The Instigator
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1 Points
The Contender
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13 Points

Anarchism and capitalism are incompatible.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/4/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,582 times Debate No: 59763
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (17)
Votes (3)




I will be arguing that anarchism and capitalism are incompatible ideologies. The BoP will be shared. First round is acceptance.

Also, this debate is impossible to accept. Please note your interest in the comments section.


Capitalism: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.[1]

Anarchism: Belief in opposition to rulers (Derived from the greek roots an-, meaning without/opposition to, and -arkhos, meaning ruler or chief).[2]






Thank you for the great topic, Chimera!

I agree to the definitions here provided.

The resolution i will be defending is the negation of the above. That is:

Anarchism and Capitalism are not incompatible.

Stated differently, that is: Anarchism and Capitalism are compatible.

Shared BoP: Agreed. We must both make a positive case for our positions.

Good luck! I am looking forward to a great debate.
Debate Round No. 1


Opening Argument:

I. Capitalism promotes a mode of production that is centrally planned.

Capitalism itself promotes private ownership of the means of production. This means, that factories, land, workshops, etc. are all 'owned' by private entities. These private entities are called the capitalist class, and employ the working class to provide labor in return for wages. This creates a system where the capitalist class rules over the working class, who depend on the capitalist class for wages. This is a centrally planned pyramid system.

Thus, by the definition provided of anarchism, capitalism creates a class which, in a sense, rules over the working class economically.

II. Capitalism leads to the creation of states.

Since there is a capitalist class and a working class, both classes have opposing interests. The capitalists have an interest in maintaining their ownership of the means of production, whereas the workers have an interest in taking common ownership of the means of production. Since the capitalists are heavily outnumbered by the working class, they will create a state with laws that will uphold and defend their ownership of the means of production through the use of property laws, which are executed by a police force. Thus creating rulers in the political sense, which anarchism is opposed to.

Another way capitalism creates a state, is through the instability of the free market. Since capitalists have an interest in maintaining their control of the means of production, and the free market inhibits this through the rise and fall and the Darwinian 'survival of the fittest' nature of laissez-faire, capitalists will have no interest in maintaining a free market. Since they will make more of a profit, and will have a stronger hold over their means of production within a regulated market. Thus, the capitalist class will create a state that regulates the free market so that large corporations can maintain their monopoly.

III. Rothbard's thoughts on anarchism and capitalism.

Murray Rothbard, the foremost thinker on 'anarcho'-capitalism, published an article titled 'Are Libertarians "Anarchists"?'[1] under a pseudonym (Aubrey Herbert) in the mid-1950's. In it, he questioned whether 'anarcho'-capitalists (libertarians) could be considered 'anarchists' in both the historical and etymological sense. His conclusion was that 'We must therefore conclude that we are not anarchists, and that those who call us anarchists are not on firm etymological ground, and are being completely unhistorical.' He argued that this was/is due to the 'dominant' anarchists of the time. Being mostly anti-capitalist. He also stated that because of this, 'Perhaps, then, we could call ourselves by a new name: nonarchist'.

Thus, by the founder of 'anarcho'-capitalism's standards, anarchism and capitalism are incompatible. And that 'anarcho'-capitalists are not anarchists, but 'nonarchists'.

First Round Conclusion:

Anarchism and capitalism are incompatible. Due to the interests of the capitalist class being centered around maintaining control of their means of production. Those in power of an institution would rather that the institution fail while they remain in power, rather than letting the institution succeed while losing power within their institution.

If we apply this to anarcho-capitalism:

P1) Anarcho-capitalism entails stateless capitalism

P2) Capitalism entails a capitalist class

P3) The capitalist class has interests in maintaining in control of the means of production (staying in economic control).

P4) The capitalist class interest is best upheld through a state regulating the economy, and enforcing state produced property laws (letting an institution, anarcho-capitalism, fail so they can maintain economic control).

P5) Capitalism leads to the creation of a state.

C) Capitalism is incompatible with anarchism.






Thank you for submitting your R1, Chimera. I have seen these contentions before, though citing Rothbard is new. I’ll leave my objections until R3.

