posted 18th February 2023
It shouldn't be allowed. It shouldn't be happening. We need to stop it. It's gone on too long. Enough already.
We all have plenty of things we feel like this about. Ways in which we want to change the world by removing something or preventing it from happening any more. This is where 'ban' motions come in.
A ban motion calls for something that currently exists or happens to be removed or stopped.
If you're the proposition, your key tasks are:
- Prove that what you want banned is causing harm.
- Prove that banning it would remove the harm.
- Provide a mechanism for the ban.
- Anticipate and rebut principial objections to the ban.
- Anticipate and rebut pragmatic objections to the measure.
If you're the opposition, your key tasks are:
- Either prove that the subject of the ban is not causing harm.
- Or accept that the subject of the ban is causing harm, but propose an alternative measure to mitigate or minimise the harm.
- Present principial objections to the ban.
- Present pragmatic objections to the mechanism.
Let's look at how this might work in practice with one particular motion:
This house would ban the advertising of junk food
Here's how the proposition might use the questions above to help prepare their case:
How does advertising junk food cause harm?
Junk food is a major contributor to obesity, which is itself a major contributor to heart disease and diabetes. Advertising makes junk food look attractive to consumers (otherwise companies wouldn't spend millions of pounds on it), and so encourages people to eat it, causing harm to people's health, which then puts a great strain on the NHS.
How will banning junk food advertising remove this harm?
Buying and eating junk food will become less acceptable and common as it disappears from public view. There is precedent in the way in which smoking has become a much less common activity since tobacco advertising was banned.
What's the mechanism?
No advertisements for any product which has above a certain level of sugar and fat (to be determined by the Chief Medical Officer of the NHS) may be published anywhere.
What might be the principial objections to such a ban? What's wrong with them?
People may say this impinges on our freedom to buy and eat what we want, but the protection of public health is more important. We already impose significant restrictions on smoking for the same reasons.
What might be pragmatic objections to the mechanism? What's wrong with them?
You may say it is hard to define junk food; but the Chief Medical Officer for the NHS has both expertise and accountability in this field.
And here's how the opposition might use the questions above to prepare their case:
Either: how does advertising junk food not cause harm?
We all know the harms of junk food. People who want to eat it will eat it anyway.
Or: what other ways than a ban of dealing with the harm are there?
We accept that junk food causes harm to health. But rather than approach the problem in a negative way with a ban, we should take a positive approach and encourage healthy eating through educational programmes in schools and subsidies for healthy eating choices.
What principial objections are there to the ban?
It is not the business of the government to tell people what they can and cannot eat. Let us make our own choices.
What pragmatic objections are there to the mechanism?
Making junk food something banned and illicit may actually increase its appeal, especially for young people and children. Look at how smoking gets cooler the harder it is to do.