As a debater, there will be no dispute over the fact that you have come across listening to titles like ‘principle debate’ or ‘policy debate. It is seen many times debaters often fail to distinguish between ‘principle debate’ or a ‘ policy debate’. So, let’s learn a few things about them. I am starting from scratch as it might help you form a better debate argumentation.

The idea of an argument differs from motion to motion. It refers to a concept or proposition we like to prove in the debate. The idea is where you run your principal or policy argument.

Let’s assume the motion is “This House would do X”:

Here, you can go in two ways.

Run a policy

A policy is a concrete course of action that the government or the opposition wishes to use to convince the judges. A policy might be formed out of the norms or a completely new model which does not exist in the current world. The policy you offer then needs to be analyzed and proved with proper evidence. It is a dilemma sometimes when you offer something different or out of the box; the policy lacks evidence.

Here, you learn to prioritize the main criteria of your policy: the idea and the analysis. Evidence is the last thing you should worry about in your debate. You have to make your ideas and their analyses logical enough to establish your policy. Evidence won’t matter afterward.

Example motion: This House prefers a world where people cannot lie.

Now, as a government side, if you want to run a policy debate, you can form a policy in many ways. Such as, how a world without lies will still work in a worldly function or even in a better function. The world you prefer works on a course of actions that you will offer to the judges.

Your policy should be confined to three or four logical theories which lead to a utilitarian framework (“what leads to the best consequences”). Though every debate doesn’t need to be assessed on the utilitarian framework. You should remember when you run a policy, you set the boundaries on which the debate runs. The framework might not lead to the best consequences but if it can minimize or maximize (according to motion) the harms or benefits of the context, your policy is still established.

Example motion: This House would invade North Korea. 

Here, the government’s claims about the practical benefits of invading North Korea are of little relevance (though are not completely irrelevant) until they offer reasons to believe that a practical calculus is relevant. Whereas the opposition will aim to show that War is always wrong, regardless of the practical benefits.”

So, to win, the Government needs to show why war is sometimes the only option left in this current world for greater benefits. Also, how war being wrong is too generic for the opposition to propose. The Opposition’s theory needs to be crushed by showing their reasons for war being wrong are the exact reasons why war should be followed. As they may show, many unprecedented casualties happen in wars. The Government has to show that the casualties will increase largely if this war is avoided. 

Keep this in mind the Government has to claim their reasonings with proper analysis and logical conclusion. That is how policy arguments are run in a motion.

You have to note, a motion doesn’t always need to be debated over enacting a policy. This means you don’t have to come up with a new setup or guidelines to meet the required criteria of the motion.

Run the debate based on principles. 

You can also call this form of argument a principal argumentation. First, you have to remember what an assertion is. Simply, an assertion is something that is stated as true, without having enough analysis and logical reasoning. It’s a statement of fact, without proof of its validity. So, when you run something as principally true or claim without justification, analysis, and proper reasonings, the principal argument simply becomes an assertion. This is why that argument will not be credited by judges.

Now let’s understand what principles might be. The examples include human autonomy, freedom of speech, separation of powers, individual rights, human dignity, ethical consent, etc. These are established principles in our society. More often these are claimed in our world as a standard without justification. But when you run your debate on these principles, you have to justify the principles with logical validity. You have to prove why these principles are likely to be true and justify your motion demands according to the side (government/opposition) you are debating. An analogy is a way out for establishing your principles. Suppose the motion is-

Example motion: This House doesn’t support the restriction of freedom of speech in a national emergency (i.e. COVID-19 pandemic, religious violence, etc).

On this particular motion as a Government, you may want to run your debate on principle based on freedom of choice. For that, you have to show why freedom of choice is harmed here. Most importantly, why freedom of choice is necessary in our world for logical reasons. The Government can also show the analogy of freedom of speech applied to different states/countries/castes.

This article sums up how a principle argumentation and a policy argumentation work individually in a debate. But you have to know that a debate depends on the motion and the burdens of the motion. As you know, the burdens of the motion are relevant and required points to prove which is implied in the motion itself. They are also the relevant bars a side has to meet that are pushed by the opponent. 

Principle argumentation and policy argumentation can also go hand in hand in a certain debate. This article is just a way out of how you can form your case.