One word that did cross my mind as in need of definition is the word “ruler”. Being that the term can be defined such that a “ruler” is “a person exercising [control, dominion, or regulation over people or an organization]” [1], it seems that there are certain exceptions that need to be made. What we are opposing here, in more specific terms, is control of others, or rather, people who control others. At the macro-level, this is known as Statism [2]. On the micro-level, this means that, for any choice you make, I can override said choice. Generally, there are only two ways for this to work. Either (A) by convincing me to act otherwise or (B) by initiating force against me. Rulers must take option (B), as this is the only way to have control or dominion over anyone else, who does not freely choose to do as they ask.

That said, I shall present my contentions:

I. Anarchism’s compatibility with Capitalism is a consequence of the belief that people can make free choices.

When thinking of beliefs, or philosophies, it is important, and sometimes necessary, to consider the justification for said belief or philosophy. With the philosophy/belief of anarchism, one of these crucial underlying reasons is that the State is organized violence; that is, that the only way for the State to exist is by initiating force on other people. The logical consequence of this belief, if the person is to create a universal ethical principle, is that the initiation or threat of force is immoral. There are those support anarchism on the basis of some universal principle already established, but this is exactly the same. So, via abductive logic, we can assume that, at least in general, the person in question has some belief related to the initiation or threat of force. I would gladly accept any criticism of this hypothesis, however, Geoffrey Ostergaard, of Peace Pledge Union [3] suggests that it is an anarchist tradition:

" The concept of natural society also helps to explain the ambiguous and ambivalent attitude towards violence in the anarchist tradition. The state seen as 'organised violence' is the antithesis of natural society, and it would therefore seem logical that anarchists should reject all violence. Many anarchists, particularly individualists and those adopting a co-operative or communitarian approach, have drawn this conclusion......The ambivalent attitude towards violence of mainstream anarchists was one reason why anarchism and pacifism developed as separate movements in the 19th century, despite their common opposition to war and militarism and their shared historical roots..." *

So, we’ve reached a plausible explanation of a phenomenon. While there might be other reasons, this seems to be the only one that would make anarchism justified as a belief. So, with this justification, it does not seem that one can say “Capitalism is incompatible with Anarchism” as there is only the prohibition of force that Anarchism can be said to have. I do not think it can be said that only communism, or collectivism, is compatible with anarchism. There seem to be a variety of arguments that can be made towards quite different conclusions, on the exact same grounds, with the exception of hierarchies, which I will address in my rebuttals, as you have already mentioned this, Chimera.

II. Capitalism can be exemplified in multiple ways.

“Capitalism” as defined here can be seen in quite a few different ways, within the confines of non-aggression (which was discussed above and in [3]). Capitalism doesn’t have any particular effect, but rather, has effects which can vary quite a bit. For example, it is entirely permissible for a group to own the means of production to which they each have equal access, and each person draws from this collectively owned means of production to make things for themselves. However, from the time that any individual makes contact with any portion of that means of production, they have made a claim to ownership. “Ownership” can be defined such that “X owns y if and only if x can determine the disposition of y”. So, upon making contact with this means of production, the person has made a claim to private ownership, at least in that moment. This is only different from the traditional view of capitalism in that capitalism is typically seen in such a way that the person owns the resources prior to their making contact with it.

Capitalism, from an outside viewpoint, entails that some person A owns the resource, and (A) then employs persons B, C, and D to make some product OR (B) persons B, C, and D come to A in order to purchase the materials. Persons B, C, and D are under no obligation to work for A, or purchase products from A. They can refuse, without threat of force. Also, in the circumstances where B, C, and D buy the materials from A, A is, in fact, dependent on their purchases to have any income. There is a certain interdependence: A cannot make income without B, C, and D and B, C, and D cannot make income without A. Even in a work-for-work trade system, this is still in effect. A might have cut down some trees (work) with which B can build a house, provided A gives B some lumber. They are dependent on each other, and A privately owns the lumber.

