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RFD for Refugee Obligation Debate

whiteflame
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1/30/2016 6:37:53 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
This is an RFD for the debate between ben2974 and EverlastingMoment given here: http://www.debate.org...

I"m not exactly certain where to begin. I"ll get to the potential rule violations shortly, but I will say that both sides constructed their arguments well. There are a few things lacking in this debate, however, that make it more difficult to assess than it should be, and that"s on both sides.

So I"ll start with some overviews.

OV1: Rule violations

There is a clear and blatant rule violation coming from Con in R3, which takes the form of counter-rebuttals happening one round earlier than they were allowed. Con tries to defend himself by saying that it"s "a vague rule", but it doesn"t seem particularly vague to me.

Round 3: rebuttals for the arguments in round 2
Round 4: defenses for the rebuttals in round 3 (absolutely no new arguments)

Seems specific enough to me. When someone specifies what each round can be used for like this, the opponent has two options: work with the instigator to get that situation changed (usually by PM or in the comments), or accept it and work within those confines. When you chose not to do the former, Con, you automatically accepted the rule structure stipulated by Pro. You took it a step further by stating that you accepted all the terms in R1.

But how about the potential rule violation from Pro? Well, that"s muddier. Con"s correct that new extensions on Pro"s arguments appeared in the final round, which I also find problematic. But those aren"t separate new arguments. They"re extensions on the link stories and impact analysis. That"s not to say that I think either of those efforts were in good taste " presenting new and very relevant details about the arguments so late when they should have appeared in the opening round is, at the very least, employing the structure of the debate in such a way that your opponent cannot respond to some of the most key aspects of your argument at all. That"s generally a) why I don"t like this structure, and b) why I feel that "no new arguments" should encompass no new extensions on arguments as well.

But it"s not a rule violation in the context of the rules presented in R1. It"s a d*ck move from my perspective, but it doesn"t constitute a violation.

So, how do I assess all this? Well, therein lies the problem. I have two choices. I can assess it as I"d like to, or I can assess it as the rules tell me to do. However, Pro gives me only the most limited means to do the latter, since a violation "means the conduct point should be given to the opponent" does not apply to this debate. If this was a 7-point system debate, I"d give Pro conduct and that would be where this ends. Since it"s a select winner debate, I can"t really do anything with the rule structure.

Instead, I do what I"d personally do when I see a rule violation in progress: ignore the arguments made that violate those rules. As such, everything Con stated after "Being there is a significant word limit" in R3 is wasted character space from my perspective.

But the main reason I"m spelling this all out when I could have told you all of this in just a sentence is that both of you really need to watch this stuff. Other voters might not be so forgiving. Rule violations by themselves may often decide debates, and you really, really don"t want to give people the opportunity to skim through your debate and make a decision based on things like this. Con, you didn"t need those extra paragraphs " you clearly had the space in R4 to cover everything you felt you had to touch. Pro, you didn"t have to extend your arguments in R4. I actually thought you had plenty to cover in counter-rebuttal based solely on the analysis you provided in R2. If you really felt that all this information was important, then it would have been worth slimming down you R2 to include. Otherwise, you risk what"s going to happen here: I"m not just going to treat your extensions as dropped points, they"re going to be significantly weakened by their position in the debate.

OV2: "Moral obligation"

For a debate about moral obligations, the lack of a clear moral framework from either side was surprising. You both clearly had one in mind as you"re writing your arguments, but neither of you ever does a complete job of explaining why that moral framework should be the most essential in this debate. It ends up further confusing the debate because I"m forced to evaluate each of the contentions based on a nebulous, often inexplicit moral framework that"s never directly supported.

Don"t make your judges do this kind of work. When you put that on your judges, you"re going to disagree with the decision that comes because we"re forced to bring some amount of external perspective to the debate and make the connections ourselves.

OV3: Context

This is going to become a common theme throughout this RFD: where"s the context, guys? Both of you spend some time talking about the situation as it stands in these countries, but when you"re explaining why European nations should or should not take a certain action, you should really be couching that decision in the circumstances as they stand.

