Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates

Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates

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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 www.iq2us.org.

Episodes

Has Walmart Been Good For America?  

Walmart has long been a target for critics of corporate expansion, but does the company really deserve the scrutiny?  Some say that the big-box retailer devastates small communities by pushing out locally-owned businesses, mistreats its workers through low pay and restrictive work hours, and forces American companies  to use cheap foreign labor to produce goods at low cost.  Others point to the fact that Walmart provides countless jobs to low-skilled American workers, sells affordable goods, has increasingly become a leader in sustainability, and attracts new consumers and businesses to its neighborhoods.  Has Walmart been good for America?




Is Universal Basic Income the Safety Net of the Future?  

Imagine getting a check from the government every month. $600 guaranteed. It's happening in Finland, where a pilot program is being launched to test what's known as a "universal basic income". As technology transforms the workplace, jobs and income will be less reliable. The idea is that a universal basic income could serve as a tool to combat poverty and uncertainly in a changing society, and provide a cushion that empowers workers, giving them latitude to take risks in the job market. But some argue a guaranteed income would take away the incentive to work, waste money on those who don't need it, and come at the expense of effective programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Is the universal income the safety net of the future?

Are Charter Schools Overrated?  

Motion: Charter Schools Are Overrated

In the 25 years since Minnesota passed the first charter school law, these publicly funded but privately operated schools have become a highly sought-after alternative to traditional public education, particularly for underserved students in urban areas. Between 2004 and 2014 alone, charter school enrollment increased from less than 1 million to 2.5 million students. Many charter schools boast of high test scores, strict academic expectations, and high graduation rates, and for some, their growth is evidence of their success. But have these schools lived up to their promise? Opponents argue that charters, which are subject to fewer regulations and less oversight, lack accountability, take much-needed resources from public schools, and pick and choose their student body.  Are charter schools overrated? 

Has the U.S.-Saudi "Special Relationship" Outlived its Usefulness?  

Motion: The Special U.S.-Saudi Relationship Has Outlived Its Usefulness

In 1945, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia met onboard the USS Quincy.  A close relationship between the two countries has been maintained ever since, with oil and military and intelligence cooperation at its foundation.  But the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. shale revolution, human rights concerns, and diverging interests in the Middle East, have all put strains on this relationship.  Has this special relationship outlived its usefulness, or is it too important to walk away from? 

Should We Give Trump a Chance?  

Motion: Give Trump a Chance


Donald Trump assumes office having won the Electoral College, but having lost the popular vote. His opponents argue that he gave voice and legitimacy to extremists, and that his unpredictable, autocratic style is a threat to both democratic ideals at home. But others argue that Trump’s election represents the will of the American people, who--hungry for change--repudiated the status quo. In their view, we must find areas of common ground to work together. Should we give President Trump a chance?











Is Policing Racially Biased?  

MOTION: Policing Is Racially Biased

In 2014, the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, set off a wave of protests and sparked a movement targeting racial disparities in criminal justice.  Since then, there have been other controversial deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement that have captured the public’s attention, from Tamir Rice, to Philando Castile.  But there are some who say that these encounters, many of them recorded, have fed a narrative of biased policing that the data does not back up, vilifying people who are trying to do good in a difficult job that often puts them in harm’s way.  What are the statistics, and how should we interpret them?  How have recent incidents shaped our view of policing?  Does crime drive law enforcement’s use of force, or is there racial bias?

Should states call a convention to amend the Constitution?  

Motion; Call a Convention to Amend the Constitution

Almost everyone can think of something they would like to change in the U.S. Constitution. Some would like to update it to fit new technologies and evolving social mores. Others think the Supreme Court has illegitimately “updated” it too much already, and would like to restore its original meaning. Either way, it is always tempting to invoke Article V to amend the Constitution—to “fix" it, or “restore" it, or “improve" it... 

Is Obama's foreign policy a failure?  

MOTION: Obama's Foreign Policy is a Failure

For many, Obama’s presidency will be defined by its accomplishments. Taking out Osama bin Laden, disengaging from fights in the Middle East that America cannot win, defusing the threat of a nuclear Iran, and refocusing our attention and resources to Asia, where our greatest opportunities and biggest long-term challenges are located. But for others, it has been marked by missteps and retreat—pulling back where action and leadership was needed, and presiding over policies that strengthened our adversaries and disheartened our friends. Has Obama’s foreign policy been a success? 

Has Gerrymandering destroyed the political center?  

MOTION: Gerrymandering is destroying the political center.

