Resolved: Just governments ought not persecute victimless crimes.
Just = guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness
Ought = Indicates moral desirability
Government = the authoritative body of persons in a state
Prosecute = to institute legal proceedings against a person
Victimless = an action to which all participating parties have consented
1. Pro posts topic, definitions, basic rules/Con posts acceptance only
2. Pro posts opening argument/Con posts opening argument
3. Pro posts rebuttal/Con posts rebuttal to Pro's opening argument
4. Pro defends his arguments; concludes/Con defends his arguments; concludes.
In round number four, there ought to be no new arguments brought into the debate.
No ad hominem. Do not drop the debater on forfeit. Vote for the side who wins- select winner voting.
I accept, and I'll just point out for clarity's sake that "persecute" in the titular resolution is a typo. It's "prosecute", as Pro defines it.
I have a moral reason to feed my child (...) going home soon will enable me to feed her tonight. Therefore, there is a moral reason for me to go home. This argument assumes a special case of substitutability. If there is a moral reason for A to do X, and if A cannot do X without doing Y, and if doing Y will enable A to do X, then there is a moral reason for A to do Y. I will call this 'the principle of moral substitutability.
This assumes some sort of consequentalist theory. Sinnot-Armstrong continues:
What gives me a moral reason to start the mower is the consequences of starting the mower. (...) any non-consequentialist moral theory will have to posit two distinct kinds of moral reasons: one for starting the mower and another for mowing the grass. Once these kinds of reasons are separated, we need to understand the connection between them.
Only the consequences unite these two reasons. So if the consequences of prosecuting these crimes are bad, you affirm. BOP is on neg since the government would be using some resources and those can't be spent without a good reason.
CONTENTION 1 is drug crimes. Drug possession is victimless yet it is illegal, and the consequences are awful. Zakaria: (http://content.time.com...)
We here in America make up 5% of the world's population but we make up 25% of the jailed prisoners. (...) convictions went from 15 inmates per 100,000 adults in 1980 to 148 in 1996, an almost tenfold increase. More than half of America's federal inmates today are in prison on drug convictions. In 2009 alone, 1.66 million Americans were arrested on drug charges, more than were arrested on assault or larceny charges. And 4 of 5 of those arrests were simply for possession. Over the past four decades, the U.S. has spent more than $1 trillion fighting the war on drugs.
And, this causes crime. Count the Costs: (http://www.countthecosts.org...)
Street crime and sex work blighting urban environments has its roots in the war on drugs. These problems result from the criminally controlled supply and dramatically inflated prices the drug war has created. (...) 900,000 criminally active gang members"a third of them juveniles(12) " in 20,000 street gangs, in over 2,500 cities, dominate the US drugs trade. (...) 95% of street sex work is drug-motivated. (...) these problems are virtually absent from legal alcohol and tobacco markets, underlining that they stem from the current law enforcement-based approach.
Remember all the gangs in the prohibition era? The US repealed that. It's about time we decriminalize drug possession as well. It even causes insane court clog. (http://broken-no-more.org...)
Our courts are clogged with case after case of petty drug use crime, such as possession of drug paraphernalia, a minor amount of marijuana, or addicts who have engaged in low-level non-violent criminal and illegal activities to get their drug of choice. Sometimes addicts are put back in prison not because they committed a new crime, but because they relapsed and dropped dirty, a parole violation. It should be obvious that our current public policies on Law Enforcement and addiction are not working. How is it possible that over six million of our citizens are convicted felons?
CONTENTION 2 is the economy. Excess prisoners are causing an economic crisis. Sterling: (http://www.forbes.com...)
The political dynamic of being tough on crime and drugs led to a dramatic expansion of the population with a criminal record. (...) expanded criminal punishment that has reduced opportunities for education, job training, employment, credit, marriage, and ultimately, American productivity and consumer buying power. Today, tens of millions of Americans " would-be consumers " because they have been convicted of a drug offense, aren"t earning what they could earn without a record. Our prison population, estimated as high as 2.3 million persons, is out of the car market. (...) While most of those offenses were instances of youthful bad judgment, the consequences for the economy last for decades.
