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POLICY DISPUTE AND PARADIGM EVALUATION: A RESPONSE TO ROWLAND Allan J. Lichtrnan and Daniel M. Rohrer
Without offering either a new paradigm for debate or modifying current theory, Robert Rowland proposes five criteria for evaluating competing paradigms. We not only have no quarrel with Rowland’s guidelines, but, in previous publications, we have sought to show how the policy systems model of debate satisfies each one of them 1 Our only caveat is to note Rowlands omission of the key criterion that any purported paradigm follow the inherent logic of policy resolutions and avoid arbitrary strictures that reflect the idiosyncracies of particular theorists. All but one of Rowland’s five canons are logical consequences of this foundational precept of debate theory. A model rigorously derived from the logic of defending resolutions of policy in a format requiring yes-no decisions yields theory that is clear and consistent, imposes equitable burdens on affirmative and negative advocates, identifies central policy concerns, and encourages maximum clash over the issues that determine policy selection. Although we
Allan Lichtman is Professor of History at American University, and Daniel Rohrer is Associate Professor of Speech Communication and Theatre at Boston College.
1 See for example, Allan J. Lichtinaa and Daniel M. Rohrer, “The Logic of Policy Dispute,” The Journal of the American Forensic Association, 17 (Spring 1980), 236-247; “A General Theory of the Counterplan,” ibid., 12 (Fall 1975), 70-79; _______ and Jerome R. Corsi, “Policy Systems Analysis in Debate.” Advanced Debate, ed., David A. Thomas (Skokie: National Textbook Company. 1979), 375.390; _______ and Joseph Misner, “The Role of Empirical Evidence in Debate: A Systems Approach.” ibid.. 272-286; “Decision Rules in Policy Debate: Presumption and Burden of Proof,’ ibid., 42-69; _____ and Corsi, “Affirmative Case Ap. proaches.” ibid., 173-182.
also endorse the remaining criterion that “a debate paradigm” fit “the current form of debate,” we stress the need for caution in skewing theory to accord with a given view of debate practice. Otherwise, the result would be a weakening of the intellectual rigor of academic debate and an invitation for judges to vote against practices they found personally repugnant.2 From this broader perspective, that incorporates Rowland’s proposals, we would suggest that policy systems analysis emerges as the only acceptable paradigm for competitive debate. No other alternative is adapted to the special realm of discourse established by resolutions of policy. Consider briefly the two competitors cited by Rowland— David Zarefsky’s view of debate as “hypothesis testing” and Walter Ulrich’s tabula rasa model.3 Zarefsky’s approach,4 founded on a rough analogy to scientific discourse, ignores the distinction between factual propositions that turn on assessments of probability and policy resolutions that necessarily fuse fact and value. This fundamental error generates a host of
2 Robert 3 Ibid. 4 David Zarefaky, “A Reformuiation of the Concept of Presumption.” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Central States Speech Association, Chicago, Illinois, April 1972; “Argument as Hypothesis Testing.” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association, San Francisco, California, December 1976; Bill Henderson, “Debate as a Paradigm for Demonstrating Truth Through Hypothesis Testing.” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association, Houston. Texas, December 1975. JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN FORENSIC ASSOCIATION, Volume 18. Winter 1982
Rowland, “Standards for Paradigm Evaluation,” The Journal of the American Forensic Association, this issue, 133.140.