III. Capitalism is the result of not initiating force against others.

If I cannot own the lumber that I cut down, it would seem that we have a ruler in our midst. If I cut down some trees (and plant some more, because I’m a nice guy), if I cannot prevent other people from taking it, they are enslaving me. Slavery is not simply the ownership of another person, but also their labor and time [4]. This might be where the term “wage slavery” comes from, but that is another matter. "Lumber" is a capital good. Thus, I am a capitalist; perhaps not a wealthy one, but a capitalist nonetheless. So, unless we are to permit force to be initiated (which means we are not in an anarchist society), we will be living in a capitalist society. Even the adage “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” contains this capitalist notion. Only if you are going to initiate force against me can you take what I have worked for (my lumber, in this example) without my permission; that entails, however, that people can own capital goods and that capitalism is then compatible with anarchism. In choosing not to initiate, or at least making it the basis of legal issues, we choose a world with capitalism. I can own my lumber, and sell it to you, or pay you to cut lumber for me. Either way, someone owns a capital good. “Lumber” is not a finished good. It is a good from which other goods are made.

This example can be applied to quite a number of things. A factory, for example, is a capital good. How might one own this capital good? Well, like in my previous example, I could pay someone to make it. I must buy the materials for them to use, and I am paying them for their labor. So, the building that they make, then, is mine. I owned the materials, and my paying for their labor is part of the agreement that they will give me their stake in the factory. Perhaps an agreement could be worked out where they own a portion of it, and so earn income of some kind, and another agreement can be made between myself and the factory workers such that their compensation includes ownership of the factory. However, all of this entails that I own some capital good (as I have determined where they are to go, and I have legitimately attained them). So, the factory workers, in order to have a right to the factory, will need my voluntary consent, or else they are initiating force (or getting someone else to initiate force), and acting as rulers in this micro-level example.


So, in sum, if we are to avoid using force (which is required of us, if we are to avoid ruler-ships), we will have a capitalist society. Anarchy has a tradition of being against violence (namely the initiative form) [3], and if we are to stick with this tradition, that means that people can own capital goods, sell them to others, and acquire employees as they see fit. Even in a society of work-for-work trading, there is still some form of private ownership of private goods, as X can determine the disposition of y. Chimera could object to this, and use a dictionary definition, if he so pleases, but then that definition would still mean the capital goods are owned. Again, unless force is to be initiated against others, capitalism will be compatible with anarchism. Other philosophies, like collectivism or primitives or communism, can be used as well, but each of these would only be anarchistic if, and only if, they have no force being initiated, as to “rule” something is to control it or have dominion over it. If I am free to make a choice, I am exercising ruler-ship over myself. The only way to make my choice what you prefer it to be is to either (A) initiate force against me or (B) convince me. Option (B) still requires that I am free to choose, which means I am ruling myself. Taking this to the macro-level, this means that “Statism” is not the case. There are no rulers, and as such, we are living in an anarchist society.

I look forward to your rebuttals, Chimera.


*I idealized this quote, as I could not get the formatting correct to place it in block form.

Debate Round No. 2


Second Round Arguments:

I. Anarchism is more than just anti-statism.

Anarchism is the questioning vertical hierarchy (rulerships) and their claim to a monopoly on the use of violence. If an authority cannot meet it's burden of proof (that is, to meet the needs of all those who it has authority over), this system is abolished in favor non-hierarchical, free associations without rulers.

If a system accepts rulers or persons which have dominion over others (such as capitalism does) and can only legitimize itself by enforcing violence or coercion over those which it rules, then that system would be abolished in favor of non-hierarchical, free associations.

II. The capitalist and the worker.

My opponent assumes that all worker-capitalist relations are built on a mutually beneficial relationship, and is simply a market exchange. However, this is false. The private ownership of the means of production is predicated on violent exclusion to keep workers from producing for themselves and their communities. If workers can produce for themselves, why would they work for a capitalist who only seeks to profit off of surplus labor?

The worker-capitalist reltionship is built off of coercion, which can be percieved as a form of violence, which I will get to later. This coercion is due to the fact that a worker must either work for a capitalist, or be deprived fo their means of survival. Workers must work to produce goods in exchange for a wage The wages that the workers are given is not based in equity of labor time. Rather, it is a level that maintains the worker's survival and allows them to keep working.

III. Anarcho-capitalism doesn't abolish the state's monopoly on violence.

The state can be defined as having three major characteristics (as defined by Max Weber[1]):

1. A monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

2. An area over which this monopoly is enforced.

3. A highly centralized authority, administrative body, or rulership (government) which lays claim to the use of this violence.

