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The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Zaradi's Prized Tournament: Resource Extraction in Developing Nations

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 1/27/2015 Category: Economics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,481 times Debate No: 69008
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (40)
Votes (6)





This is for the second round of Zaradi's Prized Debate Tournament [1]. I think this should be a fun debate, and I look forward to have an interesting and engaging discussion with bossy. I also want to thank Zaradi for hosting this tournament, and for all of the effort he put in, and is putting in, to this endeavor.

There is a 2,500 ELO floor for voting on this debate. I would also ask that bossy wait a full 48 hours prior to posting his acceptance in Round 1 (he can accept before then, just note post his acceptance before then.)

Full Topic

Developing countries should prioritize environmental protection over resource extraction when the two are in conflict.


Should - expresses desirability, expediency, or correctness
Environmental Protection - "a practice of protecting the natural environment on individual, organizational or governmental levels, for the benefit of both the natural environment and humans." [2]
Resource - a natural resource; industrial and raw materials supplied by nature

Additionally, a list of developing nations can be found here, and are classified as either landlocked developing countries, small island developing states, or least developed countries. [3]


1. No forfeits
2. Any citations or foot/endnotes must be 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 or semantics
6. My opponent accepts all definitions and waives his/her right to add definitions
7. With undefined words, both debaters agreed to use standard meanings of the words that make sense in the context of the resolution and the debate
8. The BOP is shared
9. Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss


R1. Acceptance
R2. Constructive Cases are Presented
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


...once again to Bossy for accepting this debate and to Zaradi for instigating this tournament! I look forward to a good round.




I accept, and I'm very much looking forward to this debate!
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to Bossy and Zaradi for this debate and tournament, respectively. I apologize in advance for any errors due to C/Ping from Word. I will now present my case.


OV: It is important to note that the resolution requires that I prioritize environmental protections only when they directly conflict with resource extraction. Thus, sustainable extraction can occur under my world, but unsustainable practices cannot be allowed to continue.

FRMK: “[L]et us recognize that the functions, commitments and obligations of governments are not the same as those of the individual...[Government’s] primary obligation is to the interests of the national society it represents, not to the moral impulses that individual elements of that society may experience. No more than the attorney vis-a-vis the client, nor the doctor vis-a-vis the patient, can government attempt to insert itself into the consciences of those whose interests it represents.” [12] For this reason, government should act in ways that are oriented to achieving the greatest collective good.


P1: Poverty and Structural Violence Kill Millions

"The fact that poor people around the world have shorter and harder lives is the result of human design. This phenomenon is called 'structural violence.'" [1] “The 14 to 18 million deaths a year caused by structural violence compare with about 100,000 deaths per year from armed conflict. Comparing this frequency of deaths from structural violence to the frequency of those caused by major military and political violence, such as World War II (an...eight million per year) was clear that even war cannot begin to compare with structural violence, which continues year after year. In other words...every single year, two to three times as many people die from poverty throughout the world as were killed by [WWII]." [2]

P2: Environmental Protections are key to poverty reduction.

There is "strong evidence that environmental hazards are major contributors to poverty...Low income is a risk factor not only for exposure to environmental hazards but also for possibilities of rapid and effective treatment because of the lack of healthcare services...where low-income groups are concentrated...Such hazards impose large burdens on such groups in terms of ill health, injury, and premature death. These health burdens are a major cause or contributor to poverty...Controlling occupational exposure is particularly important, from large factories down to small, backstreet shops." [3]


P1: Environmental degradation increases disease.

"Air pollution causes respiratory infections. Water pollution causes...water-borne diseases, such as cholera. Marine pollution contributes to infectious disease problems created by algal blooms. Deforestation brings humans into contact with new pathogenic microbes, alters ecosystems so that disease vectors (for example, mosquitoes, rats) multiply, and destroys biodiversity that could be critical to the development of new antimicrobial products. The depletion of the ozone layer...will lead to ultraviolet radiation damaging the human immune system, thus creating more opportunities for infectious diseases." [4] "The one lesson that we can take away from the emergence of HIV and hepatitis…is that the microbial world will continue to adapt to human-induced changes in the global ecology. Thus, the greater the degree of degradation that humanity visits upon fragile ecosystems, the more unpredictable the response from the microbial world." [5]

P2: Disease has huge economic and survival implications.

