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The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Food Security

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 9/21/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,164 times Debate No: 79967
Debate Rounds (5)
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I've debate this topic before [] but it should be fun to switch sides. Romanii's a great debater, and we've faced each other before, so I am looking forward to debating him again. We tried another debate, which didn't work out [], so I am glad we've got this one as a back-up :)

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Full Topic

Just governments ought to ensure food security for their citizens.


The definitions below are influenced by or excerpted from Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Merriam Webster, Oxford Dictionary, the WHO, the FAO, the World Bank, and Encarta.

Government - 'the organization, machinery, or agency through which a political unit exercises authority and performs functions' and 'the body of persons that constitutes the governing authority.'
Ought - expresses moral obligation
Ensure - to guarantee
Food Security - A condition wherein all citizens have access to reliable and sufficient supply of affordable and nutritious food.
Citizen - 'a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth'


1. No forfeits
2. Any citations or foot/endnotes must be individually provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final round
4. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. No trolling
6. No "kritiks" of the topic (e.g. moral skepticism, the government is an amoral actor, moral nihilism, etc.)
7. My opponent accepts all definitions and waives his/her right to add resolutional definitions
8. For all undefined terms, individuals should use commonplace understandings that fit within the logical context of the resolution and this debate
9. The BOP is Shared
10. Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss


R1. Acceptance Only
R2. Pro's Case, Con's Case
R3. Pro rebuts Con's Case, Con rebuts Pro's Case
R4. Pro defends Pro's Case, Con defends Con's Case
R5. Pro rebuts Con's Case, Con rebuts Pro's Case, both Crystallize

Thanks... Romanii; I am looking forward to a truly stellar and enjoyable discourse!


[Insert pleasantries here]

I accept the debate!
Debate Round No. 1


Many thanks again to Romanii for this debate! I will now lay out my case.


Before we proceed further into the debate, it will be profitable to ask: "precisely what is justice, and how do we apply it?" The classical, Aristotelian conception of justice is "giving each what they are due." This perhaps raises more questions than it answers, foremost among these queries being "how do we determine what is due." In order to undertake an analysis of this second question, we ought to go precisely to the heart of what makes humans--and, by extension, our interests--valuable. For, if humans were not of moral importance, it would not be morally important to consider our dues, and we might (morally-speaking) perhaps be due nothing at all.

Human dignity is often cited as the concept or idea which is the wellspring of our moral worth. To expound on this notion just a bit, let's consider the following: a table cannot be blamed for a moral failing because it cannot choose to do something wrong. A human, on the other hand, is morally relevant insofar as we have this power to make rational choices. As Martha Nussbaum writes, "At the heart of [human dignity] is a twofold intuition about human beings: namely, that all, just by being human, are of equal dignity and worth, no matter where they are situated in society, and that the primary source of this worth is a power of moral choice within them, a power that consists in the ability to plan a life in accordance with one's own evaluation of ends." [1] Surely, though, it is not just rational agency that gives us dignity. A purely rational agent, with no emotions (e.g. a robot), may lack this unique sense of dignity sense they cannot suffer. Thus, dignity is a tripartite package of potential to suffer, ability to choose, and possibility for personal development. If we then attempt to construct a system that maximizes this dignity and which minimizes violations to this dignity, we might look to a capabilities approach.

What then is the capabilities approach? It is "a theoretical framework that entails two core normative claims: first, the claim that the freedom to achieve well-being is of primary moral importance, and second, that freedom to achieve well-being is to be understood in terms of people's capabilities, that is, their real opportunities to do and be what they have reason to value…Capabilities are a person's real freedoms or opportunities to achieve functionings. Thus, while traveling is a functioning, the real opportunity to travel is the corresponding capability." [2] This links directly to the above narrative regarding human dignity: "What do I mean, then, by saying that a life that does not contain opportunities for the development and exercise of the major human capacities is not a life worthy of human dignity? I mean that it is like imprisoning or raping a free thing whose flourishing (based on these capacities) consists in forms of intentional activity and choice. Such a life is a violation in much the way that rape and unjust imprisonment are violations: they give a thing conditions that make it impossible for it to unfold itself in a way suited to the dignity of those capacities. So the Stoics are wrong if they think that respect requires only a reverential attitude. It requires more: it requires creating the conditions in which capacities can develop and unfold themselves. (Similarly, we would say that a young child is a precious thing and that this preciousness is not itself an artifact of political arrangements while also thinking that it entails some very specific political obligations of respect and support.) Respect for human dignity is not just lip service, it means creating conditions favorable for development and choice." [3]

Human dignity is thus our core due, since it is the justification for all other dues. We are due freedom, privacy, life, property, and so forth, because to deny us these things directly threatens our human dignity. A table is not due freedom, for instance, because it can neither suffer nor can it make choices. This is certainly not the case for human beings. In order to protect human dignity, on balance, we must cultivate environments conducive to allowing people to exercise their free will, to pursue happiness, and to self-actualize. The goal of capabilities theory is to ensure that all human beings have access to minimally good lives which allow them to do these things. Environments of abject suffering, squalor, and poverty are not suited to this end. They are traps which seriously hinder peoples' ability to have minimally good lives and are "so impoverished that it is not worthy of the dignity of a human being." [3] Thus, such atmospheres of privation are unjust conditions because they violate the prime due.


