Objective: The student will understand the theory of Fiat.
Why do we do what we do? – Debaters present affirmative plans. These plans make demands on the federal government to take action. Yet, debaters are not the federal government. They do not have the authority to pass legislation. Yet, debaters still make these specific demands for action. Why do debaters claim that if the judge votes for the affirmative case the legislation will pass and good things will happen? The answer is that debate revolves around the notion of fiat. Fait is an essential aspect of debate. It should be understood in great detail, even if it seems only abstractly important at first.
Fiat and the Resolution:
Definition of Fiat:
Definition – Fiat means “let it be done” in Latin. The power to “let it be done” derives from three aspects of the resolution.
Fiat derives from the resolution. The resolution is - - “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its military and/or police presence in one or more of the following: South Korea, Japan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey.”
It is probably more important for students to start understanding Fiat by simply addressing the “Should Question.”
The Should Question:
Primarily, fiat derives from the word “should” in the resolution. The term “should” is used to create a distinction between the term “should” and the possible use of the terms “would” or “could.”
The term “would” – If the resolution used the term “would,” it would focus the debate on whether or not it would be possible to pass the plan. Likewise, the term “could” would focus the debate on whether or not the plan could be passed. Debating whether or not a plan could or would pass would be very difficult. The affirmative team would be hard-pressed to make an argument that would prove a piece of legislation would definitively be passed. This is true because if the legislation would be so easily passed, it probably would already have been passed.
Inherency – Think about how the question of “would” relates to inherency. The affirmative team would never be able to defend inherency, because it would take out the possibility of the plan passing. If there is indeed an inherent barrier, the affirmative would never answer the “would” question.
Using the term “should” is intended to make the argument that debates should focus on whether or not the plan is a good idea. It is much easier to answer the question “should” something be done, instead of answering “could” this plan be done.
Harms and advantages – Harms and advantages exist largely to answer the “should” question. For example, debaters often say that the plan should be done because of the advantage solve something great. This means the plan should be done.
(For those that are interested)
Fiat also derives from the word “Resolved” in the resolution. Resolved means to reach a firm decision or make a final determination: to resolve on a course of action.
Resolved means that to be topical the affirmative must make a determination about a specific course of action.
The (:) Colon:
Fiat also derives from the colon (:) in the resolution. The use of the colon depicts the syntactical-deductive and introduces the logical consequence, or effect, of the intention stated before by the resolved.
The Limitations of Fiat:
You can not fiat workability – This means that you can not fiat that the world will be a better place. That is to say, while you can fiat that the government will pass a piece of legislation, you can not fiat peace.
You can not fiat other actors – Fiat is limited to the object of the resolution. The object to the resolution is always (every topic since at least 1980) the federal government. The affirmative is arguably allowed to fiat all of the individual branches of the federal government; executive, judicial, and legislative.
Definition of Normal Means – The normal procedures that would take place to pass a piece of legislation.
Normal means allows the affirmative to focus on the outcome of the legislation not the passage of legislation.
Funding – Part of the normal means afforded by fiat is funding. The affirmative plan is guaranteed that the plan will be funding and that funding will be protected with the passage of plan. This funding must come from the normal avenues.
Enforcement – Enforcement means that the plan will be enforced in the world post the plan. Take, for example, an affirmative plan that mandated that police arrest anyone suspected of graffiti. Enforcement means the police could not say no. They would have to enforce the mandates of the plan.
Students should write a short essay defending or negating the right of the affirmative team to use fiat to pass the plan.
Students should discuss ways in which fiat could be used as an argument in the round. For example, if a negative team ran a consult NATO counterplan, the affirmative could argue that consulting NATO is part of normal means and that the plan can fiat past it.