Stock issues

In the formal speech competition genre known as policy debate, a widely accepted doctrine or "debate theory" divides the argument elements of supporting the resolution affirmative into five subtopical issues, called the stock issues. Stock issues are sometime referred to as on-case arguments or simply on-case or case arguments as opposed off-case arguments.


Three issues must first be present in the affirmative case and are the main ideas or values to vote on for taking any action. They ask: What are we doing now ? What could we be doing differently ? What are the results of what we are doing now versus what we could be doing ? The last stock issue, topicality, is procedural and unique to debate as it concerns how germane the plan is to the given resolution.


The stock issues are:
A straightforward Topicality in-round debate is different from a counter-resolution brought up by the Negative, different from a Negative counterplan, and different from the rare Affirmative counterplan. Topicality is an intrinsic, unstated Affirmative burden in the Affirmative's first speech. A Negative counterplan does not have to be topical, or it can be even more topical and more supportive of the resolution than the Affirmative's plan. There are no constraints on Negative counter-resolutions that aim to have better Solvency than the Affirmative if both sides agree on the status quo harms; any constraints would have to be debated.
Depending on the allowance by judges to the cleverness of debate arguments, not all Affirmative strategies need to present a policy plan. They can, as the Affirmative case, affirm the resolution as a policy at the doctrinal, protocol, constitutional, treaty, or such supportive level and present partial plans, typically parts of the status quo, merely as examples. These types of Affirmative presentations are sometimes referred to as "d'accord with the resolution" or "agreement with the resolution" without specifying any particular plan to pursue. The affirmative case without a plan asks that the Negative plan must deter better the status quo harms or be better than the obvious Significance and Solvency already provided by the resolution. In that way, ratification of the resolution has binding effects, once affirmed, that scopes the feasibility of and judgment on the value of specific plans. For example, if the Federal government is already solving the problem, then plans that want to reach horizontal or reciprocal federalism solvency at the interstate level are considered redundant.
While logically these issues are distinguishable, in practice they might not be addressed individually or in any particular order.

Other Components

Other components have been advocated by advanced debaters and can be found during some tournament rounds of intercollegiate policy debate. These types of arguments or, sometimes, components of policy debate, can be linked to stock issues by good debaters.
The debate world's pet term for atypical plans is squirrelly: squirrelly cases, squirrelly arguments, squirrelly variety of policy debate.
Another example. The Negative can argue that the wording in the resolution is imprecise and that there is better diction for the meaning as stated. If say, the resolution is to "significantly enhance the prospects of" some social-economic class, the unintended consequence of such a resolution allows for Affirmative plans to include prostitution, anarchy, human trafficking, and such vices. The Negative has to straightforwardly argue what the better diction is, for example, that the resolution is to "significantly enhance the economic standard of living of" some social-economic group of persons.
Policy debate is organized, attentive, and formalized to a fair degree, with etiquette and usual expectations of good demeanor in speech. Arguments that diminish the value of debating are argued at the Grounds level of debate. For example, because the Affirmative usually runs a case and has to demonstrate stock issue burdens have been cleared, running a values-versus-virtue debate on the Negative to shift the debate's qualitative format and tone to Lincoln-Douglas steals ground from policy debate.
Subversion is a high-level Grounds debate, often brought up by the Affirmative. The Affirmative is granted "good faith" in supporting the resolution at the beginning of the debate round. A Negative position that undermines that good faith without direct argumentation is considered subversive. Some examples: kritik is a subversion, homophobia and misogyny against sources cited is subversion, punditry creep or discursiveness is a subversion, provisional plans and tentative counterplans that need too many moving parts in place in order to work by not assuming fiat are also subversive, omniscience and speculative politicking is subversive. Negative subversion is difficult for the Affirmative to counter, in which the Negative can validly argue that changing the status quo is subversive, has dire unknown consequences, a form of Negative Inherency that seeks to preserve the underlying value of the resolution without the stated resolution itself, such as in clandestine operations by C.I.A. For example, inadvertently removing certain treaties outside of the resolution is not good for the resolution.
Another example. "Technically", prayer is not a policy solution but a cultural tradition. A policy that allows for or disallows prayer can be debated, but the prayers themselves are not subject to policy inspection nor oversight. Prayer is a valid support of the resolution, such as practiced by some state courts as a "call to action". The nonpolicy call to action is a Model U.N.-style of debate such as "urging", "recommending", "condoning", or some policy position that is important to the policy itself but does not substitute for policy.
Arguments from supersystem or transcendental arguments are above-and-beyond policy, such as arguments for regime change. Such arguments rank regime higher than policy, because regimes follow many policies concurrently. In another example, an exciting debate round narrows the policy under consideration between process legalism and virtue ethics that affects many policies concurrently, capturing, supporting, or eschewing the resolution. In a different example, revolution is a quirky argument that has seen some support in academic policy debate circles, where it is argued that all important policies have broken down and the only realistic solution is revolution, the "moment of change" argument.
Interest arguments clarify interests or values, to change policy debate itself affecting both the resolution and the types of policy plans that can be considered by Affirmative and Negative sides. For example, an Affirmative running an "environment case" on a "climate change" topic will clash with a Negative case that gives evidence to support the argument that scientists have been the lackeys of politicians and that statistical evidence for climate change are the effects to policy causation rather than scientific discovery activities that are poorly understood by the layman as if discovery activities are done independent of policies, which they are not.
Affirmative Idempotency grants stock issue burden clearance or good faith that the Affirmative is assumed to not be redundant to the resolution itself but is a specimen of the species, or to the status quo but is a qualified implementation of the non-status quo resolution. On the theory side of in-round debate, Argumentation Idempotency is known as to "lump and dump", which is to take many arguments at once and debate their merits in one strong, succinct argument. Negative Idempotency, if argued well, can capture Affirmative Uniqueness with a lower burden of proof but greater stylistic flair for the speaker.
Another example. One could advocate the position that the Pentagon is under threat from prayerful worship. Because the Pentagon are agents of war or representatives of time-consuming war studies maintenance and exercises, passive prayerful worship captures Significance by nullifying disruptions endemic in militaristic policy solutions. The underlying values between the two positions are at odds with one another.