I will now illustrate how a lack of food creates an "impoverished" environment which unjustly degrades that dignity. In other words, food security is needed to construct an atmosphere conducive to living a life of dignity and flourishing.

C1. Food is Necessary to Live a Normal, Healthy Life

"Those with only household food insecurity (HFI) had statistically significantly higher odds of fair/poor health and being hospitalized since birth, whereas those with both HFI and child food insecurity (CFI) experienced even greater adverse effects (100% greater odds of fair/poor health and 23% higher odds of hospitalization, respectively). The presence of CFI in addition to HFI resulted in a statistically significant increase in the odds of fair/poor health above the odds when only HFI was present." [4] "Poor nutrition causes nearly half of deaths in children under five--3.1 million children each year...Some 805 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That's about one in nine people on earth." [5] In fact, hungry children actually suffer growth impairments as a result of their hunger: "Hungry children...cannot learn as much, as fast, or as well because chronic undernutrition harms their cognitive development actually changing the fundamental neurological architecture of the brain." [12] This even has an economic impact: less educated, more unhealthy workers are less efficient. [12]

C2. Food Insecurity Leads to Violence

"Food insecurity is both a cause and a consequence of violence, contributing to a vicious cycle or ‘conflict trap’. Food security is critical for political stability. Food insecurity is linked to increased risk of democratic failure, protests and rioting, communal violence and civil conflict. Violent conflicts, in turn, create food insecurity, malnutrition and--in some instances--famine. Thus food insecurity can perpetuate conflict. Competition over scarce resources, particularly land and water, often causes or exacerbates communal conflict...World commodity prices can trigger conflict, as higher prices, especially for food, increase affected groups’ willingness to fight...As a country’s import prices increase, thereby eroding real incomes, the risk of conflict increases...[Also] wars have been waged to reduce demographic pressures arising from the scarcity of arable land, the clearest examples being the move to acquire Lebensraum...that motivated Nazi Germany’s aggression toward Poland and Eastern Europe...and Japan’s invasion of China and Indochina...Water, for drinking and for agriculture, is also a cause of conflict. Countries that share river basins are more likely to go to war than are other countries that border one another...[Also] [r]ecord-high world food prices triggered protest and violent rioting in 48 countries in 2007/[2008]." [6]

C3. Food Security is Key to Psychological Wellness

"Food intrinsically linked to feelings of stress or distress...We investigated the association of food insecurity with psychological distress...controlling for socioeconomic factors. Secondarily, we examined the association in males and females...A strong relationship between food insecurity and psychological distress was found...[T]he association remained after adjusting for confounding demographic and socioeconomic variables." [7] "Household food insecurity has insidious effects on the health and development of young children, including...behavior problems, primarily aggression, anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder...These concerns early in life increase children's risk of poor school readiness, poor school performance and subsequent health disparities and poverty...Families with few economic resources may be forced to make difficult choices among basic needs, such as food, housing, energy and health care, often resulting in frustration and emotional distress...Emotional distress, frequently manifested as symptoms of depression and anxiety...interferes with caregiving practices and adversely impacts children's well-being." [8]

Increased psychological stress has a suppressive effect on a person’s social engagement [9], and can lead to serious health problems as well. [10] In fact, "children who are hungry are four times more likely than non-hungry children to need mental health counseling, seven times more likely to get into fights frequently, and 12 times more likely to be involved in crime. By the time they are in high school, hungry children are twice as likely as their peers to have seen a psychologist, twice as likely to have been suspended from school, and more likely to be described as having difficulty getting along with other children." [11]


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Thus, I affirm. I turn the floor over to Con...


Thanks, Bsh!

Note: The debate's rigid structure prohibits the merging of arguments and rebuttals. As a result, if my case overlaps with my opponent's, then our discussion is going to start becoming rather redundant in subsequent rounds. In order to prevent this, I'm going to limit myself to presenting a single opening argument which avoids any such overlap.

== NEG CASE ==

All human beings have ownership over themselves. This is intuitively obvious -- since you are the sole user and occupier of your own body, you are the only one who can exert any sort of authority or control over it. Denying self-ownership results in a performative contradiction because simply the act of denying it (via speaking/typing) requires you to exercise your faculty of self-ownership. However, perhaps the biggest problem with denying self-ownership is that it results in moral nihilism -- without self-ownership, human beings have no autonomy over themselves, and are therefore reduced to deterministic robots with nothing to distinguish them from the rest of the inanimate & amoral universe -- there is nothing to indicate that they are "morally significant" in relation to reality. Nihilism is problematic because it automatically makes Pro's burden of proof impossible to fulfill, since he has to demonstrate the existence of a moral obligation.