“Infectious disease rates show a significant negative correlation with macroeconomic national indicators such as per capita GNP, per capita government expenditure, and net long-term capital inflow...[diseases] adversely affect...the general quality of the labor force, the formation and maintenance of human capital, and various sectors of the economy. It is logical to conclude that these microeconomic effects will, through multiplier effects, generate significant negative macroeconomic outcomes. Direct costs to the economy will be enormous, and indirect costs will include output lost as a result of increasing mortality and...disease-induced morbidity.” [4] “Significant environmental health risks are responsible for as much as one-fifth of the total burden of disease in the developing world--more than the combined impacts of malnutrition and all other preventable risk factors and groups of diseases. Most at risk from environmental pollution are the 1.3 billion people in the developing countries of Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa--almost one quarter of the world’s population.” [5]


Two of the largest contributing factors to the environmetnal refugee crisis are misappropriations of land for industrial purposes and environmental "deterioration caused by anthropogenic alteration." In the first case, people are "forced to leave their residences as land is appropriated for development" and as development projects encroach on local settlements. One example of this is the "penetration of roads into tropical rainforests which have...displaced indigenous groups." [6] In the second case, "release of toxic substances into the environment gradually impairs human health or the ability of residents to sustain quality of life." One instance of this can be found in undeveloped Eastern Europe and parcels of the former USSR, where land "has absorbed so much contamination from industrial pollutants that large areas are no longer considered suitable for human habitation." [6] Furthermore, "the gradual degradation of the atmosphere by additional carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases may cause sea levels to rise as much as one meter...rising waters will displace people in low lying coastal areas." [6] "According to some estimates, more than 200 million people might have to give up their homes due to climate change by 2050." [7]


Extraction based industries are huge contributors to greenhouse emissions that cause climate change, and deforestation (a form of extraction itself) is another huge cause. [11, 13]

P1. Climate change reduces Water Supplies

"Some studies predict that even under the lowest growth-rate assumptions, a world 1–2 degrees warmer could lead to water shortages for 700-1,500 million people. Hundreds of millions of people who depend for their water supply on glacier melt could experience severe water stress. For instance, increasing water scarcity may become a grim reality facing the nations that lie downstream from the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain ranges--a region that encompasses approximately 50 to 60 percent of the world's population." [7]

P2. Climate change reduces Food Supply

"The report said climate change had already cut into the global food supply. Global crop yields were beginning to decline--especially for wheat--raising doubts as to whether production could keep up with population growth...Other food sources are also under threat. Fish catches in some areas of the tropics are projected to fall by between 40% and 60%, according to the report. The report also connected climate change to rising food prices and political instability, for instance the riots in Asia and Africa after food price shocks in 2008." [8]


“[U]p to twenty-five percent of tropical forest wildlife species may become extinct by 2020...the destruction of wildlife is occurring so rapidly that one-fifth of all existing species will be extinct by the same year...this threat to wildlife species comes from multiple sources, such as pollution and destruction of natural habitats, [and] illegal wildlife trading.” [9] "A report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found that populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined on average by 52 per cent in the last 40 years...The situation is worst in low-income countries, where wildlife populations have declined by 58 per cent on average between 1970 and 2010. Latin American has the biggest declines, with 83 per cent of animals lost in 40 years...[H]uman activity is outstripping the resources the Earth can provide, cutting down forests too quickly, overfishing and putting out more carbon dioxide than the planet can absorb...It is estimated Earth would need to 1.5 times larger to soak up the damage caused by man." [10]


1 - Edward O’Neill, Jr., Professor Emergency Medicine, Tufts University, "Awakening Hippocrates," 2006, p. 13-4
2 - James Gilligan, Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Violence: Reflections on Our Deadliest Epidemic, 2000 edition, p. 195-196
3 -
4 - Fidler, David, 1999 [Law Professor University of Indiana] International Law and Infectious Diseases, p. 245
5 - Price-Smith, Andrew T., 2001 [Professor Political Science University of North Dakota] Plagues and Politics: infectious disease and international policy, ed. Andrew Price-Smith, p. 3
6 -
7 -
8 -
9 - Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, 2003: [Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, 2003, Mara E. Zimmerman, Law Student, 36:1657, p. 1660-1]
10 -
11 -
12 -
13 -


My argument will take the following form:

P.1. That which arises out of voluntary choice is that which should be.