CONTENTION 3 is autonomy and util. Under a utilitarian theory, where maximizing happiness is good, or a theory where autonomy is best, classifying these actions as crimes is wrong. They let people do what they want to maximize happiness. Under any moral theory, prohibiting actions for arbitrary reasons is wrong. If my opponent says it"s for the good of the person to discourage it, what about underage consensual sex? Take Zach Anderson (https://www.change.org...). This was completely consensual, so the punishment is arbitrary. If two people want to do something like this, why was Zachery punished?
And if this can be punished, where is the line drawn? At what point does the state do anything they want? Where is the line between totalitarianism and doing something for someone"s own good? If a victimless "crime" can be considered a crime, then there is something wrong.
No neg RVIs or NIBS: RVI"s destroy my ability to read theory because you can collapse in the NR; incentivize you to be abusive in the NC because you can just go for RVI or one dropped condition in the 2NR. You can win off truly abusive positions just by virtue of the last speech with new arguments - making 1AR theory a game over for me. Destroys education because you are incentivized to be abusive and then collapse the theory plus the RVI. I will have to win something with less time since I have to focus on multiple issues as well.
All neg counterplans must have a solvency advocates - only way to differentiate between actual lit and fringe blogs. I can"t prepare for infinite NCs so at least ignore ones that are complete crap. If there is no CP text presume the US status quo as the counter advocacy.
Presume aff: a. You assume a statement is true if it sounds reasonable. b. Strat skew: I have to debate blind, but the neg can alter their strat since they speak second; he gets new arguments last and convince you last, advantages that influence judges. c. Neg is classifying something as a crime and that requires justification.
For all these reasons, I affirm the topic and look forward to my opponent's response.
I also value utilitarianism as the best means of determining morality. Thus, this debate will be about whether prosecution of victimless crimes under a just government is of net benefit to society; I will demonstrate that it is. As the current status quo is already prosecution, the resolution advocates for a change in the status quo, and the BoP is shared.
What is “Just”?
To fully analyze the effects of prosecution at the hands of just governments, we must discern what a just system is. I propose that, in line with the accepted framework of utilitarianism, any just government, “guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness,” with justice being “the moral principle determining just conduct,” (1), a just government must make the decisions that are always create the most happiness for the most people. As such, I propose that a truly just legal system cannot be punitive. The most compelling evidence for this is the recidivism rate of the current punitive system in the U.S., as more than three-quarters of released prisoners in a study of hundreds of thousands of them landed back in prison within five years (2). Clearly, the system is operating ineffectively and thus immorally if it releases prisoners back on the street, only to see the overwhelming majority of them break laws again and return to the system. The two systems of punishment that come as close as possible to efficiency are reformatory and highly-punitive. The former can be seen in places like Norway, with access to the outside world, educated prison guards, education, healthcare, and reintegration, culminating in a 20% recidivism rate (3). The latter can be seen in places like Singapore, where “drug traffickers” (in quotations because of their liberal interpretation) may be hanged (4), resulting in a recidivism of about 30% (5). Since more reformatory systems tend to produce lower recidivism than harsher systems, a just government must reform offenders rather than punish. With that established…
Contention 1: Victimless crimes create an inefficient allocation of societal resources
As drug use/possession is the most well-known victimless crime, I will focus on it. I only need to show that just governments should prosecute offenders of one victimless crime in order to affirm the principle set forth in the resolution. Most criminalized drugs are illegal because of extremely harmful effects and abuse that often accompany them. Despite a lack of the more extreme effects of cocaine or other hard drugs, even marijuana is abused or depended upon by 4.2 million Americans (6). Even disregarding the well-known physical effects of drug abuse, which marijuana advocates attempt to mitigate in their arguments, the fact still remains that abuse and dependence are harmful to the overall well-being of a person, due to several common economic concepts. The concept of opportunity cost states that, essentially, to get one thing requires giving up something else. Doing homework carries the opportunity cost of time that could have been spent with friends. Buying drugs carries the opportunity cost of anything else that money could have been spent on. Now, an assumption of economics is that humans tend to make rational choices. That is, if humans buy drugs, it is because it will provide them with the most utility for their money, which would be moral by the framework of this debate. However, drug dependence and abuse, which is wide-spread, as shown before, circumvents this notion by imposing a future negative utility when the drug is not consumed. Coupled with the law of diminishing marginal returns, which can be verified by the numerous testimonies of people who never could achieve the same pleasure of their “first high”, dependents of drugs are faced with two unattractive options—incur an increasingly negative utility by not consuming the drug, or incur an increasingly smaller marginal utility per dollar for drugs. The optimal short-run choice for the user will always be to take the drug again, but in the long-run, this results in far less utility.