With self-ownership established, it is easy to see how this translates into rights like life and liberty -- life is the most essential component of the self, and liberty stems from the very definition of "ownership". Self-ownership also necessitates the existence of property rights -- it logically follows that if I have ownership over myself, then I should also be granted ownership over the material property which I have rightfully acquired, since my actions are an extension of my person. The takeaway here is that every individual possesses self-ownership and its associated negative rights to life, liberty, and private property ownership; the only moral obligation in existence is to not infringe on the rights of other individuals.

That is, in essence, the Non-Aggression Principle.

Given this ethical framework of inviolable rights, the *only* plausible role of a "just government" is to enforce the Non-Aggression Principle -- in other words, the only justifiable use of tax revenues is to protect citizens' rights from being violated. I will go ahead and point out now that it is impossible to derive positive rights from self-ownership because property has to be acquired by virtue of a person's actions (i.e. earned) in order to rightfully be their own. Thus, we conclude that ensuring food security does not fall into the category of what just governments "ought" to do. In fact, ensuring food security would necessarily involve forcibly redistributing people's rightfully-owned property; that makes it a violation of the Non-Aggression Principle, and therefore *antithetical* to the purpose of a just government.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 2


Thanks, Romanii! I will now rebut Con's case.


A. Self-Ownership

Con contends that all human beings have self-ownership (SO) and that this leads to property rights over ourselves and the products of our labor. I will endeavor to show that SO is a flawed paradigm.

1. SO is an impoverished understanding of human moral worth.

A view that is wholly focused on rational autonomy misses the importance of suffering in understanding human dignity. Con talks about "deterministic robots" not deserving rights, but it would seem that a robot can (or could conceivably) make rational, autonomous choices. For instance, a robot is in development which "will be completely autonomous and should be able to help with everything from fetching tools tasks." [1] It will have "artificial intelligence allowing it to learn by example and respond to its surroundings. Once trained in a series of basic tasks the robot should be able to increase its own intelligence and act independently." If Robots are capable of such advanced autonomous action and rational capacity, why do we not accord them rights? Also, if rational autonomy is the wellspring of rights and dignity, how does Con justify protecting children and the disabled? Part of the answers to these questions comes from an analysis of suffering. Humans are capable of a unique kind of emotional and physical experience that differentiates us from other entities, like robots. Suffering has a uniquely moral dimension, because we almost universally recognize it to be wrong to inflict, particularly without purpose. Justice involves giving each their due, and no one seems to be due needless suffering; in fact, we seem to be due reasonable protections against it. Because suffering distinguishes us from tables and robots, and because inflicting it needlessly is a degradation of our moral sphere as human beings, a better understanding of dignity is one that incorporates both rational autonomy and suffering.

2. Being reliant on property rights to ground freedom is dangerous.

Suppose that freedom is the absence of coercion, or, as Kant frames it, being independent of another's will. "If we take this definition of freedom then the amount of freedom a person has is the extent to which they can act without being coerced to do (or not to do) something against their will. In a libertarian society you cannot (legitimately) do anything with another's property if they don't want you to, so your only guaranteed freedom is determined by the amount of property you have. This has the consequence that someone with no property has no guaranteed freedom, and that the more property you have, the greater your guaranteed freedom. In other words, a distribution of property is a distribution of freedom, as the libertarians themselves define it. Thus...the libertarians are saying that the best way of promoting freedom is to allow some people to have more of it than others, even when this leads to some having very little or even none." [2]

3. Vulnerable Groups require special consideration.

Children and the disabled are often unable to care for themselves. Because they cannot care for themselves--because they are vulnerable--society needs to take on additional responsibilities in caring for these groups, unless we want to allow them to be victims of abuse and suffering. Food security is one essential way society should care for these individuals, since they are unable to earn food on their own through traditional SO mechanisms.

4. SO is Arbitrary.

Our ability to exercise our SO is contingent on other factors, including the environment in which we live. People in squalid conditions with no education, for instance, are no able to exercise their SO in the same way as I am, for example. This is through no fault of their own: education and other resources may just be unavailable to them. A just society would not condemn people to such unequal opportunities based on the happenstance of birth. Con writes: " I should also be granted ownership over the material property which I have rightfully acquired, since my actions are an extension of my person." But, the inequalities of birth were not acquired by any action I took. How is it just to arbitrarily assign (dis)advantages to individuals? Ultimately, justice cannot be based on the arbitrary, because then it would have no moral rhyme or reason. Thus, everyone should be entitled to minimum standards of living to ensure basic equality of opportunity.

5. People as Property

Property, by its very nature, can be bought, sold, and bartered. Thus, if I own myself, I can sell myself. SO, however, contends that we are inherently our inalienable owners. This results in an obvious contradiction: if I own myself, I can sell myself, but yet, self-ownership says I can't do that. Besides the contradiction, 2 more impacts re: "people as property." Firstly, the possibility that I could sell myself (thus losing autonomy) poses a real risk to the goal of SO, which is to protect a person's autonomy. Secondly, viewing people as property dehumanizes them--it leads us to conceive of them as "things" not "people," which degrades their dignity.