P.2. The prioritization of resource extraction has arisen and will arise out of voluntary choice.

C. The prioritization of resource extraction is that which should be.

Premiss One:

When dealing with any moral issue, one must keep in mind the purpose of favouring any system of morality at all. Why is it that some goals and the means to the achievement of those goals should be better than others? The answer is that morality is useful only insofar as it can guide action – no morality which gives one no metric by which to judge the better of two alternatives can be worthwhile, and to assert otherwise would be to say that a map is worthwhile without a destination. Insofar as this is true, it can be seen that a prerequisite for any moral system is the presence of choice.

When one decides to act in accordance with a moral system, they must do so of their own free will. In the same way that you would not say that a slave has chosen to build a monument to his master, any coercive act destroys the ability of a man to choose. Because of this, any moral system, if it is not self-defeating, must restrict all interactions between people to the realm of voluntary cooperation and trade.

To say that that which is chosen freely should be otherwise is to say that, in order for an action to be in-line with morality, it must not be left up to the individual to choose (which has been shown to be ridiculous). It is the individual himself who must make value judgements – no one else may make them for him, and trying to do so is antithetical to the idea of morality. .

If people are allowed to own and trade property (which is necessary to call them free), then they must be able to do whatever they want with that property. If a man wishes to, say, poison the local wildlife population, to stop him would be to dictate what his values should be, something that he must choose for himself. In this way, the only things that should be are those which individuals, on their own terms, actually choose. No-one may tell them otherwise.

Premiss Two:

To find out if environmental protection should be valued over resource extraction, then, we must look to see what individuals actually do. More specifically, we must look at what those in control of the means to produce and control the resources of a country do (as it has already been established that all that matters is he who has the power to make the choice being examined – any citizens or government officials are irrelevant). This is fairly easy to see. In the majority of cases in developing countries, the environment has been damned in order to produce more (as seen in, for instance, the sources my opponent presents to support his case – most clearly in ones such as [1]). If it is true that property owners disregard the environment as a whole, then, overall, they have chosen that resource extraction is of more value than the environment voluntarily.


It has been shown that the only morally sound position is that which arises when people are given the liberty to choose their own paths and values, and it has been shown that, in developing countries, resource extraction has been chosen over the environment. If this argument holds, then no objections can be made to the status quo, and there can be no question of what otherwise should be. To refute my argument, it must be shown that either a moral system can exist in which people cannot choose to follow it, or it must be shown that such a valid moral system is not desirable (and both are untenable).


Debate Round No. 2


Thanks to Bossy!


I have 4 objections that will make here:

O1. Necessary Limits

Con writes that "that which arises out of voluntary choice is that which should be." If I voluntary kill someone, is that what should be? Con suggests that any moral system requires people to have the ability to choose, but certainly the ability to breath is a prerequisite to choice, and so we have to have some limits on what voluntary actions can be undertaken.

It appears that Con's ultimate goal is to protect people's freedom, and so, under Con's framework, a reasonable restriction to place on actions then would seek to protect this core value. Mills' harm principle articulates such a restriction: "That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." [1] This could be rephrased to say that any action that does not impinge upon or limit the freedom/property of others is permissible.

It is important here to note that if Con doesn't accept some kind of restriction he would be essentially justifying murder, theft, rape, and a parade of other horribles. So, assuming that some basic type of restriction is necessary, and this restriction would be designed to protect the freedom and/or the wellbeing of others, I will show that resource extraction actual does harm the freedom and wellbeing of others.