While quantification of utility is nearly impossible, a hypothetical example will be of some help in illustrating the situation. Let’s say that a new video game for $60 dollars provides 5 util, while $60 worth of cocaine provides 10 util. The seemingly optimal choice is the cocaine. However, on the strong chance that the user becomes dependent (17%) (7), a new situation arises. Not taking the drug will incur frustration and other negative emotions and perhaps physical effects. We shall say that not taking the drug incurs -1 util. Meanwhile, the next dose of cocaine is not as pleasurable due to the law of diminishing marginal returns, and we’ll say it provides 9 util. As dependence increases, so does the penalty for not using. Following a linear pattern, we will eventually reach a point where video games still provide 5 util, cocaine provides 4 util, and not using cocaine incurs -6 util. Cocaine now provides less utility than games would under normal circumstances, but because of addiction, it is still the optimal choice, because it has made every other option less optimal. This reduction of overall possible utility is what makes drug use immoral.
Thus, just governments have a clear obligation to stop this inefficiency and maximize total happiness.
Contention 2: Legal intervention is cost-effective and helps society make optimal choices
Let us compare the costs of reformation to the costs that drug use imposes on society. Substance abuse results in a cost of about $700 billion to society each year, more than $160 billion of which is due to healthcare costs (8). Norwegian prisons cost $93,000 per inmate, compared to $31,000 per inmate in the US (9). The US has about 2,200,000 prisoners currently (10), so, even disregarding the probable drop in recidivism rates, the increase in spending would be about $136 billion. As the difference in recidivism between Norway and the US is at least 30%, we can calculate that the drop in drug use will result in a savings of at least $210 billion, more than the cost of increased spending on prisoners. Thus, prosecution of this victimless crime of drug use results in inherent net benefit to society, even disregarding the benefit it brings to drug users.
The resolution is negated.
On to the rebuttals!
Let's look at my opponents definition of just provided at the top of the speech. My opponent specifically states, "a truly just legal system cannot be punitive." and that "more than three-quarters of released prisoners in a study of hundreds of thousands of them landed back in prison within five years." But is this because they committed actual crimes, or were jailed because these victimless actions are called crimes? I'll go over that when responding to the two contentions.
In the first contention, my opponent simply talks about how victimless crimes reduce utility. OK, sure. But how does that correlate to the resolution? I never said that abusing drugs is good, I simply say that the government should not regulate them. Thus, don't compare a world without drug abuse to a world with one - compare a world with drug abuse to one with drug abuse punished by the government. Plus, turn the argument. Harsh laws on drugs create more of the crimes. Look to the CountTheCosts evidence in my first speech - harsh laws create all sorts of backroads of crime. Prohibition banned alcohol and the US realized it made the problem worse. Banning these things causes more harms than keeping them legal. As Forbes says, (http://www.forbes.com...)
For the sake of the argument, let"s go ahead and assume that everything you"ve heard about the dangers of drugs is completely true. That probably means that using drugs is a terrible idea. It doesn"t mean, however, that the drug war is a good idea.
Prohibition is a textbook example of a policy with negative unintended consequences. Literally: it"s an example in the textbook I use in my introductory economics classes (...) and in the most popular introductory economics textbook in the world (...).The demand curve for drugs is extremely inelastic, meaning that people don"t change their drug consumption very much in response to changes in prices. Therefore, vigorous enforcement means higher prices and higher revenues for drug dealers. (...) prohibition means that drug sellers have more money to buy guns, pay bribes, fund the dealers, and even research and develop new technologies in drug delivery (like crack cocaine). It"s hard to beat an enemy that gets stronger the more you strike against him or her. (...) drug kingpins (...) aren"t caused by the drugs themselves but from the fact that they are illegal.
So banning drugs makes the problem far worse.
Now to the second contention - the counter plan of prison reformation. First of all, the permutation solves - ending the war on drugs and reforming the prison system is better than either one alone. That would be reason to affirm since it means just governments should not persecute crimes and just government should reform their prison systems, which is affirming the resolved. But even if you don't buy that, making drug crimes not crimes solves for most of recidivism. cbsnews writes, (http://www.cbsnews.com...)