B. Positive Rights

Con talks about how only negative rights can be derived from SO, and how the resolution requires a positive right. I will now address this.

1. Con is playing a semantics game.

Virtually any right can be phrased in a negative or positive fashion, and this is certainly true of the resolution. I could say that "just governments ought to provide food security" or I could say that "just governments ought not to allow people to starve." The latter obliges the government to do something, the former obliges the government to not do something, but both have the same impact. In other words, there is no real difference between the two kinds of rights; it is more of a word-game.

2. There is an active rights violation going on.

A just government "ought not to kill" people, according to Con's philosophy. By denying food to starving people, a government is causing their death. Starvation here is the weapon, and the government is wielding it against innocent victims, violating their right to not be killed.

3. Absolute rules fail.

Con writes: "the only moral obligation in existence is to not infringe on the rights of other individuals." Con also says: "the only justifiable use of tax revenues is to protect citizens' rights from being violated." Let's employ this logic for a moment in this hypothetical: suppose a just government is under attack from another unjust/oppressive nation, and it is trying to muster a defense. Suppose I have a piece of land (my justly acquired property), that is located in a key strategic location vital for the defense of the nation. Suppose also that I am unwilling to allow the government on my land. The just government is now put in an untenable situation: either it violates my negative rights to my property or it is negligent in upholding its obligation of providing for the national defense (which jeopardizes the SO and safety of many others).

Put differently, we could say that moral system with such rigid rule structures fail for a variety of reasons, but primarily because they lead to unresolvable or contradictory situations. Absolutist "moral systems...provide no clear way to resolve conflicts between moral duties. A deontological moral system should include both a moral duty not to lie and one to keep others from harm, for example, but…how is a person to choose between those two moral duties? A popular response to this is to simply choose the 'lesser of two evils,' but that means relying on which of the two has the least evil consequences and, therefore, the moral choice is being made on a [ends-based] rather than a deontological basis." [3] In the quotes above, Con asserts that it is (a) unjust to violate peoples' property rights and (b) that the government must protect people's rights. Mustering a defense is essential to protect people's rights from being violated, but to muster a defense, it must violate the property rights of someone. Thus, the just government has reached a logical impasse for which the system Con proposes has no resolution.

4. NAP has an All-or-Nothing Approach to Risk.

"[W]hat if I merely run the risk of shooting you by putting one bullet in a six-shot revolver, spinning the cylinder, aiming it at your head, and squeezing the trigger? What if it is not one bullet but five? Of course, almost everything we do imposes some risk of harm on innocent persons...But considerations like this carry zero weight in the NAP’s absolute prohibition on aggression. That principle seems compatible with only two possible rules: either all risks are permissible (because they are not really aggression until they actually result in a harm), or none are (because they are). And neither of these seems sensible." [4]

C. Other

1. Con talked about nihilism. Notice in the rule 6 that this kind of argument is prohibited. If Con goes for the nihilism impact, he is essentially kritiking the topic.

2. Con wrote: "Denying SO results in a performative contradiction because simply the act of denying it (via speaking/typing) requires you to exercise your faculty of SO." This is false. I can have autonomy without claiming property rights over myself. For instance, a robot may be able to make autonomous decisions, but it is not its own property. We could also say that a 16 year old may be able to make autonomous decisions, but is not a self-owner, as they certainly has others would can exert control over them. No contradiction exists.

3. Con talks about tax revenue. This is a contradiction. If he believe that incomes (as extensions of my labor) are my property, allowing the government to tax is a violation of SO because it violates my property rights.


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tenq yoo fer ur argz, bee ess aich wun

The problem with Pro's framework is very simple -- it barely contains any substantive ethical justification. Pro spends a large portion of his case telling us *what* human dignity is and explaining the normative claims that would stem from it, but he never tells us *why* we should morally value human dignity in the first place. What exactly is "dignity" anyways? It's an incredibly vague concept to be hinging one's entire case off of. Furthermore, Pro's reasoning is backwards -- he automatically presumes that humans have moral worth, rationalizes that moral worth with various human properties (e.g. rational agency, capacity to suffer), and then proceeds to group them all under one big undefined umbrella of human dignity. He has yet to put forth a single compelling reason to believe that humans actually have any moral worth under his framework.

Contrast that with my framework -- I started from the bottom (self-ownership), justified its existence with three different lines of reasoning, and systematically worked my way up to the top (the non-aggression principle).
Prefer my framework because it is actually warranted.

Now, onto the biggest problem with Pro's case...

TURN: Pro says "Respect for human dignity means creating conditions favorable for development and choice... we then attempt to construct a system that maximizes this dignity." I argue that government efforts to "ensure food security" and alleviate poverty in general are actually *detrimental* to this end, and that having the government abstain from intervening in such matters is what would result in the maximization of human dignity. Thus, the resolution will be negated even under Pro's own framework. For the sake of convenience (and ease of access to statistics), I will be using the US as a case-study.