Within a capitalist society, this concept of having a 'state' wouldn't be abolished. On the contrary, this concept would only be privatized. A piece of property (land) would be defined as being a geographic area, with the 'owner' as the administrative body or ruler which lays claim to a monopoly of violence over this given area. This itself fits the deifnition of a state. Which is one of the main targets of anarchist theory. Thus meaning, capitalism is not compatible with anarchism.

If I were a worker on the piece of land owned by person A, person A would act as my ruler over that piece of land. Since that land is the property of person A, and they can legitimately enforce violence over it. This still entails that there are rulers within an anarcho-capitalist society. Only being decentralized, but rulers nonetheless. Thus meaning that it is not an anarchist system.

IV. The non-aggression principle does not legitimize capitalism.

My opponent is invoking the non-aggression principle into their arguments. I will now show as to why the non-aggression principle does not legitimize capitalist or private ownership of property.

The non-aggression principle holds that the initiation of force or violence (against a person or their justly acquired property) is inherently immoral. One common argument to support a capitalist mode of production, is that socialist expropriation of property is theft. This argument is as follows:

P1) Theft is the forceful taking of one's justly acquired property.

P2) Expropriation is the compulsory taking of a capitalist's private property, by the workers.

C) Expropriation is a form of theft.

However, this position only holds if all capitalist private property is justly acquired. So, the argument can be restructured as follows:

P1) Theft is the forceful taking of one's justly acquired property.

P2) All capitalist private property is justly acquired.

P3) Expropriation is the compulsory taking of a capitalist's private property, by the workers.

C) Expropriation is a form of theft.

However, this position depends on whether P2 is a true statement. Which can be answered in the negative. Nearly every patch of land on earth has been acquired unjustly (through the initiation of force or violence). This land was then sold and purchased on the market until it reached it's current owners. Wage slavery is the use of coercion (a form of violence, initiated by the capitalist) to keep workers subservient to wages that are equitable to their labor time. Workers should then be able to act in retaliation to this coercion (as anarchy is a system that opposes systems of oppression and coercion/violence). Private property can also be seen as not legitimate through the labor theory of property (which holds that labor creates ownership). Because of this labor theory of property, we can hold that no one has the right to own land (as it is not man-made). Workers could also own the means of production, as they are the labor force within a production facility. Thus, expropriation could be seen as a means of taking back justly acquired property.

Thus, the non-aggression principle does not legitimize capitalism, nor does it coincide conflict between anarchism and capitalism. Since the argument that supports capitalism through the NAP is dependent on the false presumption that all private property is justly acquired.


P1) Anarchism is the demolition of authority/rulerships which rests upon the use of violence or force to legitimize itself.

P2) The state and capitalism/private ownership of property both rest upon rulerships which must use violence or force to maintain themselves.

C) Anarchism is not compatible with capitalism.





So, we are in Round 3. This is becoming a pretty interesting debate.

Now I shall present my rebuttals. I shall list each of your points, and then offer a few objections

The terms “private ownership” and “common ownership” with, from here on, contain an assumed “of the means of production”, to save character space.

  • I. Addressing "Capitalism promotes a mode of production that is centrally planned."

This claim is only true if the Circular Flow Diagram is false. The Circular Flow Diagram [1] describes the way in which firms (businesses) interact with households (people/workers). There are two (2) markets: The Factor Market and the Goods/Services Market. Households contribute to the Factor Market, and take from the Goods/Services Market. Firms contribute to the Goods/Services market, and take from the Factor market.

By contributing to the Factor Market, and having firms take from the Factor Market, households earn income. Some households earn less income than others, but they earn income nonetheless. Also, by contributing to the Goods/Services Market, and having households take from the Factor Market, firms earn income.

So, each is dependent on the other. If households don’t buy, firms don’t earn revenue. If firms don’t pay for labor, households don’t earn wages. If “rulership” is predicated on dependence, it would seem that each rules the other. As such, there is no particular class which rules another particular class, since each rules the other.

  • II. Addressing "Capitalism leads to the creation of a states."

