I volunteered to give the speeches given my previous debate experience. Since I was familiar with value driven debate (Lincoln-Douglas style) that was the framework I approached the resolution from. I argued four main contentions. One, utilizing these products while knowing that they have been produced by slavery condones the slavery and perpetuates it by contributing to the very profits that drive it. Two, we live in a capitalist society driven by profits. This means that buying these products directly encourages slavery, and, in contrast, redirecting these profits to clean products can lead to meaningful change. Three, consumers have power in a capitalist society and have a moral obligation to use that power. And finally, humans have an obligation to improve the quality of life (“conditions which contribute to making life more than a struggle for survival; elevating life beyond a needs-only existence” (angelfire)) for all through act utilitarianism, which “contends that on each occasion one should do whatever act will produce the greatest good” (angelfire). In this case, redirecting our purchasing habits is the act that will produce the most good, due to consequentialism, which argues that an act or rule is acceptable or moral because of the outcomes incurred by that act or rule.
During the rebuttals, I argued that these choices won’t lead to economic collapse. Rather, companies will adapt, which is the beauty of capitalism. Furthermore, the affirmative position has proven feasibility. Nokia is a phone company that our group found which has been clean since 2001, indicating that it is quite possible to redirect our spending habits to facilitate companies that do not utilize slave labor. The negative side argued that we cannot implement change all at once, and cited historical examples from Cuba and the Middle East. But each of these were interventionist top-down policies, whereas the affirmative position is a bottom up, consumer-driven change, which negates our opponents’ counter-point. The negative position argued that we should support activist organizations and raise awareness. I argued that this is an excellent idea, but this doesn’t negate our moral obligation to change our spending habits to maximize the quality of life through act utilitarianism and consequentialism.
Interestingly, I actually personally agree more with the negative position. I’ve previously participated in discussions about the economic utilization of slavery in the world in my human geography class. While I think it is important for individuals to try to change their spending habits when possible to discourage slavery, oftentimes this isn’t possible. Many don’t have the financial flexibility to shop around for clean products, and I find it infeasible that enough people can change their spending habits to make slavery a non-profitable venture. In this manner, I agree with the negative position that argues that we should instead work to support activist organizations and raise awareness. This can bring these issues to the attention of more powerful entities who can try to target the underlying causes of slavery (corruption, lack of a stable government in these areas, etc.).