Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates

Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates


Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates bring Oxford-style debate to America – one motion, one moderator, two panelists for the motion and two against. From clean energy and the financial crisis, to the Middle East and the death of mainstream media, Intelligence Squared U.S. brings together the world’s leading authorities on the day’s most important issues. Join the debate online and cast your vote for each topic at


Debate: Eliminate Corporate Subsidies  

The auto industry, agriculture, the energy sector. What do they have in common? These industries benefit from government subsidies in the form of loans, tax breaks, regulation, and other preferences. Critics from the left and right say that not only do these subsidies transfer wealth from taxpayers to corporations, they distort the markets and our economy. Proponents say that government has an important role to play in launching innovation via strategic investment, and its support helps American companies thrive. Do we need subsidies, or is this corporate welfare?

Should We Trust the Promise of Artificial Intelligence  

As technology rapidly progresses, some proponents of artificial intelligence believe that it will help solve complex social challenges and offer immortality via virtual humans. But AI’s critics say that we should proceed with caution. That its rewards may be overpromised, and that the pursuit of superintelligence and autonomous machines may result in unintended consequences. Is this the stuff of science fiction? Should we fear AI, or will these fears prevent the next technological revolution?

Is Free Speech Threatened On Campus?  

Protests have erupted on university campuses across the country. To many, these students are speaking out against racial injustice that has long been manifested in unwelcoming, sometimes hostile environments. But to critics, their demands have gone too far, creating an atmosphere of intolerance for opposing or unpopular points of view. Are the protesters silencing free speech, or are they just trying to be heard? And are the universities responding by defending free speech, or by suppressing it?

Are Lifespans Long Enough?  

What if we didn’t have to grow old and die? The average American can expect to live for 78.8 years, an improvement over the days before clean water and vaccines, but it's still not long enough for most of us. So researchers around the world have been working on arresting the process of aging through biotechnology. What are the ethical and social consequences of radically increasing lifespans? Should we accept a “natural” end, or should we find a cure to aging?

Should The U.S. Let In 100,000 Syrian Refugees?  

Since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, more than 4 million Syrians have fled the country, creating the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. The United States has taken in just over 2,000 Syrian refugees since the war’s start, and the Obama administration has pledged to take another 10,000 in 2016. What are our moral obligations, and what are the cultural, economic, and security issues that must be taken into account? Should the U.S. let in 100,000 Syrian refugees?

Does the Equal Protection Clause Forbid Racial Preferences in State University Admissions?  

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that: "No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Yet many state universities give substantial preferences to certain races in their admissions decisions. In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), the Supreme Court approved such preferences, but the case was close, and controversial, and the question will be back before the Supreme Court this term. One side may argue that these preferences level the playing field, remedy prior discrimination, and enhance diversity within the classroom, thus redeeming the true promise of equal protection. But the other may say that these preferences – in favor of some races, at the expense of others – are racial discrimination pure and simple, the precise evil that the Equal Protection Clause was intended to forbid.

Can Central Banks Print Prosperity?  

Central banks all around the world have been printing money. This policy, known as quantitative easing in banker jargon, has driven up the price of stocks and bonds. But will it lead to real and sustainable increases in global growth, or is it sowing the seeds of future inflation?

Do U.S. Prosecutors Have Too Much Power?  

Autonomy and secrecy, complex criminal code and mandatory minimums -- in combination, these factors have given prosecutors enormous leverage, and the opportunity to wield it relentlessly and selectively. Do prosecutors have too much power? Would changes reducing the leverage of prosecutors in the criminal justice system weaken their critical responsibility to prosecute crimes and secure equal justice for all?

Should College Students be Allowed to Take Smart Drugs?  

If you could take a pill that would help you study and get better grades, would you? Off-label use of “smart drugs” – pharmaceuticals meant to treat disorders like ADHD, narcolepsy, and Alzheimer’s – are becoming increasingly popular among college students hoping to get ahead. But is this cheating? Should their use as cognitive enhancers be approved by the FDA, the medical community, and society at large? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Should We Raise the Federal Gas Tax to Fund Infrastructure?  

