Fiat (policy debate)

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Fiat (Latin for "let it be done") is a theoretical construct in policy debate—derived from the word should in the resolution—whereby the substance of the resolution is debated, rather than the political feasibility of enactment and enforcement of a given plan,[1] allowing an affirmative team to "imagine" a plan into being.

For example: a student at a high school debate argues that increases in United States support of United Nations peacekeeping may help to render the United States more multilateral. Such an increase is very unlikely to occur from the debate judge voting affirmative, but fiat allows the student to side-step this practicality, and argue on the substance of the idea, as if it could be immediately enacted.[2]

There are different theories regarding fiat:

"Normal Means"—Going through the same political process comparable with normal legislative processes. There is no overarching, accepted definition of the legislative pathways which constitute "normal means," but clarification about what an affirmative team regards as "normal means" can be obtained as part of cross-examination by the negative team.

"Infinite" or "Durable" Fiat — the degree to which an imagined, or "fiated," action is considered permanent. In many policy debates, debaters argue about the reversibility "fiated" actions. For example, in a debate about whether the United States Federal Government should implement new regulations designed to reduce climate change, a Negative team might argue that regulations would be repealed if the Republican Party gained control of the Presidency or Congress. Various interpretations of fiats have been constructed in order to promote more realistic policy debates.[3]

Pre-fiat and post-fiat arguments[edit]

There are generally two types of negative arguments that can be made during a debate: pre-fiat and post-fiat.

Pre-fiat arguments are arguments that relate to in-round issues. Examples include: abuse topicality arguments (the affirmative is not within the resolution, therefore preventing the negative from running an argument they would have otherwise been able to run) and language kritiks (kritiks condemning the affirmative for using inappropriate or dangerous language). The team making a pre-fiat argument will argue that the pre-fiat argument should be evaluated before any other argument in the round. This is also what makes Topicality a "voter" issue, as abuse (and other procedural arguments) are pre-fiat.

Post-fiat arguments attempt to show that the consequences of passing and enacting the affirmative plan would be in some way worse than the harms described by the affirmative. Such arguments are labelled post-fiat because they require the supposition of a world where the plan is passed and implemented.

Though this has been very popular in policy debate, some debaters have fought against this distinction arguing that the effects of the plan exist once it is "examined."

In other circles, the notion of "pre" and "post" fiat seems to make little sense, as fiat is not an event that happens, but rather a hypothetical world of plan passage. Nothing occurs before or after fiat in a linear sense; instead, these terms merely indicate whether we should observe the potential implications of the plan over the discursive implications of the debate round.

Kritik framework against fiat[edit]

Kritiks can be used to combat Fiat by the Negative team, but don't always have to focus on plan language. Some kritik literature is focused on assumptions made by the other team, such as assumptions that may be viewed as racist, imperial, capitalist, or drastically offensive in nature. These argue that the affirmative's plan no longer matters in function, or idea, as it is structurally wrong, e.g. the plan may or may not do what the affirmative says, but it is structured in a racist way, and must be rejected. These kritiks argue that the judge should prefer the structure or "Framework" of the kritik, as it is not as offensive as the affirmative is, but rather seeks to solve the problem the affirmative brought into the round i.e. in our example, exposing us to racism.

Instead of saying the affirmative's plan is good because it has efficient solvency, and saves the status quo from harms, the Kritik argues that all of this should be disregarded, as the world view of the affirmative is too offensive to cause any good. K can argue that running either DA's or CP's is an unfair burden to be stuck with, as the Framework will state that Fiat is simply imaginative in nature, as is the plan, (being nonexistent in the status quo, hence Inherency), and therefore should be rejected as the Kritik enacts a real world change. Others argue that Kritiks merely implement their own form of "fiat," since judges rarely endorse their ideas except in a temporary, hypothetical sense during the debate round. There is no evidence at this time which suggests that Kritiks in policy debate really do alter the state of the real world more than traditional fiat-based arguments do.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Snowball, David. "Fiat". THEORY AND PRACTICE IN ACADEMIC DEBATE A Reference Guide Third Edition, 1994. Augustana College. Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Glass, David. "Scrutinizing Traditional Conventions". National forensic League. Archived from the original on 15 October 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Kearney, Michael W. (2014). "How Durable Is It? A Contextualized Interpretation of Fiat in Policy Debate" (PDF). National Journal of Speech & Debate. 2 (2): 3–5.