I. Dependency

It is fairly obvious why being economically self-sufficient is more "favorable for development and choice" than being impoverished and dependent upon government provision of resources. However, dependency is precisely what government food security programs and other such welfare-related efforts encourage -- what an absence of government-ensured security does is force people to become self-sufficient and usually escape poverty in the process.

There is more than enough evidence affirming this to be true. One CATO study found that in 1987, only 18.3% of people receiving welfare benefits moved out of poverty, whereas out of the poor people who did *not* receive welfare benefits, *45%* of them ended up escaping poverty [1]. Moreover, in 1996, when reforms which basically disallowed dependency were introduced (e.g. work requirements, time limits, etc), self-sufficiency drastically went up -- "a 2011 Social Science Journal study analyzed the effects of the mid-1990s welfare reform on welfare caseloads. Using state-level data from 1992 to 2005... it found that during the study period, on average, 'welfare reform led to a 41 percent decline in welfare recipiency'" [2][3].

On the other hand, government subsidizing of the poor is only associated with the creation of dependency cycles and the further perpetuation of poverty. One 2004 study on intergenerational transmission of dependency found that children who were raised in dependent families had their chances of receiving welfare in adulthood increased to almost 50% -- "nearly three times the probability (0.166) for respondents whose parents did not receive welfare" [3][4]. One particularly exhaustive study on the causes and effects of welfare dependency found that dependency does indeed have negative effects on "future economic outcomes such as poverty status, net family income, and number of hours worked" [5]. This may be because welfare dependency also tends to negatively impact students' education levels --"a 2003 Demography study found that... the likelihood of high school completion diminished by 14 percent for each year of welfare receipt" [3][6].

The takeaway from all this is exceedingly clear -- ensuring food security may be able to fulfill people's nutritional needs on a day-to-day basis, but in the long-term, it perpetuates poverty and thereby diminishes human dignity. Meanwhile, my evidence shows that removing social safety nets tends to result in increased rates of self-sufficiency and reductions in poverty, thereby advances human dignity. My next argument will provide even more warrant to this claim.

II. Employment

The US government's attempts at ensuring alleviating poverty have cost enormous sums of money -- $454 billion, annually [7]. That means that if the government were to stop intervening in wealth & food distribution, it would result in $454 billion of the federal budget being freed up, which would inevitably lead to tax cuts -- with that big of a reduction in government spending, the corporate tax could be eliminated, and the average income tax rate could be reduced by up to 7% [8]. Due to the supply-side benefits of corporate tax cuts, this would lead to massive economic growth, and, by extension, huge increases in employment opportunities for the poor. One study reveals that "a cut in the corporate tax rate by 10 percentage points will raise the annual growth rate by one to two percentage points" [9]. That trend probably isn't linear (so it won't result in a 20% growth rate), but we can nevertheless assume an enormous increase in economic growth from eliminating the corporate tax.

Economic growth directly leads to more employment: universal consensus among economists maintains that every 2% increase in GDP results in a 1% increase in employment rate [10]. Thus, the removal of safety nets wouldn't merely force poor people to become self-sufficient, it would also provide them with more than enough opportunities to become so.

III. Private Charity

Even if you don't buy that the economic growth from eliminating welfare spending & cutting corporate taxes would cover for all of the impoverished, private charities would easily be able to fill in to handle whatever poverty is leftover. The main reason for this is that abolishing public welfare would lead to a large increase in private philanthropy; there is solid evidence that welfare tends to crowd out philanthropists (i.e. people don't feel the need to donate much because there is already a social safety net in place) -- "The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies compiled a ranking of private philanthropy in 36 countries from 1995 to 2002. Based on giving alone, the U.S. comes first, giving 1.85% of GDP, followed by Israel at 1.34% and Canada at 1.17%... Among developed nations, those with higher taxes and bigger social safety nets tend to have lower rates of giving. In charitable giving as a percentage of GDP, nations with cradle-to-grave welfare systems rank far down the Johns Hopkins list: Sweden 18th, France 21st, Germany 32nd" [11]. Thus, if government welfare programs were to be abolished, we would inevitably see a large rise in private charity. In addition, abolishing welfare comes with an average 7% income tax cut, and increased incomes are associated with more private charity too [12].

Furthermore, private charities are estimated to be *twice* as efficient as government welfare, thereby requiring relatively little in terms of donations : "Using government data, Robert L. Woodson (1989, p. 63) calculated that, on average, 70 cents of each dollar budgeted for government assistance goes not to the poor, but to the members of the welfare bureaucracy [i.e. overhead costs]... In contrast, administrative and other operating costs in private charities absorb, on average, only one-third or less of each dollar donated... [R]aising only half as much money through voluntary donations, the private agencies (and families) could deliver the same amount as the government" [13].


