The Instigator
Pro (for)
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The Contender
Con (against)
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Developing nations should prioritize economic development over environmental sustainability.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/12/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 10,782 times Debate No: 35533
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
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First round is acceptance. I shall define the terms of the motion.

Developing nations (Wikipedia): A developing country, also called a less-developed country (LDC), is a nation with a low living standard, underdeveloped industrial base, and low Human Development Index (HDI) relative to other countries.

Prioritize: (in this context): Dedicate a significantly larger proportion of its resources to do something.

Economic development: Sustained increase in national output as well as standard of living of the people

Environmental sustainability: Environmental sustainability involves making decisions and taking action that are in the interests of protecting the natural world. This refers to solving issues such as deforestation, reducing the country's carbon footprint, etc.

Ground rules:
1. Text only debate
2. ROUND 1 is for acceptance of the debate and definitional clarifications or challenges only.
2. ROUND 2 is for arguments and rebuttals.
3. ROUND 3 is for more arguments and rebuttals.
4. ROUND 4 consists purely of concluding remarks and no arguments must be introduced.
5. All source material must be easily accessible.

Note that when incoporating examples about specific nations (I'm explicitly pointing at countries such as China here), you first have to prove that they fit into the definition of a 'developing nation'.


I accept the debate and all definitions.
Debate Round No. 1


Today I will be proposing two major contentions.

1A: It is the government’s role and duty to serve the interests of its citizens It is the government’s role and duty to place the needs of its citizens first. People give up part of their civil rights in exchange for aid. This aid comes in the form of government involvement in society, whether it be government intervention in the economy, military buildup, or national security. Most of the countries that we’re concerned about in this debate today are western liberal democracies, and the point of a democracy is to ensure that the people’s voices and interests are heard, and are ultimately part of the decision making process.

1B: Economic growth and development ensures that the interests of the people are served When we’re talking about developing nations, we’re talking about countries who primarily depend on their primary and secondary sectors, whose economies revolve around their agricultural and industrial sectors. We’re talking about areas that are populated with people that still live under a dollar a day, such as the slums of Bangladesh and the rural plains of Africa. We’re talking about people who are barely surviving in dirt-poor living standards, without access to clean water and proper shelter. The immediate needs of the people, namely, getting out of poverty and better living standards, can only be solved through economic development, which can in turn be stimulated, according to positive economics, by increased government spending. Employment will be boosted through increased spending on things such as infrastructure, and the country’s production possibilities curve will push outwards if government resources are spent on technology and research on efficient production methods.

2A: Developing nations do not play a large role in contributing to environmental issues such as global warming and deforestation. It is important to note that developing nations are not to fault for the world’s increasingly serious environmental issues and problems. Most of these developing nations are largely dependent on agriculture, which leads to nearly no significantly detrimental impacts on the environment, unlike other more developed industrialized countries. It’s pointless to talk about the burning of fossil fuels in these countries when most of its population can’t even afford to have the most basic necessities such as adequate food, water and shelter. Electricity is a luxury and is exclusively owned by only the richest in these countries. This is immediately reflected in the level of carbon dioxide emissions by each country—nearly 70% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions come from only ten countries, all of whom are developed, industrialized nations. [1]

2B: Developing nations therefore should not be responsible for resolving the world’s environmental problems. This distribution of the world’s environmental problems ultimately means that: Firstly, requiring developing nations to invest in green technology will not, in any way, effectively solve the world’s environmental issues. The cost of investing in such technology—the construction of wind turbines, the implementation of solar panels—far outweighs the benefits in this scenario. Secondly, requiring developing nations to invest in green technology is unjustified and unfair. Developing nations do not significantly contribute to the world’s environmental problems, and should not be responsible for fixing other countries’ problems for them. Actions have consequences, and developed nations should be left to deal with their own consequences instead of imposing this burden on innocent nations.



I would like to thank PRO for setting up this debate. This is not an issue I have thought of much since college, so I expect this to be a nice refresher.