Pro, you commonly let Con make the argument that Europe shouldn"t have to take on refugees and that they"re really hurting the economies of European nations. I don"t know why you let him get away with that. The refugees are coming no matter whether or not European nations are accepting of that reality. That"s happening right now. The difference is between acceptance of their arrival and further rejection of them when they arrive. Con did argue that more people would come if they opened themselves up, but acceptance doesn"t have to be absolute and massive, as you said. Any of this analysis, though, would have been enough to dismiss much of Con"s contentions, and also show that they are not competitive with your second contention, which is how Con tried to paint them throughout.

Con, you really should have spent time on the temporality of these obligations. You spend some time on this, but scant little, which is disappointing because it"s incredibly important to how your side is viewed in this debate. You"re not arguing that the refugees that are currently there shouldn"t have been brought in. You"re not arguing against systems that would redistribute refugees across the EU because that doesn"t require that the EU take more refugees. You"re arguing that the EU should not take MORE refugees than it already has. Your points all focus on the view that the EU already has too large of a burden, and that"s good, but you really should be talking about how the EU has thus ALREADY MET its moral obligations. You would have turned all of Pro"s impacts into linear increases, and mitigated several of them into oblivion.

Neither of you takes these tacks, so I"m not going to incorporate them into my decision. However, these were opportunities, and all it would have taken to access them would have been a basic understanding of how the situation currently is and how affirming or negating the resolution affects that situation. That lack of analysis turns this debate into a comparison between taking refugees and not taking refugees, which sets each side up in diametric opposition to the other, when in reality the acceptance/non-acceptance of refugees is not an issue that"s quite so black and white. I know it makes things more complex to turn the debate into a moral grey area, but it would have made it a lot more realistic and turned this into a discussion of how changing attitudes affect outcomes for both the countries in question and for the refugees. The debate that was had here just felt surreal.

Alright, now that that"s out of the way, let"s talk about the contentions.
whiteflame
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1/30/2016 6:38:39 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
Pro"s C1:

Both of Pro's points are expansively explained, but the lack of a moral framework that covers both is problematic. This contention certainly has one: the golden rule. It's not exceptionally well explained why we should support the golden rule; saying "it's the right thing to do" and that it's dishonest not to just begs the question: why is it right, and why is hypocrisy immoral? The argument that the golden rule should be followed essentially to get a return on investment seems like it was rather vulnerable to some simple responses from Con, but that argument ends up getting little response from Con. Con essentially just tells me that what others want is not necessarily what the refugees want, which just begs the question of where the different lies, and states that there are other things we should consider, but this point relies upon the success of his own points and never weighs them against this argument.

The reason why this point remains standing is not due to an impact analysis. Pro doesn't actually spend much time explaining what the impact is or why it's so terrible. The reason why this contention still matters is because it's the only one throughout the entire debate to point to a very specific moral obligation. It's not a particularly well-warranted obligation, but it's also the only one with any sort of framework to back it.

Pro"s C2:

The same cannot be said of this contention. For this, we're back to a basic utilitarian calculation: what benefits societies should be done by those societies. Of course, I'm not given a reason why utility is a good way to determine what is moral by either side, but I am given general reasons why we should care about the long-term economic outlook for Europe, and why they should care about it themselves.

Despite the length of this argument, it appears to be more pre-rebuttal than actual offense. The argument appears to be that there's a potential long-term decline in economies that have declining populations. Honestly, it could have used a stronger link between the aging population and the economic harms that accompany it, and I don't particularly appreciate the fact that the debater references another debate of his within this argument, but there's enough reasoning given here to show that Europe's long-term outlook is not good so long as there's no substantial changes to their immigration policies. That I buy.

Con's responses never hit this strongly enough. He doesn't attack the logic, just the conclusion: that declining populations = declining economies. That requires far more explanation than what Con provides, which is an assertion backed up by a single source that really doesn't appear to support his argument. He doesn't attack any of the link structure, so even if the link had been relevant, I'd still find reason to believe Pro's claim over Con's due to the warrants he's providing.

