Answering Root Cause

We get a lot of questions about how to deal with root cause and masking style arguments, a recent article I saw has some pretty good points about this.


The idea of taming capitalism does not eliminate the underlying tendency for capitalism to generate harms; it simply counteracts their effects. This is like a medicine which effectively deals with symptoms rather than with the underlying causes of a health problem.

Sometimes that is good enough. Parents of newborn babies are often sleep-deprived and prone to headaches. One solution is to take an aspirin and cope; another is to get rid of the baby. Sometimes neutralizing the symptom is better than trying to get rid of the underlying cause.

(it goes on much longer than that but I don’t want to get reprimanded again for using long quotes)


It may see like just an act of verbal sleight of hand, but oftentimes affirmative teams never contest the framing of root cause/symptom focus by arguing about what the 1AC is about- is it a symptom? Is curing the root cause in fact too painful/difficult such that addressing the symptom is a better option?


Let’s look at an example: global warming. Many teams have a “k aff” they read when they suspect the other team is a bunch of cheaters and these affs often have warming impacts in them. I have seen this exact set of arguments many, many times


1AC: Tech solves warming

1NC: Tech doesn’t solve warming because it won’t be equitably distributed due to poverty, the alternative is to address the root cause which is consumption


Facially this makes some sense. In practice though, if global inequality makes reduction of emissions through emergent green technologies impossible, how exactly are we supposed to bring about a global reduction in consumption? In other words, the same reasons/arguments that prevent the affirmative from being widely implemented would also prevent this action to address the “root cause” from being successful (bracketing for a moment the idea that emissions spring predominantly (or exclusively) from developed economies). While each approach would certainly be different from a technical/implementation perspective most affirmatives fail to press the negative on how their “policy” to address the root cause would actually work. Most AT: De-dev evidence, for example, makes this point- that global reductions in growth/consumption are not possible without either massive increases in technology or massive die offs.


Instead of addressing the “solvency” component of the alternative, what most teams do is read a generic card that “there are no root causes”. This is basically the equivalent of reading impact defense against an advantage with a convoluted internal link chain: it is much easier for the negative to argue that capitalism is the root cause of environmental damage than it is to explain/argue how the alternative will successfully challenge this root cause. Even if the negative has a convincing explanation for how their alternative changes the SYSTEM of economy we have, from one of private ownership to some kind of communal ownership or from orthodox to heterodox economics, in and of itself that would not reduce emissions. A car emits the same co2 whether you own it or whether you use it according to your need. The alternative doesn’t have to exclusively challenge the system of capitalism, it needs to also explain how the culture of consumption is altered, or how it provides for the needs of billions of people in a more environmentally benign way.


Just getting cards from the college wiki about “no root cause” maybe only dealing with the symptoms of why you are losing to kritiks.


One response to “Answering Root Cause

  1. Pingback: Links of Omission | HS Impact·

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