I am first going to outline PRO’s argument as I understand it; so that we can clear up any misunderstandings right away. I will be paraphrasing for purposes simplicity and space; I am not trying to redefine PRO’s argument.

1A: Governments exist to help their citizens
1B: Economic growth helps the citizens
C: Therefore, governments should work toward economic growth

2A: Developing nations do not contribute significantly to environmental degradation
2B/C: Developing nations should not be expected to fix the problems caused by other nations

First of all, I would like to point out that neither of these two arguments, either individually or together, necessarily lead to PRO’s initial claim that “Developing nations should prioritize economic development over environmental sustainability.” Argument 1 concludes that economic growth is to be valued, and Argument 2 concludes that developing nations need not solve the problems caused by other nations. Nowhere is it even suggested that economic growth should [a] be valued higher than environmental sustainability.

Argument 1A

This argument claims that the role of a government is to act in the interest of its citizens. PRO here asserts that we are concerned with “western liberal democracies,” but I see no reason to restrict the discussion to such a subdivision of the various world governments, as neither the title of the debate, nor PRO’s first round definitions require, or even suggest, such a limitation. I will be challenging the assertion that the purpose of the existence of governments is to serve their citizens.

There are many different kinds of governments, and each country has put its own personal spin on the particular kind of government by which it is governed. I don’t challenge PRO's assertion regarding my own government, in the Western democracy in which I live, the United States. However, there are forms of government that do not exist to serve their citizens. For instance:

In an Absolute Monarchy, the word of the monarch is law. He or she is not restricted by any statute or duty to anyone. While it may be true in practice that it is in the monarch’s best interest to (at least partially) serve his or her citizens, there is no requirement [2].

In a Theocracy, a deity is considered the head of state, and therefore, the will of the god is the purpose of the government, not the interests of the people [3].

In a Totalitarian Government, the ideology of the regime in power is the supreme purpose of the government, not the well being or interests of its people [4].

I feel that three examples of forms of government that do not meet PRO’s definition of the purpose of a government are sufficient to show that Argument 1A fails.

Argument 1B

I do not dispute anything PRO wrote in Argument 1B

Argument 1: Conclusion

While I agree with PRO that economic growth helps citizens (1B), the failure of Argument 1A shows that there is no reason a government should follow that course. Also, as I noted previously, even if Argument 1A held, there is no requirement that the nation in question must value such development over economic sustainability.

Argument 2

I don’t find it necessary to fully address Argument 2 at this point, because I feel it is largely irrelevant. 2A claims that developing nations do not contribute significantly to environmental degradation, and 2B goes on to claim that for this reason, said nations shouldn’t be expected to “resolve the world’s environmental problems,” as PRO puts it. I concede 2B (less developed nations should not be expected “resolve the world’s environmental problems”), but reserve the right to readdress 2A if I feel it will contribute to the debate.

Overall Conclusion

I have shown that the purpose of government is not necessarily to benefit its citizens, as PRO asserted. Therefore, even though I agree that economic development is generally beneficial to the citizenry, it is not necessarily the purpose of the government to pursue that course of action. I would also like to restate, that even if we accept all of PRO’s arguments, it only follows that the governments being discussed should value economic development, not that they should value such development over environmental sustainability.


[a] I have purposefully used Wikipedia heavily as a source to meet PRO’s requirement that sources be “easily accessible.” As PRO utilized Wikipedia as a source in Round 2, I hope that my own Wikipedia sources meet PRO’s vague requirement of accessibility.Should: “used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness [1]”




Debate Round No. 2


First of all, I’d like to thank Con for continuing this very interesting and enjoyable debate. Before I start with some rebuttals to Con’s arguments, I’d like to briefly answer a query that Con raised in the debate. What I mean by “accessible” is that I can easily access it within the limited amount of time (i.e. several hours) I have to pursue activities such as debating. This means pretty much anything on the Internet (provided I don’t have to sign up to access it/purchase it before reading it), provided you can give me the link. I’m just concerned about debaters who might post references to books or other material that I might not be able to get my hands on within the several hours of free time that I have.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten housekeeping out of the way, here are my rebuttals:

“Argument 1 concludes that economic growth is to be valued, and Argument 2 concludes that developing nations need not solve the problems caused by other nations. Nowhere is it even suggested that economic growth should [a] be valued higher than environmental sustainability.”

