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Resolved: Oppressive government is more desirable than no government.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/30/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,249 times Debate No: 34174
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (19)
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I have made this debate difficult to accept. Please message me if you are interested. If you find a way to accept this without my permission, you agree to receive an automatic loss. We will be able to verify this because I will issue a challenge to the person I accept, so if I did not issue a challenge to you, you have not legally accepted this debate.

This is the 2013 NFL LD nationals topic.

Definitions will be provided in Round 1. Feel free to contest them.

No semantics.

No bypassing the character limit using any means.

No new arguments in the last round.

I wanted to argue for the side I don't agree with because I haven't done that for a while.


I accept. Interestingly, while I generally disagree with the resolution I am not an anarchist so in a way both of us are playing the devils advocate.

Debate Round No. 1



A government is oriented towards a public purpose, not a private purpose, and has a monopoly on violence. This means that in order for a regime to be a state, it must claim to have a public function.. An oppressive state is one that claims to be oriented towards a public purpose but possesses a systematic, institutional failure that causes it to oppress at least a part of its citizens.

‘Desirable’ is defined as ‘worth seeking or doing as advantageous’ [1]. The resolution is asking which state of affairs is more advantageous. We must therefore consider a consequentialist normative outlook since it would permit us to select the option that is more practical. A deontological outlook is unacceptable because deontology does not consider impacts, but rather discusses whether something is good in itself independently of its practical advantages.


First,anarchy is generally unviable. Philosopher Arthur Ripstein extends Immanuel Kant’s analysis of the failures of the state of nature to explain why the state of nature is undesirable in terms of promotion of freedom. [2] First, Kant explains that property is a morally necessary extension of freedom, but it is impossible to acquire anything in the state of nature [2]. According to Kant, the acquisition of property requires that one take control of a resource that is commonly owned and provide an identifiable social signal that one possess the resource and plans to continue to possess it. However, these acts are not enough to stake a claim on property; rather one must obtain the property in light of a publicly conferred power such that others in society agree to my acquisition of the property. In other words, private property requires public right in order to be legitimate because the state acts as an omnilateral power that authorizes us to unilaterally acquire resources, which begin as common to all. My opponent may claim that such agreements are conceivable under anarchy, but the problem is that without an enforcement mechanism, the arrangements would be purely voluntary, and participants would be capable of withdrawing consent and using force to back this withdrawing whenever their ends shifted [2]. Thus, the government makes the contracts binding and creates a set of universal principles for the acquisition of property and the maximization of freedom. Second, rights must be enforceable, but it is impossible to legitimately enforce them in the state of nature [2]. As Ripstein explains, rights are “titles to coerce and a part of a system of rights under universal law” that can can only exist through public assurance. As Kant explains in his work, Private Right, without a system through which rights are assured, humans cannot possess an obligation to refrain from violating the rights of others because there is no assurance that others will not violate their rights. [2] Thus, Kant furthers, rights arise when a collective power provides people with the conditions for possessing them. The universal law that stipulates that rights cannot be violated only comes into play through assurance; without assurance, choosing not to violate another individual’s rights is permissible but is not required since doing so would allow others to treat one as a means to an end and violate one’s interests. [2] Third, rights require the adoption of universal standards that are not the result of unilateral decision making on the part of one party in an agreement, which is impossible in the state of nature [2]. In a state of anarchy, moral judgments are entirely contextual and will vary from agent to agent because there is no enforceable, universal standard by which to judge behavior. This prevents the formation of any form of moral contracts since there is no standard by which to claim that contracts must be binding, and the meaning of contracts can be skewed according to the beliefs of each party [2]. Ripstein contends that objective standards of conduct require a basis for equal freedom, “in which no person’s entitlements are dependent on the choices of others” [2]. This means that government is good because it provides us with a basis for resolving moral conflicts through mutual understanding, something which cannot be guaranteed without a state.

An oppressive government would be able to serve all of these functions, which are impossible in a state of anarchy. The oppressive government serves to provide us with a universal standard of conduct that governs our behavior, provides a basis for stable contract formation, provides assurance that rights will be supported (at least for some), and provides for the protection of property. By creating these standards but simultaneously violating them, it further serves to lead to its own downfall and the creation of a just government. This leads to my second contention, namely that oppressive governments are more desirable than anarchies because they are more likely to lead to just governments. By creating a set of standards that it itself does not follow or that it allows certain people to circumvent, the oppressive government marks itself as an enemy of the people and creates a large target for the people to overthrow. In contrast to the systematic political violence of an oppressive regime, anarchic societies do not present any state and thus provide no common enemy. Anarchic societies are lawless and chaotic precisely because every individual is in constant competition with everyone else in order to survive. Philosopher Thomas Hobbes explains while discussing the anarchic State of Nature, “During the time men live without a common power . . . they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man.” [3] Since Anarchy is a state of constant struggle for individual interests, and there is no common power that dominates the populace, Anarchy does not present any common target.

