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Debating Counterplans


Introducing Counterplans

A counterplan is a plan advocated by the negative that is an alternative to the affirmative’s plan.  The most essential defining element of a counterplan is that it is competitive – the negative must prove that the counterplan is better than the affirmative plan and a combination of the plan and all or part of the counterplan.

For example, imagine that I suggest that we take a lunch break to go to McDonald’s. Going to McDonald’s is my plan.  You suggest that we should go to Burger King (BK) instead of going to McDonald’s.  You say it is better to go to BK than McDonald’s because BK has chicken fries.

If you demonstrate that it is better to go to BK because BK has chicken fries you have made it through the first hoop – you have proven that the counterplan is better than the plan.  What you have not proven, however, is that it wouldn’t be wise to go to both.  As the original advocate of going to McDonald’s, I’ll suggest a permutation – combining the affirmative plan with all or part of the counterplan – to go to McDonald’s and BK.  This captures the benefit of going to BK – to get the chicken fries – while still maintaining that we should go to McDonald’s. The permutation proves that going to BK isn’t a reason not to go to McDonald’s – or that the counterplan isn’t a reason to not support the affirmative’s plan.

You can prove that we need to do the counterplan instead of the plan in a couple of different ways.  First, you could prove that it is net-beneficial to only support the counterplan. This can be accomplished by proving that McDonald’s is bad and the overall benefits of going to BK outweigh the problems cause by going to McDonald’s.  Second, you could prove that doing them both will result in some disadvantage that demonstrates that it is unwise to try to do them together.

To prove that it is net-beneficial just to do the counterplan, you could, for example,  argue that the McDonald’s I suggest going to is in a bad neighborhood and eating at McDonald’s therefore will increase the risk that you will be robbed or shot.  Going to BK – even if you can’t get a great McDonald’s salad there – will still be net-beneficial because the threat to your personal safety outweighs the benefits of eating a salad at MacDonald’s.

You could also prove that doing both – the permutation – is a bad idea.  For example, you could argue that if we did both we would spend too much money, leaving an inadequate amount of money to buy some ice cream. Or, you could argue that if we tried to go to both in the amount of time we had available for lunch that it would increase the risks that would be involved in a car crash.

The other way to prove your counterplan is competitive is to prove that it is mutually exclusive. To do this you need to prove that you can’t do both the counterplan and the plan. It is a hard thing to prove – rarely are two courses of action mutually exclusive.  But, it is possible to imagine mutually exclusive courses of action. The affirmative could, for example, could require more regulations on school speech.  The negative could abolish all school speech regulations.

Of course, if you prove the counterplan is mutually exclusive with the affirmative plan, you must still prove that it is net beneficial – that the benefits of acting on the counterplan outweigh the benefits of acting on the plan.

Proving that a counterplan is competitive – by either proving that it is net-beneficial or mutually exclusive and then net-beneficial – is a process that occurs throughout the debate and doesn’t depend on a single argument.  When arguing that a judge should vote for a counterplan, you are arguing that overall it is a good idea compared to the plan.

A Sample Counterplan

On the education topic, many teams will argue that the state governments rather than the federal government should implement the non-federal mandates of the plan.

[Sample] Text: The United States federal government should grant decision making and funding power over school choice programs to the states. The fifty state governments of the United States should substantially increase funding for school choice for K-12 schools.

Net-benefit: Avoids the disadvantages to increasing the federal deficit and any other disadvantages based on federal action.

This is a general solvency card they might read —

Kevin D. Roberts, 17 – Ph.D., longtime educator who is Executive Vice President of the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin (2/7, “States, Not the Feds, Should Lead Education Reform.”

The era of Donald Trump offers conservative reformers opportunities they have not seen since the 1980s. The most significant are in education, where the federal government has aggrandized its power, rendering states impotent. This overreach comes at the expense of two things very dear to the nation—our schoolchildren and our understanding of shared powerThough the Trump administration will no doubt address the former problem, its means of doing so may very well exacerbate the latter. Too often, well-intentioned, conservative executives end up using federal power to heal the wounds caused by the very same bludgeon—federal power. If President Trump is correct in his inaugural exhortation that “now is the hour of action,” then states—not federal bureaucrats—need to lead the charge on education policyAmong the many problems facing American education, the most significant