It is alleged that the practice of gerrymandering—dividing election districts into units to favor a particular group—subverts democracy by making congressional districts “safe” for one party or the other. As a result, only those voting in primaries are in effect choosing our representatives. Are primary voters more extreme in their views, and therefore pulling democrats to the left and republicans to the right? Or is the impact of gerrymandering actually overblown, while other more divisive contributing factors like the emergence of ideologically charged TV and radio outlets, the role of the Internet and social network “echo chambers,” and campaign finance practices are in fact the real drivers of increasing partisanship? If gerrymandering is a major problem, is there policy or constitutional principles that might be part of the solution?

Should We Give Undocumented Immigrants a Path to Citizenship?  

Motion: Give Undocumented Immigrants a Path to Citizenship

There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, and the question of what to do with them has sparked years of fierce debate, but no significant action.  In 2013, the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” managed to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate, only to get it dropped by the House.  And in 2016, a deadlocked Supreme Court decision stalled President Obama’s executive actions, DACA and DAPA, which would have saved 5 million from deportation.  For voters, on this issue, the choice between presidential candidates could not be clearer.  Should we give these immigrants a chance to earn citizenship through a process that would include paying a penalty, passing a security check, and getting in the back of the line? Or are we rewarding them for breaking the rules, and encouraging more of the same?  Do they make positive contributions to the economy and complement our workforce, or do they burden taxpayers and create unwanted competition for jobs?  Should we give undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship?

Is "Big Pharma" to blame for rising health care costs?  

Motion: Blame Big Pharma for Out-of-Control Health Care Costs. Health care costs in the U.S. are some 18 percent of GNP, nearly double what other rich countries spend. We read of drug therapies that cost $100,000 a year or more, and of drug price increases that are 6 times the rate of inflation, on average, and often much more when mergers reduce competition in the industry. Is this a major driver of excessive health care costs? Or is it a by-product of the huge costs of getting new drugs approved? Has big pharma delivered drugs that reduce the need for costly surgeries, which extend life and improve its quality? Or do they deserve the blame that has been leveled against them?

Are the elites to blame for the Trump phenomenon?  

Motion: Blame the Elites for the Trump Phenomenon. The elites of both parties have expressed contempt for Donald Trump, and Trump has succeeded in part by channeling his voters’ contempt for the elites. Does support for Trump reflect an uninformed populism and misplaced anger by a large swath of the American electorate? Or have the elites failed to empathize with their struggles, and failed to craft effective policies to help them cope?

Climate Change: Has the EPA Gone Overboard?  

Reducing carbon emissions is clearly good for the environment but often imposes substantial costs. The costs are most obvious when coal companies go bankrupt, but can affect everyone indirectly through higher energy costs, slower economic growth, reduced employment, and lower business profits. Has the Environmental Protection Agency considered the costs and benefits of its regulatory mandates fairly and appropriately? Is its Clean Power Plan a bold initiative to reduce carbon pollution at power plants, or an unconstitutional usurpation of power?

Bonus Podcast: The GOP Must Seize The Center Or Die  

In April of 2013 we held a debate on the motion: The GOP Must Seize the Center or Die. At the time, the debaters could not have predicted Donald Trump’s candidacy or imagined the force of its impact on the 2016 election cycle. In this special podcast, we listen to excerpts of this 2013 debate and consider how times have changed.

Bonus Podcast: The Supreme Court Considers Racial Preferences In State University Admissions  

With the Supreme Court ruling on Fisher v. University of Texas being handed down on Thursday, June 23, 2016, We consider both sides of the issue of race-conscious university admissions. We listen back to our debate from December 2015: The Equal Protection Clause Forbids Racial Preferences in State University Admissions. 

Has The President Usurped The Constitutional Power Of Congress?  

Motion: The president has usurped the constitutional power of congress. The Supreme Court is currently poised to decide whether President Obama’s unilateral immigration actions usurped Congress’s power and flouted his duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” But some argue that the President is not exercising legislative power; he is simply exercising his well-established executive discretion. Has the President usurped Congress’s legislative power?

Do Hunters Conserve Wildlife?  

Do Hunters Conserve Wildlife? In 2014, a permit to hunt a single endangered black rhino was sold for $350,000 as part of a program to support its conservation in Namibia. Counter intuitive? Through funds raised from legal hunting—the purchase of permits in Africa, licenses and taxes here in the U.S.—, hunters contribute significantly to wildlife conservation efforts. Hunting has also become an important tool in the effort to control animal populations, to the benefit of humans and wildlife alike. But are big-game revenues really benefiting conservation and local communities? And is hunting a humane way to maintain equilibrium and habitats, or are there better alternatives? 

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?

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