Mullane said she was able to determine that 988 convicted murderers were released from prisons in California over a 20 year period. Out of those 988, she said 1 percent were arrested for new crimes, and 10 percent were arrested for violating parole. She found none of the 988 were rearrested for murder, and none went back to prison over the 20 year period she examined.
"That's the lowest recidivism rate. That's unheard of," Mullane said. "In 20 years, the chance of you being returned on another murder was zero."
"There's a huge disconnect in our sentencing laws," Mullane continued. "There's a higher recidivism rate among non-violent offenders."
Making these offenses no longer classified as crimes will reduce recidivism rates massively.
And, correlation is not causation. 34% of the Norweigan prison population is foreigners (https://en.wikipedia.org...) while only 15% of the actual population is foreign (http://www.ssb.no...). Perhaps Norweigans just commit crime less often. No true conclusions can be drawn.
My arguments stand and I have refuted all of my opponent's arguments in multiple ways. Judge, this is an easy affirmation. Thank you, and I await my opponent's response.
I do not contest my opponent’s moral framework, and I already addressed the issue of the BoP--the resolution advocates a change in the status quo, so we should agree on sharing the BoP (as my point suggests that the BoP is on Pro, and his suggests the BoP is on me).
We need to be careful when discussing one example in-depth to keep the bigger picture of the resolution in mind.
Pro essentially argues that because certain efforts at prosecution have been implemented wrongly, the entire concept of prosecution of victimless crimes is immoral. However, this largely ignores the resolution, as we already are running with the assumption that the government in question is just. This necessitates moral goodness, which, under the consequentialist framework, requires the government to create as many most-positive outcomes as possible. Thus, a just government would not have punished the boy in Pro’s example who unknowingly slept with a minor, for instance, because the boy clearly did not act criminally, and the action of the justice system created only negative outcomes.
Rebuttal 1: Drug Crimes
A truly just government, as I have shown, must reform rather than punish users. Let us examine how this affects the premises on which Pro’s arguments are founded.
Pro begins by noting the high prison rates that have resulted from the status quo. He does not explain why a high incarceration rate is harmful to society, and, under a reformatory justice system, it can be very helpful, granting access to beneficial societal programs that prisoners desperately need. Pro points out the costs of the War on Drugs; my definition of “just” effectively makes the War on Drugs unjust and unable to be factored into the impact analysis of the resolution. In fact, prosecution of victimless crimes does not even require imprisonment, as prosecution is simply the initiation of legal proceedings. A just government can end prosecution in, say, a 6-month rehabilitation program. According to Pro’s own Count the Costs source:
“I invite you all to imagine that this year, all drugs produced and trafficked around the world, were seized: the dream of law enforcement agencies. Well, when we wake up having had this dream, we would realize that the same amount of drugs – hundreds of tons of heroin, cocaine and cannabis – would be produced again next year. In other words, this first dream shows that, while law enforcement is necessary for drug control, it is not sufficient. New supply would keep coming on stream, year after year.” (http://www.countthecosts.org..., page 3)
The problem is that the current system does not focus on reducing demand. Reform, on the other hand, does. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, rehabilitation is effective. Drug addicts that are treated return to the system at a rate of about 40-60%, which is a rate of treatment for chronic illness (which drug addiction is) than asthma or hypertension.
Total savings incurred by treatment, including medical costs, are at a ratio of 12 to 1 with the costs (without, the ratio is between 4 and 7 to 1), and it results in “fewer interpersonal conflicts; greater workplace productivity; and fewer drug-related accidents, including overdoses and deaths” (http://tinyurl.com...).
Rebuttal 2: The Economy
Yes, prisoners under the current system are taken out of the economic system. However, under my presented elaboration upon the word “just”, the current system is not a just one, as it is punitive; therefore, this evidence is irrelevant to the resolution.
