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Recently on the L there has been much attention over Korcok/Branham
opportunity cost theory. I agree that this economic concept can be cross
applied to counterplan justification, esp. the interpretation advanced by
Korcok (Question of Terminology July 11, 97)
What seems to have received less attention has been Bob Lechtreck past
posts about opportunity cost, fiat, and the could standard. In this post I
wish to expand upon Lechtreck's could standard and its role in an
opportunity cost counterplan.
"The question of negative fiat"
Opportunity cost's main criticisms have been over negative fiat and the
role of plan propensity (Bryantt, Dallas) Korcok and Lechtreck have both
answered plan propensity with the concept of COULD. Korcok writes,
"The hallmark of this understanding is that it commits either
explicitly or assumes a "could" modality... This understanding of
"opportunity cost" does not involve a calculation of the
propensity or likelihood or probability of alternative actions,
precisely because those actions are subject to choice. In this
sense, opportunity costs are always and only situated in
choicemaking contexts and they are "suffered" by decisionmakers."
Lechtreck in a backchannel to me further explained his posts on
"In an opportunity cost model of c/plans, should/would is
unimportant. To show that you shouldn't do plan, all the c/plan
has to do is be an opportunity which is foregone. The neg doesn't
need to defend that the c/plan "should" be done, or even "would"
be done. Only that it could have been done."
But while Korcok seems to be using the could standard to justify negative
fiat, Lechtreck has interpreted that the could standard renders negative
"SHOULD vs. COULD"
Affirmative fiat is derived and justified by the plan/rez text SHOULD.
Should implies the question of desirability and implicitly severs the
question of probability, or WOULD. Fiat aids in answering the SHOULD
question, preventing debates from degenerating into the WOULD question, by
creating a world + plan in-rounds.
Beyond SHOULD and WOULD, there is another question, and that is COULD.
This question is frequently asked of permutations if the plan plus
counterplan COULD co-exist. The permutation question is not should it
occur, or would it occur, but rather if it could occur. The permutation
only needs a could standard since it is not an advocated plan of action
but rather a test. Since the opportunity cost counterplan is also a
non-advocated test, then it would seem logical to cross-apply the
permutation standard of could.
I propose that this could standard be applied to opportunity cost
counterplans and further envision the counterplan being divided into three
parts. Part I, the negative has the burden to prove that the counterplan
could occur in the real world, Part II, that the counterplan has to be
competitive, and Part III, that the counterplan is more desirable than the
Part I: COULD standard
In this first part, the negative must prove that the counterplan COULD
occur. This may be the hardest or easiest part for the negative to win. It
can also be the death of opportunity cost counterplans.
I contend that it can be incredibly hard to determine the could standard.
What guidelines judge if a counterplan could or could not occur? Is there
a bright line? I'm afraid that there isn't, and fear that this ambiguously
defined standard can easily be abused by both sides. My answer is that the
standard will be defined in rounds and provide the following
interpretations in hopes of setting the standard for COULD.
1.) COULD parametrics.
This basically holds that Aff plan or resolution sets the
parameters to what the judge can and cannot accept, thus setting
the boundaries to what is a legitimate policy option. Under this
interpretation, an affirmative could argue that Korcoks standard
for opportunities lost be applied, and require the counterplan to
use the same resolutional actor.
A. The Aff plan is legislation. Since legislation is
fiated, the judge can only accept legislative action.
B. The Aff plan is world government. The fiat necessary
to create the world government sets the parameters to
what the judge can accept. That means a highly
improbable and very utopian anarchy counterplan is
C. USFG is resolutional actor. The counterplan can only
use this actor since the judge can only accept rez
COULD parametrics is justified in an attempt to limit the
virtually infinite number of possibilities. Secondly, it should be
realized that an opportunity lost is one lost by the judge. The
judge has the option to accept or deny a plan of action. But the
judge should not support a plan of action that irreversibly
prevents (as determined by Part II:competition) a better option.
But if the judge can't accept the better option, then it was never
an opportunity in the first place, thus not an opportunity cost.
Further, I contend that this sort of parametrics is already
somewhat applied to debate. For instance, the reciprocal concept
of fiat, making utopian fiat illegitimate, as well as the
illegitimacy of object fiat.