Con"s C1:

This one clearly comes in direct conflict with Pro"s C2 (though, as I mentioned in the overview, it didn"t have to be that way). Honestly, I thought this would be the easiest possible point to make for Con, and it really should have been. There"s tremendous evidence available that shows that this has been an insane economic burden on Europe. It"s to the point where Germany, the very country that spearheaded the effort to take in refugees, is considering closing its borders and is worried about the euro.
"
But I see no evidence of any of this in Con"s arguments. He gives me a much generalized point about how the EU was already in bad shape, and how Greece in particular is facing some pretty big financial troubles, though none of it is quantified for me, nor do I have any clear idea of what the gravity of these economic woes amounts to. It isn"t until R4 that Con even mentions the fact that these countries are shutting people out from their borders. It"s never mentioned at all that many countries are actively building fences on those borders and having to violently defend those borders. That evidence would have led me to question why they"d be putting all this effort into keeping others out of their countries, which is never really explored in this debate. In fact, we never seem to get down to the nitty-gritty of what"s physically happening in Europe, as the focus is entirely on the number of refugees in various places and the generalized politics behind them. Even on the politics, there"s no mention of the Schengen Plan at all, which seems problematic to me. But maybe that"s just me.

It"s the lack of depth on impacts and the link story that"s making this contention troubling. I mean, it"s pretty clear that there is at least SOME economic woes that accompany the refugee crisis. Con points out that countries are still falling short on the necessary funds to cover it, and even Pro"s arguments admit that since none of the countries he talks about are covered 100% by external funds. Even if I was buying that they were entirely covered, however, that really just alters where the funds are coming from and whether the nations in question are in crisis or not. Those funds are still coming from somewhere. They"re still substantial. That"s still an impact, though a lesser one. Evenly distributing them might reduce costs, as Pro claims, but that point only goes far enough to explain that no countries will be in crisis as a result of the refugees, not that the cost diminishes as a result of spreading them out.

So I"m buying the overall point, it"s just not very strong. Money matters, and spending it matters, but I"m not given strong reasons to believe that any country is in crisis financially as a result of the refugees. Finances alone just aren"t that strong of an impact, even if the cost is massive, since there"s no reason to believe it has any substantial effect on any given country"s bottom line.

Con"s C2:

Honestly, this one felt incredibly weak. The moral structure that supports this contention is never clearly explained, as Con basically goes on the view that "general opposition should be taken into account." The problem is that this is never backed up with a general moral premise. Con argues in the final round that there"s no all-encompassing moral system, but that seems like a general reason to dismiss any moral obligation whatsoever, and it comes far too late for me to consider it.

So all this stands as is an appeal to the majority, and not a particularly good one at that. You could have talked about how governments have a moral obligation to their people over the refugees, and that ignoring their fears and polling numbers does more harm because it allows xenophobia within these nations to grow and will eventually force these people out of office, but I need to see all that analysis.

Meanwhile, Pro"s giving me good reason to believe that a majority opinion isn"t one I should stick to just out of principle. He"s telling me that doing so has led to clear harms in the past, relating it to the current situation. Con"s response that the comparison to the Jews doesn"t make sense because people didn"t understand at the time doesn"t really address the core reason behind the comparison: majority rule shouldn"t justify the allowance of human rights violations. Whether they know that that"s what they"re doing or not doesn"t really alter the situation.

So, without a clear reason why I should prefer an in-country majority"s opinion (one that may not even be warranted, since Con didn"t explain how those fears are justified), I"m pretty much forced to just toss out this contention.
whiteflame
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1/30/2016 6:39:05 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
Con"s C3:

Probably Con"s strongest contention, mainly due to a lack of substantive response from Pro. The argument from Pro seems to be that sex crimes and homicide haven"t increased, so this isn"t an issue. However, as Con points out, there"s a substantial crime increase in other areas, which is a problem. It"s not clear just how much of a problem (a linear increase in crime rates, even a rather large one, isn"t exactly a massive shift that undermines basic morality), and since Con never gets down into the nitty-gritty of "Countries have a moral obligation to their own people first and foremost," I really can"t do much with it beyond assessing the generalized impact of crime increases. However, that is still something substantive.