Argument 1: I would like to clarify that my first argument does not merely prove that economic growth is to be valued. Argument 1 concludes that is the duty and role of the government to serve the interests of its people before anything else (and this includes fixing any environmental issues or contributing to the environmental sustainability of the country).

Argument 2: The fact that developing nations do not need to solve the problems caused by other nations means that they do not need to dedicate their resources into solving these problems. This then means that developing nations should be putting only a limited amount, if any at all, of their resources into environmental sustainability. Given that spending on other issues, such as health care and national security remains constant, this inherently means that the government has more leftover resources to encourage economic growth, therefore fulfilling the definition of ‘prioritize’.

I don’t necessarily see why my two arguments don’t lead to the claim that “Developing nations should prioritize economic development over environmental sustainability.”

It is still in the best interests of the leaders of the government, regardless of the style or form of government that exists in the country, to prioritize economic development over environmental sustainability

It is in the best interests of the leaders of the country to ensure that its citizens are satisfied and content, and this includes ensuring that the most of its citizens are not living in poverty and that the majority of the population’s standard of living is appropriate. Regardless of whether the leader rules an absolute monarchy or totalitarian government, neglecting the needs and interests of the people leads to discontent among its citizens, which can ultimately lead to social turmoil and even a revolt or overthrow of the current system of government, which directly threatens the positions of power that the current leaders of the government have.

This is most evidently shown through the unfolding of recent events in Egypt: one of the main reasons why both ‘President’ Hosni Mubarak (dictator of a kleptocracy) and the rulers of the Muslim Brotherhood (Morsi) was overthrown was because of the large waves of unemployed people that were fighting for a liberal Egypt. Both Mubarak and Morsi would have remained in their positions of power if they were not oblivious to the interests of the people. (Both Mubarak and Morsi were terrible dictators in the way that both tried to gain absolute power and total control over Egypt. Mubarak spent his entire time in power extracting resources from the Egyptian economy and giving it to himself, whilst Morsi, who was elected to power, tried to pass a decree that allowed him to bypass the constitution and Parliament.) Both leaders were overthrown because of their inability to solve the economic recession that was affecting people at all levels of society, resulting in the huge wave of young, fervent unemployed people that tried to topple the authorities that were in control of Egypt. [1] [2] [3]

Because, rationally and logically, most leaders would want to remain in a position of power, it is in their best interests to ensure that the interests of the people are served, at least to a certain extent, and this includes ensuring continual economic development to prevent high levels of unemployment and poverty.

Argument 2 isn’t irrelevant?

Side proposition has yet to prove why Argument 2 is necessarily irrelevant, so I rest my case.


I’ve proven that Argument 1 still stands, as well as why Argument 1 and Argument 2 combine to lead to the conclusion that developing nations should prioritize economic development over environmental sustainability.

Side note: I have no idea why footnote (reference) 2 turns into a video that's embedded into the page, but the link's become invisible as a result.






I thank PRO for his third round arguments; this is turning out to be an interesting debate. I have noticed that DDO puts any links to videos in the upper right corner; it happened to me the one time I linked to a video. This is apparently the way the website is written. Finally, I would like to thank PRO for clarifying his point on “accessible” sources. Accessibility can mean easy to understand, so the clarification is welcome.

Argument 1

Originally, PRO claimed that it was the duty of the government to “place the needs of its citizens first.” I showed how this is not necessarily the case, so PRO has reasserted his claim as such: “It is still in the best interests of the leaders of the government, regardless of the style or form of government that exists in the country, to prioritize economic development over environmental sustainability[.]”

This is a slightly different claim than the one presented in PRO’s original arguments. He has not challenged my rebuttal, but rather he has changed his claim from the “the government’s role and duty” to the “best interests of the leaders.” As I have already addressed the former, I will now address the latter.