Recall that resource extraction promotes disease, leads to environmental refugees, and leads to lower food supplies. There is even evidence that an emphasis on resource extraction promotes destructive war and conflict:

“[T]he economic benefits of mining and logging operations accrue to a small business or government elite and to foreign investors. But in case after case, an array of burdens--ranging from the expropriation of land, disruption of traditional ways of life, environmental devastation, and social maladies--are shouldered by the local population...This has led to violent conflict in places like Nigeria's Niger Delta, Bougainville in Papua new Guinea, and several provinces in Indonesia. Rather than full-fledged war, these conflicts usually involve smaller-scale skirmishes, roadblocks, acts of sabotage, and major human rights violations by state security forces and rebel groups. A number of these conflicts, however, have evolved into secessionist struggles.” [2]

These effects of unsustainable resource extraction infringe on the freedom, wellbeing, and property of others. If the pollutants dumped by a corporation in the river kill all the fish and wildlife in a given area, I may be unable to find food to feed myself. Resource-driven war (as well as disease) displaces, kills, maims, and otherwise negatively impacts hundreds of people. Higher water levels that result due to extraction related pollution may cause me to leave my own and belongings behind to seek a safe place to live. More immediately, pollutants in my drinking water may directly kill me. Clearly, resource extraction does threaten the freedom, wellbeing, and property of others, and so limits to those kinds of voluntary actions are justified.

O2. Not Truly Voluntary

There is significant evidence to suggest that multinational corporations coerce governments into allowing them to engage in extractive activities [3] or coerce workers into working in substandard conditions. [4] It is important to note that the presence of coercion invalidates the voluntariness, and thus the morality, of the action. As Con writes: "In the same way that you would not say that a slave has chosen to build a monument to his master, any coercive act destroys the ability of a man to choose."

O3. Wildlife and Wilderness are not Owned or Held in Common

Ownership implies control. I have control over my body, my laptop, my labor, and thoughts--all of these things are things that I "own." However, it cannot be said that, were I a local farmer, that I "own" the deer that creep into my fields and much on my corn at night. They may be on my property, but yet I have no control over them; they come and go as they please, and do not rely on my for food, freedom,shelter, or companionship as with my pets. They are outside of the domain of my possessions, and so, they are not my property.

Similarly, natural landmarks or parks are not under the control of any one person, they are held in common by the society. Every American owns, together, all of our National Parks, and every Marylander owns, together, our State Parks. And, as a citizen of my county, my county's parks and landmarks are also things I own in part.

So, why does this all matter? Well, if no one person owns wildlife or wilderness, then it seems like everyone has a right to use those things as resources, but no one can deny others the right to access these things. For instance, I cannot be stopped from visiting Yellowstone since I am a part owner of this. No one citizen or group of citizens can hold hegemony over a resource that is held in common by a broader population.

Unsustainable resource extractors destroy wildlife populations and release toxins and engage in activities that cripple the wilderness. These actors deny other people access to resources that everyone should have equal access to. They impose a kind of hegemony over them, and exploit them to the point where my ability to enjoy or access resources I am entitled to is diminished or eliminated altogether. Isn't this a violation of my freedoms and/or property rights.

O4. Some actions can be Compelled

Positive rights require that certain things be provided for people--in other words, they compel action. It is important to note here that: "in the context of citizens' rights to state enforcement, all rights are positive." [5] Consider, my rights to life, justice, and property require the government to have police forces and to administer courts of law. The government is compelled to act. So, even if individual persons can avoid such compulsions, the government (which is a different kind of agent) cannot. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to compel the government to issue environmental protections in response to my negative rights.

"Moreover, the point is often made that the moral urgency of securing positive rights may be just as great as the moral urgency of securing negative rights...Whatever is the justificatory basis for ascribing rights--autonomy, need, or something else--there might be just as strong a moral case for fulfilling a person's right to adequate nutrition as there is for protecting that person's right not to be assaulted." [5] In this case, if we agree that I cannot be free if I am dead, then in the interests of my freedom I should be fed and given a reasonably safe atmosphere in which to live. If Con is going to make the claim that *only* voluntary actions are moral, he needs to explain why society should not ever compel people to take certain actions.


