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rary needs by a sales tax, a tax on money in banks, and a provision in the franchises of public utility corporations that the government shall claim a fixed per cent of their gross earnings, to be followed eventually by the adoption of the single tax.
The Proposition Made Specific. The second requirement for the phraseology of the proposition is that it be specific. This requirement means that the proposition should be as free as possible from vague and sweeping generalities.
A debatable generalization is among the most difficult of all propositions to establish and is often used merely to hide the actual proposition to be discussed. The reasons, therefore, for insisting that a proposition be specific are:
1. To prevent the Affirmative from assuming a burden of proof too great for it to carry;
2. To prevent the tricky practice of concealing from the Negative the actual proposition to be upheld by the Affirmative.
To make a proposition specific, each general term within it should be replaced by a specific term or be limited in meaning by modifying expressions that make plain all that it implies.
The following proposition is not specific, in that it employs the sweeping general term all cities in the United States: Resolved: That all cities in the United States should be organized under a city-manager form of government.
This proposition forces the Affirmative to assume too great a burden of proof. It would, therefore, be greatly improved if the general term all cities were replaced by some such specific term as Galesburg, Illinois.
The following proposition is not specific, in that it employs the general term further, without specifying the type of restriction that the Affirmative actually intends to ad
vocate. Such a generality makes possible the concealment from the Negative of the actual specific proposition that must eventually represent the position of the Affirmative:
Resolved: That immigration into the United States from Southeastern Europe should be further restricted.
This proposition would be much improved if it were altered to embody some definite plan like the following:
Resolved: That the United States should further restrict immigration from Southeastern Europe by establishing a commission to regulate the number of immigrants from that region according to the demand for their labor in the industries of the country.
The Proposition Made Clear. The third requirement for the phraseology of the proposition is that it be perfectly clear. The purpose of this requirement is of course to prevent all quibbling about the meaning of the question for debate. To make the proposition clear, no term should be employed in it that may be interpreted with a double meaning; and the main thought in the proposition should never be made doubtful by being expressed in some subordinate grammatical construction.
To illustrate: The following proposition is not clear, because it employs the term right, which may be interpreted to mean either moral right or legal right:
Resolved: That the United States has no right to prohibit the moderate use of light wines and beers.
The following proposition is also not clear, because the main thought in the proposition is placed in a subordinate grammatical construction:
Resolved: That employers as a body should recognize the principle of collective bargaining through representatives of labor's own choice.
This proposition would be much improved if it were altered to read as follows:
Resolved: That employers as a body should recognize the principle that in collective bargaining labor should be unrestricted in the choice of its representatives.
The Proposition Made Concise. The fourth requirement for the phraseology of the proposition is that it be concise. The longer a proposition is, the more likely it is to be misunderstood; and, hence, every unnecessary word should be eliminated; but no expression should be sacrificed that is positively essential to convey the exact meaning of the question in dispute. Though conciseness is desirable in the wording of a proposition, it is secondary, nevertheless, to the requirement that the proposition be specific.
The Proposition Made Positive. The fifth requirement for the phraseology of the proposition is that it be positive. In other words, negative constructions should be eliminated as far as possible from the terms employed in the proposition.
The reason for this requirement is of course obvious; for, if the Affirmative of the proposition is in effect a negation, and if the Negative of the proposition is in effect an affirmation, great confusion concerning the respective sides in the controversy is likely to arise; since with such a proposition the Affirmative seems to deny and the Negative seems to affirm.
To illustrate: Confusion is likely to arise from the use of a negative term in the following proposition because in this proposition the Affirmative supports a negation and the Negative in effect supports an affirmation:
Resolved: That the Transportation Act of 1920 is not a
This proposition would be greatly improved if it were altered to read:
Resolved: That the Transportation Act of 1920 is a failure.
The requirement that a proposition be positive in phraseology is not absolutely imperative; for in some instances there is no positive term that can be substituted for the negative term, and in other instances it is impossible to make the terms of the proposition positive and at the same time place the burden of proof where it belongs on the Affirmative. This requirement, therefore, frequently has to yield to the exigencies of the language and to the more important requirement about placing the burden of proof.
The sixth re
The Proposition Made Unprejudiced. quirement for the phraseology of the proposition is that it be unprejudiced. This does not mean that the proposition shall not contain matter that touches the prejudices of the speakers and the audience in debate; but it does mean that the proposition must contain no modifying expressions applied to its principal terms about the application of which there may be controversy, and which if accepted as applied would in themselves determine the controversy. In other words the proposition must not contain within itself matter that creates a pre-judgment, that is, a judgment in advance of the debate, concerning the truth of the question for debate.
Modifying expressions that prejudice a proposition very commonly assume the form of so-called question-begging epithets.
For example, the question-begging epithet thoroughly inadequate as employed in the following proposition makes the proposition prejudiced: ·
Resolved: That municipal governments throughout the United States should increase the thoroughly inadequate salaries of public-school teachers.
Burden of Proof on the Affirmative of the Proposition. The seventh and last requirement for the phraseology of the proposition is that it must place the burden of proof on the Affirmative. This means that the proposition must be phrased so as to make the Affirmative advocate some change in prevailing opinion or prevailing conditions. Unless the proposition is so phrased, the first speech in debate, which is always given by the Affirmative, will fail utterly to provoke a controversy.
The burden of proof on a proposition may be defined as the obligation resting on a debater to produce evidence and argument in support of his proposition when what he affirms is contrary to prevailing opinion or prevailing conditions.
If a proposition is so phrased that it agrees with prevailing opinion or prevailing conditions, then it is said to have the presumption. This means that the proposition may be presumed to be true until proved false, or to be right until proved wrong.
The burden of proof and the presumption, therefore, are exactly opposite terms; and every proposition should be so phrased as to put the burden of proof on the Affirmative and the presumption on the Negative.
To illustrate: The following proposition gives the presumption to the Affirmative and the burden of proof to the Negative, because it agrees with prevailing opinion and prevailing conditions, and hence is poorly phrased:
Resolved: That in the United States women should be given equal suffrage rights with men.