This point seems to require the first point to be true, and I have already addressed the issues with Point One (I). However, I’ll provide some objections here as well.

I will address the paragraphs by their central themes: Opposing Interests and Free-Market Instability.

(A) Opposing Interests

Given that a State requires taxes to exist, and taxes are a method of taking income and/or capital goods, it’d seem to me that the capitalist is in the same position either way, and has no real reason to support the existence of a State which will use force to take their income and capital goods. The capitalist, then, is better off simply hiring a security company and some legal firm so that they will have entities who are responsible for redress of grievances, rather than having an institution which will take her income and capital.

Even if it is true that capitalists have an interest in keeping their capital goods, it would not mean they would create a State. If the issue is maintaining ownership of capital goods, a State is surely the last thing the capitalist would choose, as the State only exists if it can take taxes and take and hold capital goods, which means the capitalist must lose income and capital goods.

(B) Free-Market Instability

The most telling statement from this portion of the contention is: “Thus, the capitalist class will create a state that regulates the free market so that large corporations can maintain their monopoly”. Not all capitalists approve of or support corporations, let alone own or operate them. So, the position that capitalists will want a State to regulate the free market only works in so far as those who own large corporations and want monopolies are also capitalists. However, a capitalist is any person who controls the means of production.

It is not particularly difficult to see that this contention rests very heavily on a misunderstanding of what a “capitalist” is. For example, are we to believe that a mom-and-pop shop owner wants more regulations? Perhaps a higher minimum wage or a higher quality requirement for products? The shop owner is a capitalist, after all. Profit is [Revenue-Expenses]. Certain industries have particular expenses and particular revenues, but this is the basic equation. Regulations are part of expenses, and, all else equal, if Expenses rise, profit must fall, and if profit must fall, income will fall as will. But if income falls due to regulation, it cannot be the case that all capitalists want more regulations, as this would entail all capitalists wanting less profit; but, given very basic economic truths, if a company is not making money, it can no longer operate. [5] All of this with the understanding that it might not be true when income rises or other expenses fall. [2]

  • III. Addressing "Rothbard's thoughts on anarchism and capitalism."

I find it odd that Chimera chooses to use Rothbard, especially considering Rothbard’s article has a very obvious minarchist stance.

Thus, the libertarian will usually reply: “’Well, I believe in a limited government, the government being limited to the defense of the person or property or the individual against invasion by force or fraud.’”

Being in support any kind or size of government is not anarchism. This contention is an obvious example of quote-mining, also known as “Contextomy”. [3]

Not only that, but a “libertarian” is not necessarily an anarchist. As Rothbard states “…Well, I believe in a limited government…” [Emphasis in original]. So, it would seem to me that this contention is misguided; it rests upon a very fatal misunderstanding of anarchy and libertarianism. The libertarian might be justified in believing government is necessary for protecting the individual and their property, as well as adjudicating instances where the libertarian Non-Aggression Principle is violated. Anarchy, on the other hand, does not entail collectivism or communism. For this contention to work, both of these must not be the case.

Part of Rothbard’s essay discussed the historical collectivist/communist theme of anarchy. He states “Considering the dominant anarchists, it is obvious that the question ‘are libertarians anarchists?’ must be answered unhesitatingly in the negative”, after discussing what he terms “left-anarchism”. Left-anarchism is the form of anarchism that “attacks private property just as vigorously as it attacks the State”. Much as the various forms of anarchism are lumped together, so too are the various forms of “left-anarchism” lumped together and addressed under the banner of “anarcho-capitalism”.

Given the historical nature of anarchism, etymologically speaking, a person does not have sound grounding in using “anarchist” to refer to someone who opposes Statism and supports private property, as the historically dominant position has been collectivist/communist anarchy. However, it would seem that this is simply arguing that opposing rulers is not sufficient for the term “anarchist”, despite the fact that our definition only requires this. Perhaps the term “anti-statist” or “anti-archist” might be more appropriate, as it is true that “anarchism” entails a left-wing stance when looking at the historically dominant forms of anarchism. However, the words would still entail “belief in opposition to rulers”, as such, for this debate, the term “anarchist” will suffice. For this contention to work, “anarchy” must be re-defined to include collectivism and/or communism. This is quite an underhanded tactic, as we have already agreed upon a definition.