More harms of unsustainable extraction:

OFC1. Logging and Mining are Highly Destructive

“[M]ining companies use a range of toxic chemicals to treat the ores extracted. The resulting waste streams are often either intentionally dumped or leaked accidentally, contaminating rivers and lakes. As for logging...many timer operations still engage in devastating clear-cutting practices. The toll inflicted by large-scale logging includes soil erosion, more severe flooding, and the destruction of wildlife habitat and fisheries.” [2]

OFC2. Extraction Harms Worsening Each Year

"If all the strains on the biosphere--apart from environmental pollution--are added up and converted into area magnitudes, it is possible to quantify the ecological footprint that humans leave on the planet. In the past forty years this indicator has changed dramatically: the global ecological footprint increased by more than 150 percent between 1960 and 2000. If this is related to the biologically productive area of the turns out that since the second half of the 1980s the footprint has been larger than the biologically productive area, currently 25 percent larger.” [6]

OFC3. Extraction Promotes Corruption

"Among economic activities in the developing world, the commercial exploitation of natural resources is particularly susceptible to corruption because bending the rules can result in substantial profits, and the regulated activities typically take place in remote, difficult-to-monitor locations. Illegal harvesting and export of timber has been widespread in countries such as Malaysia, Brazil, Indonesia, Cambodia, Cameroon, and many others.” [7, for further reading, see 8]


1 -
2 - Renner, Michael, 2002 [Senior Researcher-World Watch Institute] The Anatomy of Resource Wars, Worldwatch Paper 162, p. 48-9
3 -
4 -
5 -
6 - Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, 2005, Fair Future: Resource, Conflicts, Security & Global Justice, eds. W. Sachs & T. Santarius, p. 25-6
7 - Steinberg, Paul F., 2005 [Political Science Professor - Harvey Mudd College] "From Public Concern to Policy Effectiveness: Civic Conservation in Developing Countries," Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy, 8:4, 341-365, p. 346
8 -


Re: My opponent’s first objection

Pro’s first objection can be broken into two parts which must be addressed separately. First is the idea that at least some restrictions must be placed on the range of actions available to an individual, in order to prevent things such as murder. Such restrictions are perfectly in-line with my arguments, and I accept my opponent’s formulation of the principle behind them (“[A]ny action that does not impinge upon […] the freedom/property of others is permissible.”). It would be moral to stop murderers, rapists, etc. from violating the rights of others precisely because restricting choice is immoral. When a man takes another man’s life, he is denying him the ability to choose what he does with his body. These things are morally repugnant since they, in themselves, violate rights, so stopping them would not conflict with the philosophy of upholding free choice.
My opponent then goes on to attack the prioritization of resource extraction on the basis that it violates the personal autonomy of individuals. I agree that, if these arguments stand, my position crumbles, but if my opponent fails to show how prioritizing resource extraction inherently violates rights, then my case stands.

Re: My opponent’s arguments on the so-called rights-infringing results of resource extraction, including the “common property” defense
The problem that can be seen here is that, if the people surviving off fish in a river or water in a lake do not have a proper claim to that river’s fish or that lake’s water, they are surviving only because those that either are equally non-owners or do have a valid claim on those things let them. If it is assumed that the land is owned in common, it is absurd to then say that it is moral for one shareholder to eat the fish in the river while it is immoral for another shareholder, with an equal claim, to poison the river. If the land really is commonly owned, then it is owned by each one of us, and there is no basis to restrict what an owner of land does with it. If the land is privately owned by the corporations doing the resource extraction, then it would be even more justifiable to cut off the food supply of some in order to increase profits. If the landowner has an obligation to feed those he can feed, then he isn’t allowed to choose, and, as such, cannot act according to any valid moral system.
It would be arbitrary to say that all own a park but none can do certain things with it – the very idea of ownership at all implies that one has control over it. Why can people visit Yellowstone Park but not blockade it off? Where is the reasonable basis for the restriction on “restricting access or use”? If anything, my opponent’s restrictions imply that Yellowstone Park is owned by no one, and, if so, there is no reason why it cannot be claimed. There is no reason to think that everyone is “entitled” to the land within Yellowstone Park than there is to think that everyone is entitled to the land in Pro’s backyard.

There is also the issue of “indirect” vs. direct violations of rights. If it is true that no one is inherently obligated to provide for anyone else, even necessities such as food or water, then no one can make a claim that another needs to allow him to eat by giving him food. It would be immoral to stop him from eating food he has rightfully obtained by himself, but it would be contra to the prerequisites of any moral system to force one man to act as a slave to another. Even if a landowner has come to rightfully own all of the lakes in Africa, he has no obligation to let anyone drink. It is his property and it cannot be taken away from him no matter the needs of others.