It is in the best interests of the leader to keep their citizenry happy only if they fear that their well being and/or power might be in danger. It will cite two examples:

During the 1770s, King George, a monarch, did not place a high priority on his subjects living in the Americas. This poor treatment eventually led to the colonies declaring their independence and what we in the United States call the Revolutionary War [1]. King George continued to rule the British Empire until he died in 1820 [2], so his poor treatment of the American colonists certainly didn’t cost him personally.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) is known to have a terrible human rights record. Drawing on sources from the reign of Kim Jong-Il, we can see that individuals were punished not only for crimes, but for their political opinions, or even the crimes and opinions of their families’ [3]. Also, there are documented cases of forced-labor camps where prisoners, including political prisoners, are worked (in some cases) to their death [4]. Kim ruled North Korea from 1994 until his death in 2011; he paid no personal cost for the mistreatment of his citizenry that his government performed, and was able to remain in power until his death at the age of 70 [5].

There two examples show that the treatment of the people a leader rules over, may not be relevant to that particular leader’s interests. Therefore, any claim that any particular leader should be taking choosing one policy over another because it is best for the citizenry fails because this is clearly not always the case.

Argument 1: Overview

I showed how PRO’s claim that governments have a duty to take care of their subjects fails. This point has not been challenged, and it stands. PRO’s second contention on the matter is that leaders should do what is best for the people because it is in their own best interest. This argument also fails because, as I have shown, it is not always the case. Finally, PRO has not demonstrated that Argument 1 necessarily leads to his conclusion that “Developing nations should prioritize economic development over environmental sustainability,” despite his claims that he has. He has suggested how it could be the case, but he did not show why it must be the case.

Argument 2

PRO has continued to make an excellent case that developing nations need not dedicate resources to solve the environmental problems caused by other nations; however, this is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the priorities of nations singly, and whether or not environmental sustainability should rate higher or lower than economic development. We are not talking about groups of nations or environmental sustainability on a regional or global scale.

Now, if I were to make the case that Nation A must commit resources to sustainability because Nation B is polluting the river, Argument 2 would need to be properly addressed. However, I am not making that case, so Argument 2 continues to be irrelevant to the discussion.


PRO has not addressed my point that governments do not necessarily need to put the needs of their citizens first; that point stands. Instead, he has chosen to argue that it is in the leader’s best interest to look after the needs of their people; I have shown this to not always be the case. PRO has also not demonstrated how Argument 1 necessarily leads to his conclusion; he has just reasserted that it does. Argument 2 continues to be irrelevant because I am not making the case that one nation should pay for another nation’s environmental mishandling. Overall, PRO has not shown that developing nations have an obligation to place higher priority on economic development than on environmental sustainability.



Debate Round No. 3


Undercover forfeited this round.


I would like to thank PRO for putting this debate together; I have enjoyed it thoroughly. Since PRO has forfeited his final round, I will move straight to my closing arguments.

Closing Thoughts

PRO accepted the burden of proof when he made a claim that “Developing nations should prioritize economic development over environmental sustainability.”

PRO’s argument came in two parts:

Argument one suggested that [1] governments exist to help their citizens, and that [2] economic growth helps the citizens, concluding that, governments should work toward economic growth. I showed both how part [1] is not necessarily the case and that even if both [1] and [2] are correct, the conclusion does not necessarily follow.

Argument 2 claims that [1] developing nations do not contribute significantly to environmental degradation, and that [2] developing nations should not be expected to fix the problems caused by other nations. I showed how this argument isn’t relevant to the discussion at hand.

Overall, PRO’s arguments fail; he has not sufficiently made his case. PRO has not met his burden.

Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by MrJosh 4 years ago
Note regarding my second round arguments. Somewhere between the word processor I typed in and the copy/paste into DDO, my final section, "Notes" was pasted into the middle of my "Definitions" section. Although I feel my meanings are fairly simple to determine, I would be happy to clear up any confusion regarding this matter here in the comments section.
Posted by Donjaundebater1212 4 years ago
Im considering accepting this debate.
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