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difficulties many of which are discussed e1sewhere.~ To list but a few examples, the model imposes an arbitrary presumption against the resolution irrespective of the risks of change entailed in negative counterplans. It attempts to focus debate on the “essence” of a resolution rather than particular proposals without clarifying how to define this elusive concept. The hypothesis testing model ignores the inherently comparative process of policy analysis, thereby encouraging meaningless ‘justification arguments” and fostering the illusion that “straight refutation” alone is a viable negative option, Indeed, the hypothesis testing model reverses the proper assignment of the null hypothesis and the research hypothesis. For Zarefsky, the null hypothesis—that which is protected by a presumption in scientific procedure—is a composite hypothesis comprising every alternative to the debate resolution; whereas, the research hypothesis is the
Lichtman. Rowland contends that the policy-making model is unclear because it fails to indicate “whether the negative 7 Rowland. 1 RESPONSE TO ROWLAND 147 must defend a single policy system or may defend several systems. arguing that it overloads the time capacity of debate by enticing negative teams to advance policy alternatives that cannot be adequately described or analyzed in a single debate.~ His argument becomes specific. Second. 1981). for the hypothesis testing model. Although Ulrich is. eds. moreover. tion. policy comparison may involve any number of negative alternatives. Rowland maintains that the policy-making model “is biased for the affirmative” because it is easier to identify advantages than disadvantages of policy change. “Debate Paradigms: A Critical Evaluation. Jack Rhodes and Gcorge Ziegemueller (Annandale: Speech Communication Association. encourages the most frivolous kinds of arguments as well as shallow spread attacks since judges must give equal credence to every substantive and theoretical claim made by competing advocates. we neither arbitrarily grant a favorable presumption to every negative alternative nor permit substantive contradictions among counterplans. It must be specified exactly in order to form a probability distribution around the expected results of that hypothesis to reveal the likelihood of obtaining various sample results. Ulrich’s approach.C. the multiple policy option might actually serve to raise the standards of argumentation in academic debate. Unlike the hypothesis testers.resolution itself..”° Rowland subsequently impugns the multiple policy option.” 289. First. November 1978.: Information Research Associates. someone must propose a policy change and someone O Ibid. truth about advocacy while missing a much more profound one.’ S Robert Rowland. 12 Ibid. would be sufficient grounds for a negative victory according to the logic of Ulrich’s non-paradigm. however. In scientific practice. 10 Lichtman 11 Rowland. “Standards for Paradigm Evalua. in print. 1975 and 1979).’2 Yet Rowland fails to show why this problem uniquely applies to our model of debate. We also require sufficient development of counterproposals for accurate policy comparison.” Proceedings of the Summer Conference on Argumentation. 8 Walter Ulrich. the null hypothesis cannot be a composite hypothesis. Minneapolis. he neglects the critical need for theorists to probe the logical requirements of policy discourse and develop guidelines that can clarify the responsibilities of judges and debaters. “The Logic of Policy Dispute. Rowland further suggests that our model is biased toward the affirmative because it “downplays problems of implementation. Branham. of course.~ By answering each of these indictments. however. Ulrich’s view of the debate judge as a “clean slate” uncontaminated by any prior knowledgeo incorporates a trivial 5 Allan J. assuming the null hypothesis is true. however.”13 Yet we have pointed out that problems of implementation .. 69-88.’ else must seek to oppose it. only in a 1981 Alta conference paper that offers four detailed criticisms of our approach to debate. whatever the prevailing theory.’ ed. we hope to show both that Rowland has misinterpreted our work and that the policy comparison model satisfies his own criteria for paradigm evaluation. correct that all matters are open to dispute both in the debate forum and elsewhere. As we noted in 1980.” if unanswered. Negative advocates would be well advised to take the time necessary for presenting new policy systems only when their sustaining arguments are of high enough quality to offer compelling alternatives to affirmative cases. Minnesota. in turn. and Rohrer. Ulrich seeks to create a paradigm for debate by denying the possibility of agreeing on a paradigm independent of the arguments made in individual rounds of debate.” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association. “Debate Paradigms. not for the policy systems paradigm. In his JAFA article Rowland assails the policy systems paradigm by suggesting that forms of policy analysis other than those set forth in our scholarship may be equally or more legitimate. The New Debate: Readings in Contemporary Debate Theory (Washington. Thus. Rowland later contradicts his argument by suggesting that the policy-making paradigm encourages catastrophic disadvantages of such magnitude as to defeat affirmative cases despite scant probability of their actual occurrence. In this context. The wheel need not be reinvented in every debate. Moreover. ‘Debate as Comparison of Policy Systems: A Critique of Zarefsky on Presumption. “A program of action is affirmed because it is superior to all other proposed competitors and rejected because it is not as desirable as at least one other competing proposal. one could plausibly argue for reversing affirmative and negative burdens that Zarefsky assigns by analogy to hypothesis testing. “Tabula Rasa as an Approach to the Judging of Debates.’1 This argument has force.° Rowland’s quandary is readily resolved. D. “Shazam—and that defeats the case. Robert J.