What muddles it is actually the slight turn that Pro puts on this. Again, Con overextended himself here, talking about the Paris attacks in the same breath as crime increases. The result was that Pro was able to use the perception that crime increases with more refugees to point out how this becomes very xenophobic. Xenophobia is never really impacted in the debate (though it certainly should have been), but he does tell me that the clash of cultures leads to problems with Muslim relations, even with non-refugees. I"m surprised that the obvious response " crime increases as a result of mobs of poor Middle Eastern refugees coming in are causing the xenophobia, and thus reducing the influx of such refugees also reduces xenophobia " is never given, but since it isn"t, I"m forced to buy some negative xenophobic effect. It"s not particularly impactful by comparison, but it does exist and it does have some moral implicaitons.

Con"s C4:

This is probably Con"s weakest point, mainly because it doesn"t compete with Pro"s points at all. The view that other countries, such as the U.S. and other members of the United Nations, also have a moral obligation or perhaps even a stronger moral obligation doesn"t negate the resolution. It doesn"t tell me anything about Europe"s obligations when you"re telling me that other nations should take on refugees. The view might be that other nations should be handling ALL of the remaining refugees, which obviates Europe"s own obligations, but a) that doesn"t seem particularly likely, since we"re talking about millions of people, b) that assumes that no further refugees will ever be added after these countries take everyone, and c) even if they could take them all and continue to take new ones, that doesn"t completely remove the obligation, just the means to take action based on that obligation.

So no, I"m not buying this. If anything, this contention does more harm than good to Con"s case because it shows me that at least someone does have an obligation to take these people. Admittedly, Pro doesn"t play up that aspect, but it"s not a great idea to argue that an obligation exists and it just belongs to someone else.

Conclusion:

So there are essentially 3 points that end up mattering in the context of this debate. There's the financial point, which both sides bring to the table, there's the Golden Rule argument from Pro, and there's the crime rate argument from Con.

When it comes to the economic points, both impacts are nebulous. However, Pro's has a tangible impact. He's telling me that these economies will decline overall. The funds that Con talks about could, indeed, result in declines, but I need to see those links and a clear explanation as to what's going to happen to these economies and why. I get that from Pro, albeit I'm more skeptical of his arguments. The lack from Con makes his points inferior, and thus Pro is winning on economics.

So now we just have crime and the Golden Rule. Crime does outdistance the economic woes, mainly because the link to a moral obligation is more obvious: countries have a duty to keep their citizens safe. It's not as clear that countries have a duty to ensure economic strength. So while the economic point does counter Con's crime statistics a bit, it doesn't remove them from contention.

What decides this debate is how I view the Golden Rule. There were two ways Con could have handled this in order to beat this point: present an alternate moral obligation that outweighs, or tell me why this isn't a moral obligation. In both cases, I simply don't see Con doing the job. The crime rates could have spawned a discussion of what obligations countries have to their own people versus others, but that never came up. This gets addressed more as a utilitarian point, where you're just comparing impacts, but that's not enough. I need to know where the obligations lie, and Pro's spending an awful lot of time telling me that they lie with our treatment of other countries. He's focused on long term, vague-ish impacts here, but at least they're clearly linked to an obligation. I'm not seeing the same from Con, as I don't see a clear obligation being upheld by the governments of these countries as a result of rejecting these refugees, nor am I seeing any reasoning for why the pursuit of utilitarianism is itself an obligation.

And I need that.

Had this been a simple heads up of impact calculus, this may have turned out differently. But the debate is about moral obligations, and I'm only getting one clear, practically untouched obligation coming out of either debater. That's the one I go with, and as such, I vote Pro.
Raisor
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1/31/2016 5:14:58 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
Adding my RFD:

Some big picture thoughts:

I think Con does a better job being responsive to opponent"s points and in general just makes "more" arguments. Even so, both sides need to work on organization, presenting well structured cases that track both their opponent"s argument and their own constructives. Con"s writing is hard to follow at times, Pro tends to be clearer. For a debate on "moral obligation" there was very little talk about what the obligations of a state are, Pro is the only one who puts forward a clear moral argument. Con"s "will of the people" argument is sort of half baked and not clearly presented as a moral case.