2.) Structural COULD
This standard argues that the Neg must prove in Part I that the
counterplan structurally could occur in the real world. For
instance, if the c/plan text is States reform U.S. foreign policy
then the Aff can respond that it is an illegitimate alternative
policy since the states have no jurisdiction over foreign policy
(as defined by the constitution) thus c/plan could not occur.
Because this has some parallel to structural inherency it could
lead to an overtly stringent standard which the affirmative
applies. However, I hope that this standard is applied in more
physical terms. For instance, the states cant evacuate US troops
from S. Korea because not only do the states have no jurisdiction
but they also physically can't command them.
3.) possibly COULD
I believe this standard to be an ambigous and generic one that
simply requires that the negative prove possibility, and allows a
debate over Aff cards that say it "couldn't occur" versus negative
cards that says, "it could". For example...
Counterplan is socialism. Neg has good cards that says it
will happen, Aff has good cards that says it won't
At best, if such a situation were to arise, then the Aff may not
be succesful in elliminating the counterplan, but would achieve a
substantial erosion of counterplan legitimacy.
(This is the standard of COULD that I believe that Bob Lechtreck
4.) germane COULD
In this standard, the Aff can require the negative to prove
counterplan germaness. This could be a burden that the negative
solve the Aff harms. This standard can also be used in the first
under COULD parametrics, instead or requiring the c/plan use the
resolutional actor, the Aff harms must be solved for. (or at least
Part II: Competition
In this part, the Negative must prove that the counterplan is either
mutually exclusive, or that it is more beneficial than Affirmative
Part III: Desirability
In this part, the negative must prove that the counterplan is more
desirable than the plan. One might argue that this part requires fiat
since fiat is used to test desirability by creating policy in-rounds. My
proposal is that once the legitimacy of the counterplan has been
established by passing Part I and Part II, then the negative in essence
has proven that there is an opportunity lost by the judge in accepting the
Aff policy. Doing so overcomes questions of WOULD. Since this has been
overcome, then the Negative simply must prove the counterplan is not only
an opportunity lost, but more importantly, an opportunity cost.
Again I point to the parallels between opportunity cost counterplans and
permutations. I believe that permutations do not need fiat to measure its
desirability. Once the permutation test has proven that it could occur, it
overcomes questions of WOULD and is left to prove desirability.
* * *
Now that the I have explained the three parts of an opportunity cost
counterplan using the could standard, I wish to examine how this
counterplan can be recognized.
This concern arises from the variations of counterplan theories and
interpretations in the debate community. I propose that all opportunity
cost counterplans using the could standard replace the c/plan text
"SHOULD" with the word "COULD" I am quite sure that every team makes it a
point to at least read counterplan text. Upon doing so, the affirmative
can easily recognize what theoretical justifications are being applied to
the counterplan. I have also entertained the notion that this counterplan
can also be referred to as a "Could Counterplan".
Opp. cost + COULD std. counterplan text ought to use COULD because the use
of SHOULD would falsely assume negative advocacy as well as falsely give
There are must be advantages to a theory inorder for it to be accepted.
The Could Counterplan Is no exception. However, with advantages come
possible disadvantages. I hope that these issues receive future attention.
Right away, I believe this counterplan is advantageous because it answers
propensity and negative fiat criticisms. Further, I think a case can be
made that all could counterlans are automatically non-topical because of
the plan text "Could" replacing the resolutionally required plan text
"Should" This can pose interesting scenerios.
In the illustrious history of policy debate there has been several
attempts to justify as well as understand the affirmative plan. Today, our
community appears to have embraced parametrics as the main theoretical
purpose of the plan.
Counterplans also have received much attention, but is yet to have a
theoretical justification as accepted as parametrics. While opportunity
cost may be the solution to the counterplan question of legitimacy and
purpose, I believe and propose that it ought to simply be another
counterplan theory. I bear no illusions that opportunity cost will be the
"end all" theory for counterplans, but rather believe that it can be
another educational as well as profitable negative strategy. I hope the
potentials of opportunity cost continue to receive community attention.
Lucius K. Kahng
George Mason University
My appreciation goes out to all the participants of this opportunity cost
discussion. Special thanks goes to Bob Lechtreck who showed me how a could
standard can be applied to opportunity cost, as well as to Korcok whose
writtings on the subject have been key to opp. cost inellectuall survival
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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