Common enemies serve to bolster social cohesion. In a society in which people are constantly competing without a common enemy, it is functionally impossible for them to put aside their differences and unite into a community. This is because, instead of a repressive overlord blocking their political and social ambitions, their prowess is stifled by others. So, the constant competition that exists in anarchy provides the people with no incentive to unite. However, the presence of a repressive third party in the form of a state causes people to overcome their differences and unite to topple a common enemy that is preventing them from achieving their self-interests. German sociologist Georg Simmel explains, “The unificatory consequence of subordination under one ruling power operates even when the group is in opposition to this power. . . . Discord, in fact, perhaps even more stringently than harmony, forces the group to "pull itself together." In general, common enmity is one of the most powerful means for motivating a number of individuals or groups to cling together. This common enmity is intensified if the common adversary is at the same time the common ruler.” [4] Thus, the common enmity presented by oppressive regimes causes society to unite against the oppressive government.

Dealing with a common enemy provides a basis for establishing a set of principles that a new government must abide by and creates a platform for revolution. Absent this platform, it will be difficult to establish a just government. Somalia fell into disarray, for example, when the US prematurely toppled the unjust government, creating a power vaccuum that sparked the rise of warring drug lords. The anarchy has not been resolved to this day. In contrast, the Slovaks and Czechs united against their repressive communist government in the Velvet revolution and mutually agreed to split into two autonomous nations after the war ended. Oppressive government is desirable because it ultimately leads to a more just system.




Thanks to my opponent. I'll first provide a case of my own, then attack Royals arguments. I'll address them more comprehensively in round 3.

My case

My opponent failed to define oppressive, so I'll define oppression as: "the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner[1]".

An oppressive state is then one that engages in oppression by abusing its authority in some manner, generally by violating its citizens rights.

I. Impacts

You can presume a neg vote. It's hard to outweigh the 169,202,000[2] people murdered by oppressive states in the 20th century alone (this number excluding hundreds of millions of war victims forced to fight and to kill other men). Royals arguments, even if you take them at face value and ignore everything I say, just are nowhere near the magnitude to outweigh the sheer genocide that occurs from oppression. Moreover if you add in the victims of the wars of just the 20th century perpetrated by oppressive governments well over 100 million more bodies are added[3].

Oppressive governments and their leaders are driven by a drive for absolute power[4]. This means that they will not only attack and ruin the lives of citizens within their country, but will do everything possible to extend their power into other regimes through any means necessary. Throughout modern history oppressive governments (most notably the USSR) have attempted to gain the most deadly of weapons--nuclear weapons. Since then the defining moments of international relations have been a series of close calls. It was only wise leadership in the United States, for example, that prevented the world from descending into a nuclear holocaust in 1962 when the USSR threatened it by moving missiles that could destroy it. The USSR is long gone, but modern oppressive governments have taken its place and are pursuing nuclear weapons in earnest[5][6]. The impact here is mankind being engulfed a nuclear holocaust. Even a world where society breaks down and there is no law (Royals impact) is preferable to such a scenario because mankind can rebuild from that. Moreover even a small scale nuclear war (like one between India and Pakistan) could drive mankind to extinction or mass famine as Alan Robock, a Professor of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University explains[7], the ash and smoke from a nuclear war would suddenly cool down the Earth and shorten growing seasons substantially for over five years.

Oppressive governments are uniquely suited to starting a nuclear war because dictators are almost always characterized as having brash, vain behavior[4] and delusions of their own abilities and power.


Contra oppression, we have most of a thousand year period of Western history where there was no state as defined by my opponent (public purpose, monopoly on violence). As the French philosopher Bertrand De'Jouvenel explains[8] in the ancien regime power was: "shared, limited, and above all it was not sovereign." He goes on to explain that "The distinguishing characteristics of a Power which is sovereign are: its possession of a legislative authority; it's capacity to alter as it pleases its subjects' rules of behaviour...Power in medieval times was very different, it was tied down, not only in theory but in practice..."