Issues:

Golden Rule:

I have a real problem with this argument. In R2 it is presented as a moral argument of respect and hypocrisy, by the closing round it is about incentives and self-interest. The moral component is lost and it reduces to a utilitarian question of whether the Golden Rule serves my interests. If this is the case, then Con"s argument that there are a lot of other factors in play, that the GR is too narrow, is very compelling. As the only moral argument in a debate about moral obligation, Pro would have been better served playing up the issue of respect and moral symmetry. Instead I weigh this argument as a political framework for establishing goodwill, which is much less compelling.

Economics:

I"m granting Pro that there will be a benefit to the economy from demographics...Pro explains the mechanism in play, Con strongest argument appears to be that it will be swamped by the cost of refugees. Pro argues the cost of refugees is shared through aid from other countries, Con says this isn"t true. Both of their sources are either missing or don"t speak to this point, so I have no way to resolve the issue in-round. I"m going to say that short term there could be an economic crisis, long term maybe there"s an economic bump do to demographics?

There seem to be long term benefits via Pro and short-term risks via Con, but I don"t have a good way to quantify or compare them.

Popular Opinion

Clear win for Pro. Con argues that states don"t have an obligation if their populace is against a policy. I think Pro"s WWII argument is a pretty standard response and Con didn"t rebut this effectively. Con"s response that "people didn"t know about the horrors of the the Nazi"s" ignores the fundamental point of Pro"s argument- the justice is not determined by popular opinion. I see no response to this from Con.

Crime:

I feel like Con might have some good arguments here, but again Con"s case is muddled. What comes across most clearly is Pro"s argument that the crime rate is no different in refugee vs non-refugee populations and that crime rates in Germany are extremely low. Unfortunately I can"t find Pro"s source for this- he seems to have mislabeled his sources and copied local path files instead of url. What Con needs is strong statistics to back up his claim of a "rape epidemic." Con"s source here is a hodge-podge of anecdotal stories which, while horrifying, don"t speak to Pro"s point about crime rates. So both sides are really dropping the ball. I"m going to grant that there is an increase in crime, but that it is marginal- not an "epidemic."

Not Europe Alone:

Pro"s response is right - the Resolution doesn"t require Pro to prove the ONLY Europe should help or that Europe must take ALL refugees. I don"t think Pro responds as clearly and forcefully as he should have here, but I think the argument as presented by Con is a non-starter. With restructuring I could see it being coherent, but not as presented.

Conclusion:

I guess I just evaluate this by weighing the impacts. There are a lot of ways I could put this together, and most of them require me to create interventionist narratives. Pro really dropped the ball in failing to present an argument about refugee well-being, so all my evaluation will have to do with the well-being of Europe.

I am going to prioritize the short-term harms from Con. In the long run we are all dead, so we should be more wary of the short term risk of a crisis. An increase in crime is also bad and adds to economic destabilization. The impacts of the Gold Rule are ambiguous and unpredictable, I am prioritizing the danger in front of me.

In the end, I narrowly vote Con.

Both sides did a very poor job with their sources, I"m kind of frustrated about that
YYW
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1/31/2016 5:32:53 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
At 1/31/2016 5:14:58 PM, Raisor wrote:
Adding my RFD:

Some big picture thoughts:

I think Con does a better job being responsive to opponent"s points and in general just makes "more" arguments. Even so, both sides need to work on organization, presenting well structured cases that track both their opponent"s argument and their own constructives. Con"s writing is hard to follow at times, Pro tends to be clearer. For a debate on "moral obligation" there was very little talk about what the obligations of a state are, Pro is the only one who puts forward a clear moral argument. Con"s "will of the people" argument is sort of half baked and not clearly presented as a moral case.

Issues:

Golden Rule:

I have a real problem with this argument. In R2 it is presented as a moral argument of respect and hypocrisy, by the closing round it is about incentives and self-interest. The moral component is lost and it reduces to a utilitarian question of whether the Golden Rule serves my interests. If this is the case, then Con"s argument that there are a lot of other factors in play, that the GR is too narrow, is very compelling. As the only moral argument in a debate about moral obligation, Pro would have been better served playing up the issue of respect and moral symmetry. Instead I weigh this argument as a political framework for establishing goodwill, which is much less compelling.