Wars, etc., caused by tensions over limited resources in an area cannot be said to be the fault of resource extractors. If they do have the right to choose to do what they wish with the land they can work, then, no matter what they do (assuming that they respect the property that they cannot work), they cannot be blamed for what happens to others. If a war breaks out over a lack of food, it is not the corporation who is at blame – it is he who fired the first gunshot in response.

Re: My opponent’s second objection

Two arguments mitigate these points: the first is that, if it is moral emphasize the extraction of resources, then any government that tries to stop a corporation from doing so can be justly retaliated against. My opponent’s point here only has any impact if it is shown that corporations don’t have a right to extract resources at their own discretions, in which case he would have already won the debate.

Secondly, even if corporations do engage in legitimately coercive practices directed at innocent individuals, this can only be used to show that those corporations have done condemnable things. What is lacking is a direct link between resource extraction and violence, and, much in the same way as a murderer reading a book doesn’t make reading immoral, there must be a reason to condemn acts not shown to be immoral in themselves just because the actor had also committed condemnable (but not necessarily related) acts. Unless it can be shown that the prioritization of resource extraction leads to oppression and coercion by necessity, then this point is irrelevant to the debate.

Re: My opponent’s claims that positive rights exist

Here, my opponent just assumes that positive rights exist, and that governments are obligated to act out of some basic respect for these rights. There is no justification given for why these rights exist, and, as I have argued, the conception of positive rights is inherently contradictory in nature (how can a morality exist without the right to choose?). He makes the argument that, since you cannot choose how to act if you are dead, others have an obligation to keep you from dying. This can be refuted in the following way: the idea that some have obligations to feed others goes against the nature of morality, so, if any moral system is to exist at all, it cannot include obligations of this sort. That is the extent of the proof against it, as an obligation in morality is as much of a contradiction as having 2 + 2 = 5, and the latter is accepted as false based only from a look at its contradictory nature.
Why is it acceptable to let people lose the ability to choose via starvation or whatever else? Because for it to be otherwise would be a rejection of choice itself. It is up to the starving man to find something to eat – that is his choice. It is not up to anyone else to do it for him.

Re: Off-case

All of my opponent’s arguments in his off-case have been addressed previously, either by showing that the right to do whatever one wishes with his land/common land is inviolable, or by showing that actors that act in immoral ways in some sectors can still act morally in others.

On to the next round!
Debate Round No. 3


Thanks to Bossy for the debate!


So, Bossy drops my case and my off-case, preferring instead to go for his arguments as a preempt to my ends-based argument. That's fine, but that means that if any of my objections against his case succeed (thereby taking out Bossy's underlying premises) I win the round. Bossy is, to put it simply, putting all his eggs in one basket, and all I need to do is poke one hole in that basket for all the eggs to fall out and break.

In this round, I will review Bossy's case and my various objections to it. I will focus a lot on trying to explain concepts through examples, so bare with me if my rebuttals seem to have a bit of a narrative bent. I may also quote Bossy at points; his comments will appear in italics.

I apologize in advance for any formatting errors due to C/Ping from Word.


O1. Necessary Limits

Bossy agrees that voluntary actions should be limited according to the following principle: "[A]ny action that does not impinge upon"the freedom/property of others is permissible." To show that my first objection is valid, then, all I need to do is show that unsustainable resource extraction (hereafter: URE) violates the property rights or freedoms of other people.

In my case, I showed that URE is one of the main contributors to climate change in the world. I also showed that climate change leads to several, significant ill-effects, including: millions of environmental refugees, a dearth of food and water resources, and disease, etc.

Suppose I am a fisherman in a remote coastal village somewhere in Indochina. I am a hard worker, but I am totally dependent on the land to live. Suppose also that climate change or some other tragedy is impacting the local environmental conditions. By "some other tragedy" I am specifically referring to disasters caused by URE, such as an oil spill or deforestation. These URE-caused alterations have led to a significant rise in the waterline and have killed all the local fish. My home, which lay near the coast, has now been wiped out, as have many of my belongings. I can also no longer feed myself or fish. I am therefore forced to become a refugee. At my refugee camp, the URE-related toxins that have entered the environment reduce the air quality such that I can no longer breath, and I develop respiratory illnesses and diseases which soon kill me.

