Types of Counterplans
The best way to understand what a counterplan is is to understand the different types of counterplans and how they work. After you read through each, you will have a better understanding of what it means for a counterplan to be competitive.
Agent counterplans. An agent counterplan is a counterplan that uses a different agent than the affirmative does. For example, if the affirmative’s agent is the Supreme Court, the negative may chose to counterplan with the Congress. Negatives will argue that disadvantages that are specific to court action — such as those that address the implications of the court ruling on the legitimacy of the court, will prove that it is better to support congressional action alone.
Agent counterplans aren’t limited to Congress counterplan against court action. If the affirmative uses the Congress the negative could counterplan with the courts and argue that court action is less likely to be blamed on President Bush, reducing the political threat of the plan to the Republicans in the mid-term elections.
Plan inclusive counterplans. A plan inclusive counterplan or “PIC” is a counterplan that does one or more parts of the affirmative’s plan and argues that the part, or parts, that it doesn’t do are bad.
Take the McDonald’s example. If my counterplan is to go to McDonald’s and get a Super Value Meal,” you could counterplan to exclude the French fries” from my plan and argue that the French fries are the most unhealthy part of the meal. You would likely claim that you solve for my advantage – reducing hunger pangs at mid-day – while avoiding the unhealthy parts of the meal.
PICs are very strategic counterplans since they are often able to solve all of the affirmative’s harms while avoiding a usually small, but important, disadvantage.
To counter the spread of PICs, affirmatives have substantially reduced the specification in their plan. For example, instead of saying “Go to McDonald’s to get a super value meal,” they are likely to only commit to going to McDonald’s. They will not specify what they will eat there.
The reason that they do this is because if they don’t specify, and the negative does specify what we should eat, they can simply have a permutation to “go to McDonald’s” and “get a Super Value Meal” without the french fries.” They will argue that the negative’s alternative is not competitive with their relatively vague proposal.
Advantage counterplans. An advantage counterplan is a way the negative can solve for a specific advantage without doing the plan (usually any of the plan – distinguishing this type of counterplan from a PIC). For example, imagine that the affirmative team said that we should support transportation infrastructure investment because this would hurt President Obama politically and that if he is hurt politically it will cause him to attack Iran, which is a good thing. The negative could simply counterplan to attack Iran and argue it is bad to support infrastructure investment. These counterplans force affirmative team to claim advantage that can really only be solved by their affirmative’s plan.
Process counterplans. A process counterplan implements the affirmative’s plan through a different process than the negative uses. Most of these counterplans claim that they are different than process the affirmative uses – fiat, which according to modern understandings, passes the plan unconditionally and forever.
Popular process counterplans include subjecting the plan to a popular referendum, asking NATO or one of our allies if they favor it, or having the plan be implemented through a Presidential veto or Congressional override. Negative teams will almost always claim that the counterplan process will still result in the adoption of the counterplan, but that the process the counterplan uses – one that is usually mutually exclusive with the one that the plan uses – has many benefits.
Uniqueness counterplans. These are the most difficult counterplans to understand and these counterplans are presented by the negative far less frequently than any others. The basic idea behind a uniqueness counterplan is that the negative can run a counterplan to make the disadvantage unique.
For example, say the negative runs a Spending disadvantage and the affirmative says, “Non-unique – We are about to spend another $80 billion” in Iraq. The negative says, “Counterplan – don’t spend that $80 billion in Iraq.” The negative will argue that their counterplan is net-beneficial because it is undesirable to spend money (they save money relative to the status quo) and that the permutation to do both still involves the plan spending money, which is bad.
You have to be very careful when writing a uniqueness counterplan. Imagine, for example, that implementing the plan would only cost $1 million. If you counterplan to not spending $80 billion that the status quo spends, the permutation (doing the plan and not spending the $80 billion) we are about to spend in Iraq, still results in a net savings of $79,999,000,000! The permutation solves the entire link to the disadvantage!