Is the Stoa LD resolution fact or value?

Resolved: Privacy is undervalued.

The single most puzzling question of the 2012-2013 Stoa LD season is one no judge will care about but every debater will stress over: is the resolution a question of fact, or one of value?

Let’s start off with the differences between the types of resolutions. Imagine a pyramid with fact debate at the bottom, value debate in the middle, and policy debate on top. Fact discusses whether an empirically verifiable statement is true, value discusses whether those facts are good or bad, and policy discusses what we should do as a result. For example, fact debate asks us whether the environment is being polluted, value debate asks us if environmental pollution is good or bad, and policy debate asks us what we should do about it. Each higher level of debate encompasses the levels of debate below it and requires at least an assumption of the debates below it. In the example above, a policy debate may gloss over the value debate over whether polluting the environment is good or bad and go straight to discussing how to fix it, because it is assumed that polluting the environment is bad. A value debate may only touch on the facts of environmental pollution and go straight to discussing moral implications; the fact debate may not even occur.

With the different types of resolutions in mind, here’s why the Stoa resolution is ultimately a value resolution. To be able to say that something is “undervalued,” you have to set a standard. That standard is then the judge of whether privacy is currently being over- or under- valued. That standard necessarily is an arbitrary standard, set by the debater and subject to debate by the two sides. In fact, debating what that standard should be is the overarching premise of this year’s resolution.

The word ‘is’ does not establish fact or value. A value resolution is any topic that requires the debater to make a value judgment, in other words, give an opinion on the desirability of a given concept. The standard that this resolution requires the debaters to set ultimately requires them to make a judgment on the desirability of the current valuation of privacy, which means it requires them to say that it is currently good or bad. Any debater who simply evaluates how much people currently value privacy, without making a statement on whether that valuation is insufficient, sufficient, or excessive, has not fulfilled his burden of proving or disproving the word “undervalued.”

The fact debate in this resolution occurs when people have discussions over how much the people in the US (or wherever) value privacy. To be straightforward, that debate doesn’t matter. What matters is the secondary debate, the value debate over how much privacy is enough privacy, and why privacy is important.

In short, because value resolutions are characterized by mandatory value judgments and because this resolution places that burden on the debater, it is a value resolution.