Pro's framework is fallacious, ill-warranted, and clearly should be rejected in favor of my framework. Even if it does hold true, the resolution is still negated because, through the case-study of the US, we see that government programs aimed at mitigating poverty through subsidization (which include efforts to ensure food security) generally result in the long-term perpetuation and worsening of poverty via dependency, and are thus actually working *against* the goal of maximizing human dignity. In fact, we instead see that *abolishing* such programs would maximize human dignity.

The resolution is negated.

[2] Radha Jagannathan, "Welfare Reform"s Impact on Caseload Decline in the United States: An Application of Latent Trajectory Model," The Social Science Journal, Vol. 48, Issue 4 (December 2011), pp. 703"721.
[4] Marianne E. Page, "New Evidence on Intergenerational Correlations in Welfare Participation," in Generational Income Mobility in North America and Europe, ed. Miles Corak (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
[6] Inhoe Ku and Robert Plotnik, "Do Children from Welfare Families Obtain Less Education?" Demography, Vol. 40, No. 1 (February 2003),pp. 151"170.
Debate Round No. 3


Thanks, Romanii.


1. I did justify human moral worth: "if humans were not of moral importance, it would not be morally important to consider our dues, and we might (morally-speaking) perhaps be due nothing at all." Con DROPS this; do not allow him to rebut it as I'd not have a chance to reply. Instead of addressing my actual argument, all Con does is generically accuse me of not giving any argument at all, which is not the case. To expound on my point: rocks, because they are not of moral importance, are not factored into considerations of justice. The resolution implies that humans have moral worth because they're factored in to issues of what "ought" to be; to say otherwise would be to kritik the resolution. Moreover, Con, insofar as he also talks about what people are due (self-ownership) must concede that people are of moral worth lest he say that people are, morally, due nothing. So (a), either Con concedes people have inherent worth (then we can debate the implications of that) or (b) the extension of my dropped argument here is enough to counter Con here.

2. I didn't reason backwards; I established that humans had worth, explained why, and then linked to CapAp. Even if my argument was backwards, that doesn't make it wrong; Con should critique the logic itself, not the method. Even bad methods can occasionally produce correct results.

3. HD is not vague. I clearly articulated that HD involved inherent human worth rooted in our unique abilities to suffer, make life plans, and think rationally. At least on that last plinth, Con agrees with me that this is part of why humans are morally significant. And, even if HD is a bit vague, as long as the judges think it's clear enough to impact too, it's fine. All philosophical concepts involve some grey areas, rejecting them on that basis alone would leave us without any notions of morality/justice.


Con DROPS these. Extend them.


Overview: Applicability

(a) Most of Con's data comes from the U.S. The U.S. is not representative of all (or even most) states. Con never even explains why it should be a case study. (b) The resolution asks what a hypothetical "just government" should do. Because we don't know what tools this just government has at its disposal, these economic impacts (which rely on specific data) are almost impossible to calculate accurately. What we would know with certainty, however, is that without food, people will starve and be less safe, and that violence will be more likely. (c) Most of Con's evidence refers to generic welfare. While CapAp requires some welfare, levels may differ from what Con discusses.


1. FS =/= Handouts

All of Con's dependency arguments hinge on FS programs being welfare handouts. If this isn't the case, it means that there are FS programs immune to his objections, so he is attacking only a limited portion of my entire available ground. Two non-handout examples are given below, and could be used in conjunction with other means of FS:

a. Public Works: "First, because of the work requirement and low wages offered--often in food rather than cash--public works...avoid 'dependency on handouts'. Second, well-designed public works projects can create useful physical infrastructure while simultaneously transferring food...Third, agriculture-related public works activities...can improve farm yields, generating sustainable benefits for household food security." [1] This can also teach people useful employment skills, (e.g. agriculture)

b. Cash grants to community farms or micro-gardens can allow local communities to, through their own work, sustain themselves nutritionally without breaking their bank on supplies, seeds, etc.

When recipients own or participate in FS schemes, they have a greater stake in working hard. Only passive collection generates the kind of dependence Con fears.

2. FS =/= Dependency

"Studies by Parker and Skoufias (2000) in Mexico...Edmonds and Schady (2009) in Ecuador...and Ferreira et al. (2009) Cambodia, largely found no evidence of adult labour disincentive effects. Britto and Medeiros (2008) found that the two...programs in Brazil produce no negative effects on adult labour supply...Concerns that...transfers will cause recipients to 'choose leisure' are not supported by evidence from the...Child Support Grant in South Africa, where adults in recipient households are more likely to seek and find work...than poor households...Women gained financial and sexual autonomy from men, and low-paid workers were empowered to demand fair wages and decent working conditions." [1] Prefer my data: it's largely more recent, not limited to the U.S., and cited by respected global agencies.