noting the absurdity of arbitrarily assigning “justice a numerical importance 7. “The Logic of Policy Dispute. 20 Ibid.25 but without such an effort. and analytic technique. 386. It is Row~ land. the policy-systems model actually “paves the way for direct clashes over the ideology [a necessary component of any policy system] that implicitly or explicitly guides all human decisions”T U~ Ibid.”~ As we observed in a 1979 article devoted to the very issues raised in this objection.’ 16 Lichtman and Rohrer.”2° Certain fundamental rights of 18 Rowland. 17 Lichtman. “reflects only the rater’s intuitive evaluation of the importance of the value. Although Pentagon planners and other officials have sought to devise a form of pseudo policy science that banishes questions of value and counts only that which is countable. ignores “soft” variables. Instead we alert advocates to the importance of grasping the philosophical foundations for guiding values and of establishing priorities among policy outcomes according to the value tradeoffs they entail. Rejecting Rowland’s positivistic viewpoint that dismisses values dispute as inherently intuitive and thereby meaningless.” 239. argument by anecdote and innuendo. 21 Ibid. JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN FORENSIC ASSOCIATION For the model highlights the combination of fact and value in policy comparison and clarifies the relationships between means and ends in policy systems. observing that: “Advocates seek estimates of probabilities and values that are as precise as possible. and evidential support are required for warranting a choice among competing systems of policy: advocates cannot simply accumulate quotations and contentions without explicitly showing how they relate to the task of policy comparison. imprecision. the only alternatives are ambiguity. may be given absolute priority over other in~ terests. To abdicate this responsibility is to permit “our technology to define our values for us.23 Use of the policy-systems paradigm does not mean that debate is reduced to the mechanical computation of numerical measures. human beings.” Rohrer and Corsi. we maintain that debate over ideology is especially important for a society experiencing rapid technological change. “Debate Paradigms. for instance. Even practitioners of the natural sciences often work comfortably with ranges of probability and estimates of varianca”24 Rowland cites our stricture to be “as precise as possible” as though it were a sin. By drawing on humanity’s rich historical tradition and examining alternative views on the nature of man. incorporates soft variables.” 148 15 Rowland. Rohrer and Corsi.4” Such “a quantitative measure of value. “may not always accommodate the smooth exchange of benefits and costs.(with the exception of the illegitimate argument that the plan will not be adopted) are central to the policy-making model since they crucially affect the probability of achieving the affirmative advantages. 14 Lichtman and Rohmer. not us. 19 Lichtman. “The Logic of Policy Dispute. and avoids “the mechanical computation of exact numerical functions. Rowland lampoons value debate.”8 Never do we advocate inflexible and arbitrary assignments of weights to core values like freedom and justice.”19 Instead of ignoring soft variables that defy inclusion in a quantitative comparison of costs and benefits.. The highest levels of rhetoric. Rowland argues that the policy systems model “produces a skewed view of the policy environment” that deifies quantification. “Policy Systems Analysis in Debate.14 Third.” 240. encompassing Rowland’s concern for “questions of responsibility. given limitations of information. analysis. We also warn against simplistic assumptions about the numerical exactitude that can be attained in policy dispute. ‘Debate Paradigms. and submerges human values.3 with freedom slightly higher at 8.15 Here Rowland mows down an army of straw soldiers as he attacks an oversimplified view of policy-systems analysis. .2’ Policy analysis also takes into account the process by which decisions are reached. advocates may well be able to suggest non-arbitrary weightings of even highly abstract values. Policy comparison.” he adds. who disparages the possibilities of debating human values.”22 Considerations relevant to the decision-making process as well as to the “end states” of policy simply become components of the costs and benefits to be weighed in the evaluation of competing policy. we explicitly incorporate them in the policy.making process.” 384. Thus policy debaters could legitimately contend that the examination of particular costs and benefits must take place within boundaries that cannot be crossed irrespective of circumstance. our own approach emphasizes that policy systems analysis places matters of value at the forefront of analysis. time. we have noted. “Policy Systems Analysis in Debate.