I look forward to your counter-rebuttals, Chimera. The rebuttals you have provided have some strength to them.


Debate Round No. 3


I am sorry, but due to unfortunate circumstances and tine restraints on my end, I must skip this round. I will cover my rebuttals in Rounds 4 and 5.



I have waited as long as I can to post this.

Since Chimera did not post any arguments, I won't either.

Round 5 will include Defense and Closing Statements for both of us.
Debate Round No. 4


I am terribly sorry, but I must forfeit this debate due to personal reasons and time constrants. I thank Con for providing a great debate, they argued well against the points given.

Vote Con .


It is rather unfortunate that we could not finish this debate.

I thank PRO for providing a great debate as well.

Debate Round No. 5
17 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by debate_power 7 years ago
Even if they are compatible (I'm undecided), no capitalism would still be preferable.
Posted by Chimera 7 years ago

Ok, we can PM about this.
Posted by Pfalcon1318 7 years ago
I would only ask that we find a more reasonable definition of "anarchism". If you would like, we can PM about this.

I would rather avoid an unnecessarily long comment thread.

"Anarchy", it seems, is less about "authority" and more about rulers.

I am think "anarchy" as "without rulers" might open up our conversation a bit, and give each of us a chance to build a real case for our positions.

**I am fine with a focus on political and economic theory.
Posted by Chimera 7 years ago

Some aspects might be philosophical, but the debate will more or less be centered around political and economic theory and practice.

If you have no problem with that, then send back a comment confirming so and I will challenge you to the debate.
Posted by inaudita 7 years ago
The nature of capitalism itself forces organization by capitalistic enterprises.
Posted by Pfalcon1318 7 years ago
This seems like a pretty interesting debate. It seems that there are a few inconsistencies in the "anarchist" framework that we could explore together.

I assume this is going to be mostly a philosophical debate?

The phrasing "incompatible ideologies" makes me think we'll be all about philosophical argument.

I'd gladly accept.
Posted by Chimera 7 years ago

"Do you believe some element of enforcement of that ideal would theoretically be supported in an anarchist society? In other words, if I were to go around attacking or hitting someone, do you agree that there would be some method of regulation that protects against internal abuses?".

From a theoretical point of view, yes, I think there would be an element of enforcement. I would be able to accept that within the premise.

Also, just for a confirmation, you are referring that you wish for me to add the premise that: " The generic principle of freedom is universally expected and promoted within anarchist societies, which would be supported by some element of enforcement." and you would accept the resolution as is?
Posted by Danielle 7 years ago
@ Chimera

"Mainly due to it's basis in the axiom of self-ownership, which is not universally accepted among anarchists."

I assume you are referring to the notion that some anarchists don't think the "self" qualifies as property that can be owned. I see. I would be able to agree to a premise that states the generic principle of freedom (i.e. attacking someone would violate their freedom/autonomy) is universally expected and promoted within anarchist societies. In that case, do you believe some element of enforcement of that ideal would theoretically be supported in an anarchist society? In other words, if I were to go around attacking or hitting someone, do you agree that there would be some method of regulation that protects against internal abuses? If so, I would be interested in debating this subject with you.
Posted by Chimera 7 years ago
@Danielle Thank you for your feedback, i've removed 'without hierarchy' from the definition of anarchism.

As for your interest in the debate, I don't think I would be able to agree with the premise that the non-aggression principle is expected in all anarchist societies. Mainly due to it's basis in the axiom of self-ownership, which is not universally accepted among anarchists. I would however, be able to agree to a premise that states that the generic principle of freedom (i.e. attacking someone would violate their freedom/autonomy) is universal within anarchist societies.
Posted by Cold-Mind 7 years ago
@Chimera You should totally modify definition of anarchism, so that it doesn't say "belief". Any belief is compactible with any economic system in sense that no matter what is happening around, people can still believe in something.
But if you define anarchy as society without publicly enforced government, that's not even sustainable within itself. People are at the state of war, as long as they don't make social contract - mutual laws. Since not entire society can be law enforcer and judge, hierarchy is already conceived at this point.
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession
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Reasons for voting decision: concession. All points to con.

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