3. Numbers

a. Con admits 55% of people did not get off welfare under the reforms. Con would deny these 55% food benefits, leading to malnutrition/death. These impacts outweigh getting a minority of people off welfare.

b. Malnutrition also results in poorer academic performance (my C3). In fact, unlike dependency, malnutrition causes physical malformations in the brain (my C1). Hunger leaves folks 4x more likely to need counseling and 12x more likely to commit crimes. These, plus physical damage (unique to food insecurity) outweighs 14% less likely to graduate high school and a risk of future dependency (which relies on the family receiving handouts from FS, which isn't a given).

c. Welfare reform programs had time limits imposed during Gingirch's tenure in the '90s (e.g. TANF). [2] Part of the reduction in recipients is explainable by this, rather than by the success of the programs.


1. Pipe Dream

Con's whole argument is premised on big "ifs." He says tax cuts are "inevitable;" this is not the case. The money could easily be spent elsewhere. And, even if tax cuts are made, they won't necessarily be corporate. Politicians may rather give citizens (rather than corporate America) a tax cut or spend the money on defense or to pay down the deficit. There is no reason to believe doing what Con suggests will necessarily, or even likely, result in the outcomes he describes. "If the money is cut, if corporate tax cuts happen, if that creates jobs (there is at least some doubt that it will create jobs)..." The impacts are far-fetched.

2. Tax Cuts Bad

a. We can look at the example of Kansas to see how massive tax cuts impact the economy: the government ran a huge budget shortfall, job a GDP growth is slowing, incomes are stagnating. and citizens are jumping ship. Using Con's logic, the opposite of all this should've occurred. [3, 4, 5]

b. Employers and landowners get most of the benefits of corporate tax cuts (about 65%), leaving the actually needy far behind. [6]

c. "U.S. public companies pay well-below the official 35% tax rate while 13.5 million American workers search unsuccessfully for jobs And start ups tell me that tax cuts don"t affect whether they"ll create new jobs." So, already low real tax rates are not having the impact Con says they will. Plus, U.S. companies have posted record profits, but aren't hiring: "companies are achieving that record profitability by squeezing workers. After all, 2010 productivity rose 3.9% while unit labor costs fell 1.5%," so rather than hire, they pay existing workers less. [7]

3. FS Good

b. "There are highly cost-effective solutions to avert...malnutrition...Research shows that $1 invested in nutrition generates as much as $138 in better health and increased productivity." [8] There are significant economic benefits to FS.

c. "In 2011, a team of economists from Brandeis University calculated the direct and indirect costs of hunger in the United States, taking into account its effects on health, education, and economic productivity. They estimated the total cost to the country that year to be $167.5 billion" [9] There is a big economic toll with a lack of food.

d. Con DROPS in my case where I point out that "more unhealthy workers are less efficient." Having a healthy, well-fed workforce thus contributes to economic growth by creating productive workers.

4. FS Inexpensive

The UN estimates that some poorer nations (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinea and Senegal) could significantly improve their FS with just 0.15-0.30% of their GDP. [1]

5. Constant

There are always unemployed and hungry in free markets, so Con will always leave people to starve.


1. Turn

Charity leads to dependence. Con is advocating that people rely on Charities for handouts, now, and charities seem even more willing to give sans work than governments. Turn Con's own points against dependence on him.

2. Religion

Part of the reason why the U.S. and Israel give so much is religion. A substantial portion of U.S. giving is faith-based [10]. This money may be spent on Church officials, buildings, proselytizing, etc. and so little of it may actually end up in providing social goods, like FS. So, the numbers may not be due to welfare in those cases.

3. Money

People give to causes that garner their sympathy, which may not be the most important causes. The Make-A-Wish foundation pulls at my heartstrings, seeing little kids happy. But, it doesn't feed the hungry or fight poverty. Just because charity increases doesn't mean it's useful charity or that the money goes where it's needed.

4. Infrastructure

Charities don't have the organization, scope, and manpower government does. Governments have better infrastructure to target and reach needy populations.

5. Study

If Con's study is right, and charity's have less overhead, that still says nothing about how well the charities use the money, and or what causes. Don't let Con introduce new data here; I won't have a chance to reply.


1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 -
6 -
7 -
8 -
9 - R1, Source 11
10 -


Romanii forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


Thanks again to Romanii for this debate. I will now address Con's case and forfeit, and briefly summarize the debate.


I would like for the judges to not give Romanii an automatic loss for his forfeit; I hold out hope that he may yet return to post a final round. In the event that he does return, however, the structure of the debate prohibits him from mounting any sort of defense of his case, so, at this point, his case is defeated due to the fact that he dropped every objection to it that I raised as a result of his forfeit.


VI1. The Non-aggression Principle

Romanii's case and the non-aggression principle have been taken out. Judges can cleanly extend all of my objections to that line of argumentation. This means that Romanii can only win if his turn is successful. It also means that judges must prefer my framework (Capabilities Theory) since the only alternative presented in the debate (NAP) is no longer viable.

VI2. My Case Arguments

My three contentions were dropped and extended. Thus, in any calculation of the benefits of food security vs. the costs, I am winning that food security saves lives, improves health, and betters standards of living by reducing starvation and malnutrition, reducing conflict, and improving psychological wellness.