Economics:

I"m granting Pro that there will be a benefit to the economy from demographics...Pro explains the mechanism in play, Con strongest argument appears to be that it will be swamped by the cost of refugees. Pro argues the cost of refugees is shared through aid from other countries, Con says this isn"t true. Both of their sources are either missing or don"t speak to this point, so I have no way to resolve the issue in-round. I"m going to say that short term there could be an economic crisis, long term maybe there"s an economic bump do to demographics?

There seem to be long term benefits via Pro and short-term risks via Con, but I don"t have a good way to quantify or compare them.

Popular Opinion

Clear win for Pro. Con argues that states don"t have an obligation if their populace is against a policy. I think Pro"s WWII argument is a pretty standard response and Con didn"t rebut this effectively. Con"s response that "people didn"t know about the horrors of the the Nazi"s" ignores the fundamental point of Pro"s argument- the justice is not determined by popular opinion. I see no response to this from Con.

Crime:

I feel like Con might have some good arguments here, but again Con"s case is muddled. What comes across most clearly is Pro"s argument that the crime rate is no different in refugee vs non-refugee populations and that crime rates in Germany are extremely low. Unfortunately I can"t find Pro"s source for this- he seems to have mislabeled his sources and copied local path files instead of url. What Con needs is strong statistics to back up his claim of a "rape epidemic." Con"s source here is a hodge-podge of anecdotal stories which, while horrifying, don"t speak to Pro"s point about crime rates. So both sides are really dropping the ball. I"m going to grant that there is an increase in crime, but that it is marginal- not an "epidemic."

Not Europe Alone:

Pro"s response is right - the Resolution doesn"t require Pro to prove the ONLY Europe should help or that Europe must take ALL refugees. I don"t think Pro responds as clearly and forcefully as he should have here, but I think the argument as presented by Con is a non-starter. With restructuring I could see it being coherent, but not as presented.

Conclusion:

I guess I just evaluate this by weighing the impacts. There are a lot of ways I could put this together, and most of them require me to create interventionist narratives. Pro really dropped the ball in failing to present an argument about refugee well-being, so all my evaluation will have to do with the well-being of Europe.

I am going to prioritize the short-term harms from Con. In the long run we are all dead, so we should be more wary of the short term risk of a crisis. An increase in crime is also bad and adds to economic destabilization. The impacts of the Gold Rule are ambiguous and unpredictable, I am prioritizing the danger in front of me.

In the end, I narrowly vote Con.

Both sides did a very poor job with their sources, I"m kind of frustrated about that

Yeah, I pretty much agree with most of this.
Tsar of DDO
Raisor
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1/31/2016 5:33:29 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
I think I agree with almost everything whiteflame posted.

Our major difference seems to be that WF puts more stock in the allusions to moral frameworks put forward in the debate, whereas I defaulted to impact calc in the absence of a clear moral framework and due to the implicit acceptance of utilitarian calculus by the nature of the argument.

I may have missed that Pro is arguing an economic decline in the status quo which immigration avoids. This changes the argument quite a bit...

I agree Con doesn't provide clear links on economics, but there is a link story that there is a current economic crisis and Greece is proving how the burdens of refugees exacerbate the crisis and make...collapse?...more likely.
ben2974
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1/31/2016 9:46:24 PM
Posted: 10 months ago
Correct me if i'm wrong, but I believe the purpose of my first paragraph in R2 was set to establish a framework with which to assess the resolution by (i.e., "lasting livelihood that is secure, free, exhilarating, and shared"). I knew coming into this that debating the morality behind the crisis was going to be hard to do without ending up arguing over what constitutes morality. In essence, I didn't want the debate to veer in to the abstract. In stead, I wanted to focus on issues posed by the crisis and argue the benefits in support of the resolution.

To paraphrase: I didn't want the debate to be about whether or not achieving a "lasting livelihood that is secure, free, exhilarating, and shared" is worth pursuing. I wanted to argue the case for the refugees assuming a lasting livelihood etc. IS worth pursuing...

If what I said is paraphrasing the sentiment already established by the voters, then how was a "moral framework" supposed to unfold in a debate like this?