Indeed power was divided between aristocracy, church, and state. Nisbet explains[9] that feudal relationships are "private, personal, and contractual" and that feudalism was "an extension and adaptation of the kinship tie with a protective affiliation...Contrary to the modern political state with its principle of territorial sovereignty...rights, welfare, authority, and devotion inhered in a personal, not a territorial tie. To be the 'man' of another man, in turn the 'man' of still another man and so on up to the very top of the feudal pyramid, each owing the other either service or protection, is to be in a feudal relationship."

Yet these impacts Royal asserts didn't happen. Prefer my sound impacts to her baseless conjecture.

Royals case


An oppressive state is not defined as simply as royal asserts. This is far too broad and gives us no way to decide what kind of government is oppressive and what isn't. The Articles of Confederation contained an institutional failure and some would argue they were oppressive (some wanted even less government), but certainly this is untrue. Refer to my definition of oppressive. This means you can throw out my opponents ridiculous consequentalist framework--I intend to win the debate on both grounds, but to decide if a government is oppressive we must first understand what is constituted by "burdensome, cruel, or unjust", aka a deontological outlook. Another flaw with the radical consequentalism Royal wants is that if there are no underlying deontological values, there's no way to measure what does or does not provide the most "good" (whatever that means).

Anarchy untenable

Royals argument is essentially that without a unifying set of laws many things, specifically the acquisition and holding of property, become difficult to sustain. Ignoring the fact that she's failed to assign any huge impact to this and that she fails to give a single example of these impacts happening in a stateless society, the arguments she's making are unsound. For example, she misunderstands why men (under social contract theory) create governments to begin with, which is to protect their rights. If for some reason they cannot have a government as the resolution presumes, they'll protect their rights in some other kind of way such as private competitors. She argues that people could simply renege on their agreements, but the problem is every firm has an incentive to fulfill their agreements or else they'll suffer harms to their reputations and become unprofitable. One of the fundamental rules of international relations is that states are in a state of anarchy to each other, and even so they still manage to make mutually beneficial contracts and rarely go back on them as it will damage their reputation and bring about harms. This principle applies even more to private producers as all the costs and benefits are forced onto themselves directly rather than taxpayers.

Her arguments about how there would be no "universal law" are flawed because even if we presume that a state is necessary to acquire a universal idea of rights (a dubious prospect at best since the legal heritages of most countries derive from privileges existing in eras where there was no central state) there's no warrant on the argument that a state is necessary to keep this idea. Royal absurdly argues that the government, rather than the mores of the people, is what allows for people to resolve conflicts through mutual understanding, except that the VAST majority of conflicts are resolved outside of government. Indeed people in every society have conflicting ideas about what rights exist and which don't, the government doesn't provide any universal idea of law, it simply enforces whichever policies whoever is in power prefers.

Recall also that despite asserting we need to look to consequentalism, Royal doesn't cite any examples or statistics.

Just government

Royals strongest argument, but still a deeply flawed one. I'll address it more in my next round, but the very social contract theorists she cites would argue that government arose from anarchy, from a state of nature. Royal gives no warrant for why a just government can't arise from anarchy, except that there would be no common enemy and there would be under an oppressive government. First of all, the common enemies that unify people in oppressive governments are usually scapegoated minorities/classes or people of other countries. A common enemy is more likely to exist under anarchy, the enemy would be the criminals that Royal argues would be more common in anarchy. Politicians use this enemy all the time (see tough on crime rhetoric).

Vote Con.

Debate Round No. 2


I don't want to debate anymore. Give my opponent the win.


thett3 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


royalpaladin forfeited this round.


well this is dissapointing...
Debate Round No. 4
19 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Noumena 5 years ago
Interesting. An anarchist defending oppressive government and a libertarian defending no government.
Posted by thett3 5 years ago
Can you please define "state of nature"?
Posted by fishinbub 5 years ago
Definitely need to further define oppressive gov, because it allows pro to shift the definition mid argument. If con is stuck with the absolute stance of no gov, then pro should be confined to the stance of a gov with absolute power.
Posted by TheChosenOnesike 5 years ago
Dang it, I really wish you were Con.
Posted by YYW 5 years ago
Posted by royalpaladin 5 years ago
I have asked another member if he is interested in debating this with me. If he is not, I will debate YYW.
Posted by YYW 5 years ago
Cus' I'd be happy to...
Posted by YYW 5 years ago
Ok, RP. Want me to take this?
Posted by Kwhite7298 5 years ago
I already prepped cases on this, and would like to accept (either side is fine for me)
Posted by flaskblob 5 years ago
No votes have been placed for this debate.