VI3. Applicability

Con does absolutely nothing to justify why the U.S. should be used as a case study or to explain why it is a good model to analyze. Moreover, the U.S. is clearly not representative of all or most nations on Earth. Furthermore, the hypothetical nature of a "just government" prevents us from talking about the specific economic points Romanii discusses; instead we should be focused on broad issues. Finally, Con attacks welfare, but he attacks specific kinds and specific amounts of welfare which I do not necessarily have to defend. Thus, a lot of Con's data is simply not applicable to this debate or to my case, and should therefore be rejected.

V14. Dependency

Con's arguments about dependency fail. Firstly, they fail because I do not have to defend welfare handouts of the kind Con is critiquing. Second, they fail because more recent, more global studies support the notion that FS doesn't lead to dependency. Thirdly, there are unique damages to food insecurity (e.g. malnutrition) that outweigh the concerns of dependency.

VI5. Employment

Con's arguments about employment fail. Firstly, they fail because they are constructed on a bunch of tenuous assumptions that may never be realized. Secondly, they fail because tax cuts empirically do not increase growth and because companies (even with low real tax rates and stupendous profits) aren't employing people. Thirdly, the fail because FS isn't as nearly as much of a financial burden as Con makes it out to be, and because FS gives economic returns that more than make up for the cost. Fourthly, they fail because Con's system will always have hungry, starving people. Only my world can guarantee otherwise.

VI6. Charity

Con's arguments about charity fail. Firstly, they fail because charity leads to the very kind of dependence Con harps about. If you believe that dependence is bad, you must also therefore believe that charity is bad. Secondly, Con talks about how welfare crowds out donors, mentioning the U.S. and Israel as examples; however, the high rates of donation in those countries may be better explained by their religiosity rather than their low welfare benefits. Thirdly, they fail because people are not necessarily going to donate to the most effective charities, and so even an increase in charity spending cannot be shown to actually benefit needy groups. Fourthly, they fail because governments have the infrastructure in place to reach large populations while charities don't. Fifthly, they fail because Con's study saying that charities were more efficient/effective than government only talked about overheads, and not about how the money was actually used; thus, there is no evidence that charities are actually better at helping people than the government.


Under a CapAp approach, saving lives and preserving health are two of the most essential fundamental needs that a person must have in order to have a minimally good life. Even if FS isn't the best thing ever, it--at the very least--ensures that all people have access to these essential goods. Con cannot say the same about his system. Moreover, Con's arguments are cleanly taken out, and so he has no link to my framework, whereas I do, coming off of my dropped contentions. Thus, I ask for a Pro vote. Thank you!


If Con does post in the last round, please don't allow him to make any new arguments or to introduce evidence that makes a new argument. Thank you!


Romanii forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
81 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Romanii 2 years ago
Lol yeah screw you, Tej. "FF" woulda been less harsh.

We should re-match eventually, bsh1. I was looking forward to responding to the pragmatic stuff.
Posted by BLAHthedebator 2 years ago
NOOOOOO why did romanii deactivate....?
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
Tej, this voted needed like a 2 sentence RFD lol...
Posted by Yonko 2 years ago
I think "FF" would have sufficed...
Posted by tejretics 2 years ago
== RFD ==

Objective victory for Pro. There's no way Con is winning this debate. I don't have much time to type up a full RFD, but the tldr is basically Con's forfeits are sufficient to grant Pro victory, the turn fails, Pro's framework is better than Con's, and Con drops Pro's case. Con fails to defend their arguments as well. A relatively short RFD is given below; it's straightforward and to the point, but I hope it's sufficient.

I can vote Con down simply because of their multiple forfeits, allowing application of Rule 1 and Rule 10 to Pro's victory. I can vote Con down since his framework -- the crux of his argument -- fails. The framework (NAP) is absolutely refuted by Pro, since Con presumes self-ownership, which is refuted as being (1) an impoverished understanding of human moral worth and (2) arbitrary. It treats people as property, and fails to account for those without real "self-ownership." Con drops all of these objections. I prefer Pro's framework. And, finally, Con *drops* Pro's case, and the turn completely fails, due to food security not being grounded on dependency, et cetera. All of Pro's objections to the turn are dropped by Con. I vote Pro for the following reasons: (a) I prefer Pro's framework to Con's, (b) the turn fails, (c) the forfeits, and (d) Con drops Pro's case outside of the turn.

So that's why I voted Pro.
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
Romanii...45 minutes left...Please come back and post...
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago

Come back...
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
Romanii...just 3 hours left...Please don't forfeit...
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
13 hours left there, fry cook.
Posted by Romanii 2 years ago
I'm really not feeling like writing this....
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by tejretics 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments. Short version - Con's forfeits are sufficient to grant Pro victory, the turn fails, Pro's framework is better than Con's, and Con drops Pro's case. Con fails to defend their arguments as well. I vote Pro for the following reasons: (a) I prefer Pro's framework to Con's, (b) the turn fails, (c) the forfeits, and (d) Con drops Pro's case outside of the turn.