The CP can be Competitive through "Net Benefits"

You are hungry for pizza...

Your friend is hungry for hamburgers...

Counterplans can be Competitive for several distinct reasons:

**Still need additional help understanding Counterplans? Write to us for personalized debate advice!**

Functional Competition is when it is PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to do both the CP and the Plan at the same time.

This is like the coin toss example.

​As another example, imagine you have to choose between enrolling in 2 different classes than are both only offered during 3rd period.

Since you can't be in 2 places at the same time, and you can't take either class during a different period, the 2 classes are Functionally Competitive with each other. 


Net Beneficial Competition is when there is a major disadvantage to doing both the CP and the Plan together.

A CP that competes through Net Benefits does NOT have to prove that it is truly physically impossible to do both, just that there is a compelling reason why the CP alone would be a better choice than doing both.

For example, imagine that you own 2 coats, and you're trying to decide which one to wear outside on a chilly day.

​Theoretically, you COULD wear both at once. You could put on the 1st coat, then squeeze the 2nd coat on over the top.

But, you only need 1 coat to stay warm in the day's weather, and if you wear 2 you will be too hot. You will also probably look pretty silly. 

In that scenario, choosing 1 coat would be a more advantageous option than deciding to wear them both. In other words, the "net" (total) "benefits" (advantages) of wearing just your 1 favorite coat are greater than the "net benefits" of wearing both coats. 

To understand the logic here, we need to get into a little bit of Debate Theory. 

Remember, the Negative's job in the debate is to prove that the Affirmative's Plan should be rejected.

If the Neg introduces a Counterplan, they are arguing that there is a superior alternative to the Aff's Plan. If, however, it turns out that it is possible to do both at the same time, then the Counterplan hasn't proven any reason to reject the Aff Plan.

To put it all together, let's look at an example of what a complete CP might look like in a debate round:

Aff's Plan Text:

"The United States federal government should establish a program providing free college education to all American students."

Neg's Counterplan:

1. CP Text: "The United States federal government should establish a program providing free college education to American students from households whose total income falls below the federal poverty line."

2. Competition:"The CP is Competitive because it provides free college to impoverished students only, not ALL American students. It is not possible to do both, because the CP includes limits that can't coexist with the Aff's specification 'ALL American students.' The CP also competes through Net Benefits by avoiding the Link to the spending Disadvantage."

​3. Net Benefits: "The CP costs $1 billion per year less than the Plan..." (The Neg would then read a Disad about why spending large amounts of money is bad.)

In order to be a winning strategy for the Negative, Counterplans must be "Competitive."

In this context, "competitive" doesn't mean "passionate about winning" (as in "she's so competitive!"). Instead, it means "mutually exclusive."

"Mutually exclusive" means that two things cannot both exist at the same time. 

For example, think about a coin toss. When you toss a single coin, you know that it will end up either head or tails, but it cannot be both at the same time. The coin can only land on either one side or the other. 

If we assume that it's only possible to have one or the other, then any reason why pizza is good is a reason NOT to get hamburgers, and vice versa.

If, however, you could go to a restaurant that serves BOTH pizza AND hamburgers, then all of your reasons why pizza is the best lunch option are no longer arguments against getting hamburgers. 

For exactly the same reason, if it's possible to do both the Plan and the Counterplan, then all of the arguments why the Counterplan is a GOOD IDEA don't prove that the Plan is a BAD IDEA, and therefore don't prove that the judge should vote Negative.

Debate Help Debate Tips coaching files and advice

2. Competition

Counterplans are made up of 3 main points:

In order to win a debate with a Counterplan, the Neg team has to prove that:

​“Counterplans” are off-case Negative arguments.

As the name implies, they are an alternative ("counter-") proposal ("-plan") to the Affirmative's Plan.

Debaters often abbreviate “Counterplan” to "CP."

When the Neg reads a Counterplan, instead of defending the status quo, they agree with the Aff that some kind of reform is necessary, but they disagree about what kind of action is best. 

Counterplans are strategic because they allow the Neg to present a method for solving the Harms introduced by the Aff.


How does the Neg prove that the CP is Competitive?

1. The CP Text

Textual Competition is when the "Texts" of the CP and Aff Plan cannot be combined.

For example, if the Plan is "go to a party," and the CP is "don't go to a party," the 2 are technically NOT Textually Competitive, because the CP Text contains the Plan Text. 

Textual Competition is controversial and is considered illegitimate by many debaters & judges. For that reason, we don't cover it in-depth here. 

You would be best off sticking to Counterplans that compete Functionally or through Net Benefits, and not worrying much about Textual Competition for now. 


(Even if the CP is Functionally Competitive, it still needs to have Net Benefits. Remember, a winning CP is BOTH Mutually Exclusive AND Comparatively Superior.)

Finally, the Neg introduces 1 or more Net Benefits-- reasons why the CP is comparatively better than the Aff's Plan. 

Usually, the Net Benefits are Disadvantages that Link to the Plan but not the CP. 


The CP can be "FUNCTIONALLY" Competitive

Let's look at an example to make that logic easier to understand.

Imagine that you and a friend are going out for lunch, and are trying to decide what kind of food to get.

1. The Counterplan and the Aff's Plan are Mutually Exclusive with each other (you can only do one or the other, not both)

2. The Counterplan is better (offers less harm or more benefits) than the Aff's plan


​​​Intro to CPs

3. The Net Benefits

​Counterplans are Negative arguments that suggest that the Affirmative's Plan should be rejected because there is a different, better idea, and the 2 cannot both be done at the same time.

You are now ready to use CPs in your Negative debate rounds!

Why is Competition so important?


The CP Text is the statement of what the CP actually does. It is the Counterplan equivalent of the Aff's Plan Text. 

The CP can be "TEXTUALLY" Competitive

Next, the Neg makes an argument as to why the CP is Competitive