February 2014: Measuring Poverty

On balance, economic globalization benefits worldwide poverty reduction.

In the US we generally connect the word “poverty” to an economic measure – a yearly income perhaps. You may be surprised to find out that how we measure “poverty” is hotly debated.


While one can look at income alone, that income only matters relative to what it can supply a person with in their region, country, etc. That poverty also affects others – poverty of rights. poverty of education, poverty of healthcare, etc. The UN Human Development Index  takes a very comprehensive approach to poverty by focusing on people rather than money, looking at many aspects of human development such as education, access to goods and services, political power, knowledge, etc.

For this topic, you need to establish what “poverty” means for the round. This should come in your Framework at the beginning of your case – will you stick to financial assessments of poverty or look to a broader range of poverty indicators?

You also need to establish what “poverty reduction” means. A Center for Global Development working paper defines poverty reduction as  a short-hand for promoting economic growth that will permanently lift as many people as possible over a poverty line. The many objectives consistent with poverty reduction, however, at times come into conflict. The paper breaks down these crucial trade-offs quite well:

“The reason that poverty reduction is more than a one-dimensional objective is that there is no universally applicable way to add up the reduction of poverty affecting different people in different circumstances in different places over time. In particular:

  • a. there is a trade-off between reducing poverty for as many people as possible, and focusing on a smaller number of people in chronic, long-lasting and deep poverty; (broad vs deep)
  • b. there is a trade-off between activities that reduce poverty today, and those that reduce
    poverty in the future; (today vs tomorrow)
  • c. there is a trade-off between programmes that provide immediate redistribution of income and provision of global public goods, but which require long-term funding to be sustained, and time-limited programmes that are intended to catalyze economic growth or social and political transformation so that long term funding is not required; (sustainable vs temporary)

Because poverty reduction is multi-faceted, you need to narrow and prioritize what the round should be about, because it cannot be about all of the above.

You need to address the “worldwide” portion of poverty reduction.

As an “on balance” resolution, this debate will become about who can frame their arguments most effectively. There will be compelling arguments about specific countries and regions, but how will you compare these arguments if they are not about the same, specific area? How will you build a case that is about the world and not about individual examples? Measuring poverty is problematic, so you need to know how your data was collected and analyzed to be able to argue for its persuasive power.

Finally, realize that while the phrase “worldwide poverty reduction” is a debate in and of itself, it is NOT the debate you are after.

Frame the round, define your terms, and stick to your guns. Make the debate about economic globalization’s effects on worldwide poverty, not about how we measure poverty. This will require a clear framing from the beginning of the round and a tight control on arguments to make sure what really matters is what you are discussing in the Final Focus.



February 2015: Economic globalization

On balance, economic globalization benefits worldwide poverty reduction.

Globalization includes many things: the interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments through international trade, investment, and technology, that affects the environment, culture, political systems, economic development, and human well-being.

What exactly is economic globalization? (EG)

UC Atlas of Global Inequality has a great database of information (albeit last updated in 2008) on the “aspects of economic globalization, meaning the greater global connectedness of livelihoods, and of the production of goods and services.” They break down economic globalization into:

  • International trade
  • Foreign direct investments (FDI) and transnational ownership of production assets, which can be an “avenue for the transfer of skills and technology”


UN report Economic Globalization: Trends, Risks and Risk Prevention (Gao Shangquan) defines economic globalization as “the increasing interdependence of world economies as a result of the growing scale of cross-border trade of commodities and services, flow of international capital and wide and rapid spread of technologies.”

(this paper argues for the risks posed by economic globalization – good for the CON)


The Globalization Project by the SUNY Levin Institute has great resources on all types of globalization, and provides great background information on trade, investment, technology, and more.

So economic globalization is a vehicle of globalization that directly affects measures of poverty. 

But the other areas affected by globalization – the environment, political systems, human well-being – do those also affect poverty too?

Though economic globalization may have a narrow conception of “what” it is, there is a broad range of what and who it affects. Take the time to trace out all the impacts of EG – even if they don’t appear to affect “poverty” in the narrow sense, because you may find that your impacts are bigger than expected when you look at the big picture.

Next week I’ll post an analysis of how to measure poverty and continue this analysis.


November 2014: SourceWatch and Monsanto

Resolved: On balance, the benefits of genetically modified foods outweigh the harms.

You’ve can’t get far into research on GM food without running into the name Monsanto, one of the “Big 6” Biotech companies. Not only does Monsanto produce GM food, but it has a very strong lobbying arm working against GMO labeling campaigns.

Like most topics, you want to know who you are citing or discussing in your evidence. GM food is no different – in fact, it may be more important for you to know your sources because there is so much money in GM food and on both sides of the political/cultural battle over GM food.

I highly suggest SourceWatch as a great site for checking out your sources as well as key players in this topic (and any topic).

Also look at any current legal or legislative battles for clues as to who is on what side. Check out this Christian Science Monitor article for an introduction to the lawsuit filed in Vermont after it successfully passed a GMO labeling law.

Remember, always know who your sources are and what they stand for. While no source is objective, you need to be able to defend (and attack) your sources in their subjective view.

November 2014: Getting into GM Food

Resolved: On balance, the benefits of genetically modified foods outweigh the harms.

So you’re probably getting started on your November research. Here’s a few places to start – as well as a nice video by Scientific American explaining what Genetically Modified means for our food.



Anti-GMO Research


And their great list of anti-GMO groups by state

GMO Myths and Truths 2012


General Info on Both Sides

PBS wins for linking us to some great background information website

Pro and Con from WebMD

Discussion by the Scientific American


Pro-GMO research

2000+ Reasons Why GMOs Are Safe To Eat And Environmentally Sustainable

Vegan GMO support