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Disadvantages” are off-case Negative arguments. They are basically exactly what they sound like: they are disadvantageous consequences of enacting the Affirmative's Plan.

Debaters often abbreviate “Disadvantage” to “Disad” or simply “DA.”

If you’re familiar with the concept of the “Butterfly Effect,” then you already largely understand how Disads work.

We all know that nearly every action we take has the possibility of creating unintended consequences. Often, we’re not very good at predicting what these consequences will be, especially when they’re harmful.

When they use a Disadvantage, Negative debaters are attempting to show that the Aff’s Plan will have unforeseen consequences that are significantly negative/harmful. The Neg’s argument is thus that we should not do the Aff’s Plan in order to avoid creating that undesirable outcome. 

Disads are made up of 4 main parts: “
Uniqueness,” “Links,” “Internal Links,” and “Impacts.”

Because it makes the whole thing easier to understand, we’re going to tackle those in reverse order, beginning with Impacts. 

Disadvantages are Negative arguments that suggest that the Affirmative's plan should be rejected because it would directly lead to harmful consequences that would not otherwise occur. 

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


Uniqueness acknowledges this basic, logical fact.

The Disadvantage argues that the judge should vote negative because doing the affirmative's plan results in harmful consequences. If, though, it turned out that those harmful consequences were inevitable either way, then the Disad isn't a compelling reason to reject the plan. 

To make that easier to understand, let's look at an example Disadvantage:


Uniqueness” describes the status quo. It shows that, if we decide not to enact the Aff's Plan, everything will be fine.

In the context of our war scenario example, the Uniqueness argument would say something like "if we don't do [Aff's Plan], [nation] won't start a war."

Many new debaters find Uniqueness to be the trickiest part of the Disad to understand, but don't worry-- once you think it through, it makes perfect sense.​​

Links” and “Internal Links” provide the explanation as to HOW the Aff’s Plan actually causes the Impact.

For example, the Link might be “[plan] angers [nation],” and the Internal Link might be “angering [nation] causes war.”

Links & internal links are labelled separately because most Disadvantages require at least 2 “steps” to get to the Impact. 



If you have a choice between 2 different courses of action, and one would hurt you while the other would not, you'd almost certainly choose the non-harmful action.


Think about Uniqueness like this: imagine that "Mean Guy Bob" threatens to punch you in the face unless you give him $100.

That threat comes with the implied assumption that, if you do give up the $100, you won't get punched.

So, you might choose to pay Bob's ransom.

Now, imagine that Mean Guy Bob reveals that he plans to punch you even if you do give him the money.

Knowing that you'll get hit either way, you obviously wouldn't pay Bob $100. There's no longer any reason for you to even consider surrendering that cash, because it won't buy you any peace.

In a Disadvantage, the “Impact” is the [bad thing] that the Aff’s Plan could cause.

For example, if the Neg can show that the Aff’s Plan angers another nation and causes a war, the war itself would be the Impact.

War is bad, of course, because it results in deaths and suffering.

But, if both actions result in the exact same outcome, then it doesn't really matter which one you choose.

1. Uniqueness-"The economy is healthy now."

2. Link- "The plan is costly and results in a large increase in America's national debt."

3. Internal Link-"Rapid growth in the national debt causes economic crisis."

4. Impact- "Economic crisis causes millions of deaths due to increasing poverty."

​​​Intro to Disads

In this example, the Neg is arguing that the judge should reject the Aff's Plan, because enacting it might set off a chain reaction that would collapse the economy and doom millions of people to a life in poverty. 

If, however, the economy was already in crisis, then this argument would be much less persuasive, because the Impact (the "bad thing") would be likely to occur either way.

Just like you'd probably choose to keep your $100 if you knew you were going to get punched either way, the judge might choose to vote for the Aff's Plan if they think any negative consequences are likely to occur either way.

Uniqueness gets its name from the idea that the Neg needs to prove that the Disadvantage is UNIQUE to the Aff's Plan (i.e. directly caused by it), not just something that will inevitably happen no matter what. 

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