Disads and Diseases

Tuberculosis is seen in the western world as a matter of history: a deadly foe vanquished by modern science, right there next to polio, rubella, and those other weird things they vaccinate you for as a little kid. In the developing world, however, Tuberculosis is a matter of life and death. It kills more than a million people a year, and it's no picnic for over 10 million others who have an active case. TB also has the nasty tendency to co-infect AIDS sufferers, becoming a leading cause of death for people with AIDS.

Unlike, AIDS, however, TB is treatable and curable. Aside from some rare drug-resistant strains, antibiotics do an excellent job eradicating the disease. There's a reason we don't see much of it in the developed world, after all. Most countries stricken by TB have the minimum level of healthcare infrastructure to treat TB, and the diagnosis and treatment is straightforward as diseases go. The only reason that these millions of people continue to suffer from TB is lack of access to treatment, by which I mean money.

So consider, if you would, a hypothetical affirmative plan: "The United States Federal Government should give 10 Billion dollars in foreign aid to governments and NGOs to cure TB." Imagine you are a negative with the most basic negative toolkit: Topicality, Harms, Inherency, Solvency. How do you formulate a strategy against the TB plan?

Well, obviously this case isn't topical under the 2009 resolution, but a re-worded version of it would be very topical under the 2007 resolution, so imagine that it's 2007 and you don't have a serious T argument.

Inherency won't get you very far. The United States gives a large amount of public health assistance, but it's not enough to eradicate TB, and it looks like foreign aid spending will get cut in our current economic malaise.

The Aff has a pretty easy case to make to establish Harms, too. You can't really deny the impact of Tuberculosis, it's death toll is well-documented and it's effects are well-known.

You might be able to chip away at Solvency some. Some of the money will probably be stashed away by corrupt governments, some people have drug-resistant strains, some places don't have the health infrastructure. These takeouts will definitely not be able to negate the entirety of the Aff's solvency claims, though. The simple truth is that you can cure a lot of Tuberculosis with 10 billion big ones. The aff would solve plenty of harm.

So what is a negative to do? Our basic toolbox is clearly insufficient to handle this aff. One of my old coaches gave me this piece of advice when it comes to attacking affs: for all of the things that we aren't doing in the status quo, there is a reason we aren't doing it. Tapping into this reason is usually a pretty decent way to start forming a negative strategy. And of course, the reason we aren't spending 10 Billion dollars on TB in the status quo is that 10 Billion Dollars is a lot of money. If we just dumped 10 Billion dollars with no real source of funding and no chance of getting it back, we could very well pull the plug on our barely-breathing economy. We might even kill more people than we save.

In the real world, problems don't exist in a vacuum, waiting to be solved. Government influences complex systems by means of blunt instruments, so sometimes a well-intentioned idea causes more problems than it solves. As a negative, pointing out the unintended consequences of plan can be a powerful strategy. These arguments are called "Disadvantages," ususally shortened to Disad.

Like an affirmative plan, Disads are usually presented in a few different components.

The Impact is actually the end of a disad's story, but it's the easiest to explain. An impact is "Something Bad Happens." The Economy Crashes, Disease overtakes the world, A civil war erupts into a world war. Pretty much anyhting that can be a Harm can also be an Impact, with one important difference: Harms are happening (or will happen) in the status quo. To win a Disad, the Neg must win that it's impact is not going to happen in the status quo.

This is Uniqueness, whether or not a disad is "unique" to the aff's plan. It's a bit of an akward name, but an important concept. After all, if the war is going to start anyway, then it ceases to be an argument against plan.

The most important argument that the Neg needs to win a disad, though is the Link, the argument that the aff's plan will cause the impact. A link argument usually describes a chain of events, like a bunch of dominoes all standing in a row. Plan knocks over the first domino, which knocks over the second domino, which spends too much of the governments money, which means we need to raise taxes, which means the US economy will fall into a depression, which means the world economy will fall into a depression, which will cause another world war just like the Great Depression caused World War 2. Millions of people will die.

Of course, for the negative to win a disad, they have to win all of those links. If the aff wins that this additional spending will not crash the economy, they don't have to contend with the prospect of World War 3. This is why, as a negative, you make your disads rely on as few links as possible, and as the affirmative you want to be prepared to seek out the weak link in the chain and defeat it with better evidence.

There are other ways that the aff can defend plan against a disad as well, but that list is long enough to warrant it's own article. One additional consideration that I'll fit in here, though, is that just winning the existence of a disadvantage is not enough for the neg to win. If the aff's harm is proven worse than the disad's impact, then there's still a good reason to do plan. If we can save a million people with plan, a disad impact of "Ryan gets a headache" is not a reason to vote neg.

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