D. Morrison and R. the determination of whether P (X/Y) > P (X/Y’) or P (X/Y) < P (X/Y’) or P (X/Y) = P (X/Y’) would involve highly complex argumentation and substantial presentation of evidence. The resolution of this controversy (i. Even if it were true that one could readily show some small probability that catastrophic outcome X would result from adoption of policy Y. 150 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN FORENSIC ASSOCIATION tation and debate that satisfies criteria theorist ultimately seek to develop new for paradigm evaluation even more guidelines for policy analysis. Debate. The import of a catastrophic outcome argument comes not from demonstrating at some level of probability that policy Y may produce catastrophic result X. our debate paradigm protects advocates from cheaply made catastrophic impact arguments.. Should Rowland or another attention. Thus by insisting on the comparative nature of policy decisions. high-impact arguments are not necessarily “bad arguments. that P (X/Y) > P (X/Y’). that deployment of the MX missile system risks nuclear war by destabilizing the current balance in strategic weaponry. Their work demonstrates the sophistication of the investigations required for establishing the likelihood of catastrophic occurrences. Henkel. But a defender of the MX could respond that failure to deploy the system risks nuclear war by giving the Soviets an opportunity to destroy America’s ground-based deterrent. 25 Rowland. numerically precise level of minimal probability (such as . he observes. Henkel. i.’ 386. Tests of Significance (Beverly Hills: Sage. E. Ramon E. Finally.05) for the consideration of an argument. “would do well to copy other disciplines and reject arguments which do not meet a minimum standard of proof. “Policy Systems Analysis in Debate. RESPONSE TO ROWLAND 149 Fourth. . but from showing that the probability of catastrophe X occurring is greater under policy Y than under alternative policy Y’ (which may.” Authorities in some fields such as epidemiology and nuclear power regulation realize the critical importance of including in their analyses assessments of even small probabilities of catastrophic events. “The Logic of Policy Dispute.22 Rowland. Rowland’s suggestion comes precisely at a time when statisticians have widely questioned the wisdom of preassigning fixed levels of statistical significance and have moved toward decision-theoretic models of inferenceY7 .. “Debate Paradigms.” Rohrer and Corsi. 26 Ibid. we would stringent than those presented by Row.e.be pleased to give them our most serious land. “Debate Paradigms. it decidedly does not follow that one could readily show that the probability of X given policy Y is greater than the probability of X given alternative policy Y’. Rowland also misrepresents the process of probabilistic reasoning in a comparison of policies context. and finally.”26 Yet low probability.” adopting perhaps “the . Both in the theory building of our previous scholarship and in our responses to Rowland’s bill of indictment we have sought to show that this insight can be developed into a paradigm for argumen 27 See for example. CONCLUSION In neither his JAFA article nor his conference paper does Rowland refute the conclusion that debate on policy resolutions necessarily involves the comparison of competing policy systems. for example. Competing paradigms that slight the comparison of policy systems offer no such protection. of course. 24 Lichtman and Rohrer. 1970). 1976).” 239. we find it remarkable that Rowland should follow his polemic against quantification in policy analysis with the recommendation that judges employ an arbitrary. thereby conjuring false dangers to debate. Indeed. An advocate could argue. The Significance Test Controversy (Chicago: Aldine.’ 23 Lichtman.05 significance level. Rowland claims that the policy systems paradigm produces “bad argument” by encouraging debaters “to present catastrophic impact arguments” even when the chances of catastrophe occurring are minute. .e. be the present system).