Rebuttal 3: Autonomy and Util
Under the moral framework set forth by my opponent, what is moral is what produces the most positive consequences. This is NOT the same as a framework that values autonomy, as it is moral under this framework for a governing body or another individual to intervene when an individual is acting to create negative consequences, even when those consequences only happen to the individual, provided that the end result is greater overall happiness. Pro’s example of underage consensual sex is thus irrelevant to the just government spoken of under the resolution, as it must act in accordance with the framework that we have both accepted, and the consequences of the government’s intervention in the provided example were negative. The issue in this debate is whether a government that acts in accordance with consequentialism--specifically, utilitarianism--can in principle prosecute victimless crimes. Providing an individual example in which negative consequences stem from prosecution of a victimless crime does not show that prosecution of any victimless crime will produce the same result.
Similarly, “totalitarianism” is irrelevant to the debate, as we are specifically talking about a just government, which, by consequentialist standards, cannot act arbitrarily.
As Pro never defined crimes, there is no burden on me to prove that something is inherently a crime, other than that it is currently rendered a crime. This debate is about the principle of prosecution of victimless crimes, as we are arguing from the perspective of a just government. As there is no government that truly ensures the best outcomes for all of its citizens, by a utilitarian/consequentialist framework, there is no just government currently in existence. This being the case, we are arguing about a theoretical government, which can, by the assumed definition of a crime being something prohibited by the state, prohibit whatever it wants to, provided that this prohibition creates positive consequences for society. Thus, consider the principles regardless of the mistakes made by real-world, unjust governments.
Finally, Pro’s numerous restrictions in the underview were not agreed upon in the opening round of the debate. Restriction of the Neg rounds creates an atmosphere contrary to the spirit of debate, in which intellectual discourse of all kinds ought to be encouraged. Do not presume the aff, as the aff advocates for a change in the status quo.
In summary, a just government must reform individuals who create negative outcomes for themselves or for society, by the consequentialist framework of morality. By prosecuting victimless crimes, a just government remedies the societal inefficiencies created by individuals. My opponent fails to account for justice in construction of his arguments, so they are rendered irrelevant to the resolution. The resolution is negated.
Plus, to recall something I said last speech (remember, no new arguments this round), we are not comparing a world with victimless crime to one without. We are comparing a world where it is prosecuted to a world where it isn't. So the arguments about recidivism can be ignored since there won't be any crime at all if we don't call these things crimes!
My opponent then says a just government will reform instead of punish users. First of all this is more abuse of the whole just government term. We don't know what a just government would do, so we instead look to the US, and my opponent does not defend the US status quo at all. And like I said in my last speech, ending the war on drugs and reforming prison is simply better than doing only one, and a permutation of the two plans still affirms the resolution.
Then, on the economy contention, my opponent once again says a just government wouldn't do it, but because of the dropped argument in my first speech, this refutation is irrelevant. Would the US mess up its economy by jailing all these drug "criminals"? No, so the contention still stands. Once again, any time my opponent says "A just government wouldn't do this" or something along those lines, ignore that because his refutation to my argument doesn't hold up.
So now let's wrap up. My opponent's responses are based on a false refutation to something I make in my very first speech! Once you ignore all of these "a just government wouldn't do this" arguments, which are basically versions of the No True Scotsman Fallacy, my opponent's case just falls apart. (The No True Scotsman Fallacy basically says that you can't make judgements about anything because you don't know what true version of that thing would do.) I prove that prosecuting such offenses costs far more money and creates more crime than letting these people be. I also showed that it ruins the economy, clogs up the legal system (there is NO response whatsoever to this argument, not even a No True Scotsman one) and prohibits people's ability to enjoy themselves (there is also no response to the underage sex argument since my opponents arguments only apply to drug crimes). My opponent only says that the "crimes" are bad, but this is irrelevant since criminalizing these things causes them to happen more often and prosecuting them wastes even more resources and ruins the economy. And why don't we reform the system and make these victimless crimes no longer crimes? All my arguments, and thus all my responses to my opponent's arguments as well, stand once you ignore the "just governments wouldnt do this" fallcy, and thus, you have to affirm. Thank you.
Pro fundamentally misunderstands my argument. He states that I provided no counterplan, when I did. I stated that a just government would have to reform drug users rather than punish them. Just because I didn’t put a big sign that says “Counter-plan here!” doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have been painfully clear that I was going for that. Also, he explicitly stated that I had a counterplan in his rebuttal round: “the counter plan of prison reformation” (although he missed that it was reform of the legal system as a whole).
|Who won the debate:||-|