by kÓrsten flewelling

        Traditionally, the negative team has one burden. They must demonstrate that the affirmative team has not upheld the statement of the resolution. To do this, they must either show that the affirmative team's case does not uphold the resolution, or they can take the opposing side and demonstrate that the statement of the resolution itself is not valid.

        All this just to premise. Now that we're on the same page, I'll continue. :)

        Because I'm tired of typing out "national sovereignty," let's suppose that the resolution was "Resolved: Cookies are better than potato chips." Now, the affirmative team has to affirm this and state that cookies are indeed better than potato chips. However, the negative team does not need to state the inverse, that is, "Resolved: Potato chips are better than cookies."

        Maybe the negative team decides, "Hey! Potato chips aren't better than cookies... but cookies aren't better than potato chips! They are equally desirable." There's balance! There's harmony! The chips need no longer despise the cookies for "being better"! There is peace in the junk food world. 

        In arguing the "balanced negative," the negative team has demonstrated that the statement of the resolution is invalid. After all, the resolution says the affirmative must show that cookies are better than potato chips and if cookies are only as good as potato chips, the resolution is wrong. Right? The negative team says, hey, there's no conflict. It's all equal in the eye of the couch potato. Let's call the whole thing off.

        And therein lies the problem with the balanced negative. If there's no conflict of values, then why the heck are we having a debate?!

        So you see, arguing that "human rights" and "national sovereignty" are equally important evades the real meat of the matter. It evades true, beautiful argumentation. In a typical debate round, the debaters avidly seek to determine, when in conflict, what should we value? "Life must be achieved before we can enjoy liberty!" "Liberty is the only thing worth living for!" (ignore the patheticity of these arguments... I'm just making a point!) In a round where the negative team argues the balanced negative, the round would look more like, "Life is more important than liberty!" "You know what? I agree. Life is important. But hey, liberty is important too. They're both important." 

        The round becomes dry and mundane. There's no conflict. And that's why I'm not sure whether or not I like the idea of the balanced negative. I'm heavily leaning towards, "This strategy bites."


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