The Highway Trust Fund provides funding for road, bridge, and mass transit projects across the country – and it’s running out of money. Its revenue source, the federal gas tax, has not been raised in over two decades. There are many arguments for a leaner fund, but proponents of the tax say that it still plays a vital role in supporting infrastructure. Should Congress raise the federal gas tax?

Special Podcast - Is Death Final?  

If consciousness is just the workings of neurons and synapses, how do we explain the phenomenon of near-death experience? By some accounts, about 3% of the U.S. population has had one: an out-of-body experience often characterized by remarkable visions and feelings of peace and joy, all while the physical body is close to death. To skeptics, there are more plausible, natural explanations, like oxygen deprivation. Is the prospect of an existence after death “real” and provable by science, or a construct of wishful thinking about our own mortality?

Are China and the U.S. Long-Term Enemies?  

Is China’s ascendancy a threat to the U.S.?  China’s rise as an economic and military power, coupled with its aggression in the South China Sea, have led some to call for a major re-balancing of U.S. policy and strategy. Can China be trusted to act as a responsible global stakeholder?  And will they be a long-term ally, or adversary?

Should Courts or Campuses Decide Sexual Assault Cases?  

High-profile cases have recently put campus sexual assault in the spotlight. One question that has repeatedly come up: why are these cases being handled by campuses at all? Campus investigations may serve a real need, forcing schools to respond to violence and protecting the interests of victims in ways that the criminal justice system may fail. Can schools provide due process for defendants and adequate justice for victims?

Special Podcast - Should We Abolish the Minimum Wage?  

This is a special podcast for Labor Day. The first attempt at establishing a national minimum wage, a part of 1933’s sweeping National Industrial Recovery Act, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1935. But in 1938, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law a minimum hourly wage of 25 cents—$4.07 in today’s dollars. Three-quarters of a century later, we are still debating the merits of this cornerstone of the New Deal. Do we need government to ensure a decent paycheck, or would low-wage workers and the economy be better off without its intervention?

Does the U.S. Need to Defeat ISIS, or is Containment Enough?  

The region under the control of ISIS continues to expand, despite airstrikes and the deployment of U.S. military advisers. Should the U.S. goal be containment, or can ISIS be defeated?


The U.S., Iran, and other world powers have reached a final deal to limit Iran's ability to build a nuclear weapon.  According to President Obama, "every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off." But to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, this deal will go down as "a historic mistake". In 2013, Intelligence Squared U.S. debated whether "Israel can live with a nuclear Iran." Would a nuclear Iran pose an existential threat to Israel? What role does it play in Israel's condemnation of this historic pact?


With the recent Supreme Court ruling that upholds the Affordable Health Care Act, President Obama seems to have secured the legislative cornerstone of his Presidential legacy. But is Obamacare now finally on the road to permanence or is the recent Supreme Court ruling just a setback for a still steady opposition to repeal the law? We'd like to take a moment to look back at a debate we held in January, 2014 just four years after Obamacare was signed into law in 2010. The motion being debated that night was: OBAMACARE IS NOW BEYOND RESCUE.


More women than men are enrolling and graduating from college and their participation in the labor force has grown. So on this Father's Day, alongside the many deserving gestures of love and appreciation, we'd like to take a moment to reflect on what could lie ahead for dear old Dad. The central question arising, are we now at a place where women will achieve in the futurethe same sort of dominane that men have held in the past, or will it always be a man's world?  

Should States be Required to License Same-Sex Marriages?  

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides: “No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” And now, the Supreme Court is poised to answer the question of whether this clause requires States to license marriages between two people of the same sex. Does the Equal Protection Clause require States to license same-sex marriages, or will marriage be defined as between a man and a woman?

Is Obama's Iran Deal Good for America?  

In April 2015, the P5+1, the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, negotiated an interim nuclear accord with Iran. Among the key parameters: Iran’s enrichment capacity, enrichment levels, and stockpile would be limited; its Fordow site converted into a research center; and the Arak heavy water reactor redesigned. In return, the IAEA would gain greater access for inspections, and U.S. and EU sanctions would be lifted. Many in the U.S. fear that a deal as outlined would not go far enough and, instead of being a benefit, would strengthen Iran’s hand in the Middle East. Not to mention the important question of trust. Is this agreement a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to halt nuclear proliferation, or does President Obama have this wrong?

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