What this example illustrates is that URE is a major contributor in a process that directly impinges on peoples' freedoms (including the freedom of residence, freedom of movement, freedom to choose one"s trade, freedom to engage in a trade, etc.) It also violates the property rights of victims (the man lost his home), and the right to life of victims (where the harms of disease occur.)

China is perhaps a prime example of this kind of flagrant rights abuse. Let's say a factory owns a plot of land, but releases massive amounts of pollutants into the air. That toxin-infested air permeates outward, and soon those toxins are spread far beyond the plot of land that the factory owns, negatively impacting the air quality of thousands, if not millions. [1]

Imagine the following. You are my neighbor. I am standing on my porch with a gun, and I fire inside your house next door and I kill you. When the police show up, I say: "But I was on my property! I can do what I want on my property." The police would respond by saying, "that does not excuse you from violating the rights and freedoms of others one their property." Surely, the factory, by literally poisoning the air to the point where it can cause disease, is doing something similar to my gun-wielding self. They are behaving on their property in such a way that you are directly harmed on yours, in a fashion whereby your rights are violated.

I feel then that these hypotheticals sufficiently illustrate that environmental regulations are necessary to uphold Con's very own goal of freedom, and to uphold the agreed standard of reasonable restrictions on action.

O2. Not Truly Voluntary

First, Con only attempts to "mitigate" my point; he does not deny that companies engage in coercive tactics to secure the chance to pursue URE. Remember what Con wrote in his first round: "any coercive act destroys the ability of a man to choose." Even "mitigated" coercion, therefore, destroys choice, and is immoral according to Con. Insofar as these companies engage in coercion at all--as Con concedes that they do--their activities are impermissible.

Secondly, let"s address these mitigating circumstances anyway, in the interest of thoroughness.

"[I]f it is moral emphasize the extraction of resources, then any government that tries to stop a corporation from doing so can be justly retaliated against. My opponent's point here only has any impact if it is shown that corporations don"t have a right to extract resources at their own discretions"

The problems with this analysis are that (1) it seems to shift the goalposts inasmuch as Con originally said any coercion was always wrong, and now he is saying that coercion is legitimate in some cases, and (2) if the land is owned by the government (or by the people represented by the government) then they should be able to decide what happens on their land absent any kind of coercion.

"[E]ven if corporations do engage in legitimately coercive practices directed at innocent individuals, this can only be used to show that those corporations have done condemnable things."

Bossy"s whole argument was that URE is just because it was voluntarily chosen (P2 of his syllogism). My response shows that, in many cases, URE was not voluntarily chosen but rather coerced. This collapses Bossy's syllogism, and, by extension, his case.

O3. Unowned Property or Property Held in Common

"If it is assumed that the land is owned in common, it is absurd to then say that it is moral for one shareholder to eat the fish in the river while it is immoral for another shareholder, with an equal claim, to poison the river."

Con really doesn't give a thought here to proportionality. Let's say that he, I, and YYW are cramming for a test, and we decide to order a pizza. The pizza has 12 slices, and we are each equal owners of the pizza. It would be unjust for me to eat 10 of those slices without YYW and Bossy's consent, because, as equal owners, they were entitled to an equal share. We each paid the same, so why should I get more?

Similarly, if a river is owned in common, and I gather about 10 fish a day, but the factory poisons the river and wipes out all 1,000 fish, clearly the factory has done something wrong. My case and off-case specifically discuss how URE is disproportionately or massively destructive. Consider the damage that just one oil spill could do, compared to what lonely me could do.

"It would be arbitrary to say that all own a park but none can do certain things with it--the very idea of ownership at all implies that one has control over it. Why can people visit Yellowstone Park but not blockade it off?"

This is in the same vein as the example I just gave. Suppose Bossy and I buy some land (we chip in a million dollars each), and I want to farm on the land and Bossy wants to build a giant, golden axolotl shrine to Airmax. Let's say I fly out to inspect the land we bought and find the Golden Airmax Temple to be already fully constructed, spanning the full length of the plot. I've now effective wasted a million dollars, and Bossy unjustifiably exercised sole control of the land when it was dually owned.

Land that is held in common has to be managed and controlled by all partners (unless they cede that right). Returning to the pizza example, I did not control the pizza, WE controlled the pizza--that is a significant point to make. Therefore, no one group of citizens can override the majority, and blockade Yellowstone...or, as I said last round: "No one citizen or group of citizens can hold hegemony over a resource that is held in common by a broader population."

Furthermore, Bossy only rebuts the warrant for the argument, not the impact. So, if you buy that if a resource is held in common (e.g. wildlife or land) that all owners need to have equal access to that resource, then you MUST buy into the following impact: UREs "destroy wildlife populations and release toxins and engage in activities that cripple the wilderness. These actors deny other people access to resources that everyone should have equal access to. They impose a kind of hegemony over them, and exploit them to the point where my ability to enjoy or access resources I am entitled to is diminished or eliminated altogether...[T]his a violation of my freedoms and/or property rights."

O4. Some actions can be Compelled

Con"s arguments against positive rights are twofold: (1) that they haven't been shown to exist, and (2) that they are illogical given the nature of any valid moral system

Regarding his first issue, if we identify something of common value, we can derive positive rights from that. Consider, Con places a massive premium on freedom. If ensuring minimum standards of health, safety, etc. promote freedom, then it may be justified to compel actions towards achieving those goals. Certainly, if I am dead or ill through no fault of my own, then my freedom is limited, so it seems reasonable to mandate some action from able-bodied others to help me in the interests of freedom.

And, lastly, to the second point, Con says that moral systems must be voluntary, and that positive rights negate choice. But, Con acknowledges that there are limits to volition; there are some things I cannot do, despite their voluntariness. So, what Con really means is that a moral system must be largely voluntary, because there are always going to be restrictions on choice. Having positive rights only limits, it does not destroy, choice, and so it is not inconceivable that a moral system contain positive rights.

Thus, I affirm.



PRO has completely obliterated my case by showing the contradictions inherent in supporting free choice and property rights in conjunction with choice-restricting and rights-violating resource extraction procedures. I cannot even begin to rebut his counter-arguments, so I must concede. Full points to PRO.

It was, regardless, a fun debate. BSH has made me critically evaluate my position, and I can now see the glaring flaws in it (that may well be unrepairable). Props!
Debate Round No. 4


I am genuinely surprised. Thanks to Bossy for a great debate, and for such a graceful concession. I hope to have changed his mind on this topic since it's an important one to me.


Thanks again.

Debate Round No. 5
40 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago

I understand that. Lemme know when you're free.
Posted by debatability 3 years ago
@bsh just saw this haha

i would love too, but in a few months because right now i have to focus on irl debate
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
@Debate - would you like to debate it, lol?
Posted by debatability 3 years ago
genuinely dissappointed this ended in a concession :( this is a fun topic.
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
Thanks for the debate :)
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
Wow...Good debate, Bossy :)
Posted by bossyburrito 3 years ago
I legitimately couldn't see a way to get around your arguments using my current framework - really, good job!
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
Okay...well, maybe see if you can figure something out to rebut that...I mean, you do have 3 days or so.
Posted by bossyburrito 3 years ago
I don't see how I could get around the fact that pollution does, legitimately, violate the property rights of some people ("I am standing on my porch with a gun, and I fire inside your house next door and I kill you"). I think I could deal with most everything else, but if that point stands, I've still lost.
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
Lol...I hoped you'd appreciate that example :)

Okay. I mean, I think there are things you could say in response, but it's up to you.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by Beginner 3 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: From a parade of horribles to the raising of an axolotl shrine, bsh1, pushes bossy into a concession.
Vote Placed by Commondebator 3 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Concession
Vote Placed by zmikecuber 3 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Concession
Vote Placed by Zaradi 3 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: That was quick
Vote Placed by TN05 3 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Concession.
Vote Placed by Zarroette 3 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Graceful concession by Con.