Ask a K Hack: What’s the Best Permutation to Make Against a Kritik?


In today’s edition of Ask a K Hack, we’re diving into a common query: how to effectively leverage a permutation strategy against a kritik.



kritik permutation

Confused about perming kritiks? Don’t worry; we can help.


Question- “My coach says I should go for perms against kritiks, but I hardly ever win. I think I’m doing something wrong. How do I go for a permutation that is strategic?”


Answer- (from Debate Central staff):


The best permutation for any specific situation, of course, depends on the nature of the affirmative case and the specific argument made by the kritik. Without knowing either of those things, I cannot tell you with absolute certainty what the best perm would be, or how to argue it. What I can do is walk you through deploying a flexible permutation option with broad strategic value.


One permutation that works for most situations is “perm: do the plan and the alternative in all other instances.” Essentially what you are saying here is that the judge should vote in favor of the plan this time, but do whatever the alternative asks for (such as “reject capitalism” or “reject usage of the state,” etc) every other time they are confronted with the opportunity to do so.


The strategic value of this perm lies mainly in its follow-up argument. That is “double-bind: EITHER doing the alternative will be strong enough to overcome the residual links to one instance of the plan, OR it will be too weak to overcome the status quo.” That might sound confusing, so let’s break it down a little. What you are arguing is that the judge should presume that if they vote for the permutation, the action of casting the ballot for the aff plan is the last time they will complete an action that links to the kritik. In every other circumstance, they would adopt the alternative. We know that the kritik’s impacts are already happening (in other words, whatever they say is bad [racism, sexism, colonialism, Western metaphysics, the state, whatever] already exists now). If the alternative is so strong that it is able to solve the problem despite its obvious numerous manifestations in the status quo, then it can probably also solve one more link (the one more being the plan).


For example, if the neg says “capitalism is bad,” the affirmative could explain “capitalism is already the dominant global economic system, it is supported by the USfg and the majority of Westerners in the status quo. If the alternative can overcome all of those barriers to breaking down capitalism, then it can overcome one more instance of capitalist policymaking: the plan.” Inversely, if the alternative’s solvency is sunk by something so little as the plan, we can safely assume that it won’t be able to deal with all of the other, bigger preexisting obstacles, and thus isn’t worth voting for.


The net benefits to this permutation are the aff’s impacts. Functionally, you would be arguing that we can do away with capitalism (or whatever the neg is criticizing), but only after we do this one more thing, because it is so important. Explaining the argument this way allows you to capture much the negative’s K offense (they say “let’s get rid of capitalism,” you say “fine, we’ll do that next”), while still retaining the ability to discuss the importance of plan passage.


Chances are, the negative will respond that this permutation is intrinsic. Technically, they are correct. The “all other instances” perm is intrinsic because it adds an element of delay (doing the alternative later) that is not present in the original plan or alternative. However, your response to this argument should be “this permutation is necessary to test the strength of the link to the plan.” You should explain that, in order to maintain competitive equity, the negative should not be able to win the debate by simply identifying a problem, accusing the aff of not doing anything about it, and saying “vote neg to acknowledge [the problem] is bad.” This is tantamount to a link of omission; the neg is asking that you be punished for failing to address some problem. You want to argue that the aff should only lose if the neg can prove that the aff is a hugely significant factor in causing/perpetuating the problem. They should not lose just for failing to talk about a problem, because they are innumerable problems and injustices facing the world, and no aff could hope to resolve even a fraction of all of them. This permutation acts as a test of the strength of the relationship between the plan and the problem. The negative should only win if they can convince the judge that the link to the plan is so strong that resistance is impossible without rejecting the plan.


If you find yourself behind on the question of whether this perm is theoretically legitimate, simply kick out of it, explain that perms are only a test of competition (not an advocacy), and say “reject the argument; not the team.” In most circumstances, in front of most judges, this is a relatively risk-free method.


Will this strategy work in every single debate? No. Is it always going to be your best strategic option? Also no. But it is a flexible technique that can help you in many rounds, especially when you find yourself scrambling to answer an unfamiliar position. Moreover, even if it doesn’t work out, or you elect not to go for it in the rebuttals, the time trade-off will almost always be in your favor. It should take the 2AC only a couple of seconds to throw out this perm and its accompanying double-bind analysis, whereas the block will likely have to dedicate at least a minute to answering it. Any way you slice it, that’s not a bad return on investment for the aff.


Got a kritik question? Get personalized advice from our panel of K Hacks!


For more on answering kritiks, check out:

Alternatives to going for framework

Guide to beating non-traditional teams

Kritik author biases

Guide to popular philosophers

Generic kritik answers


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4 Responses to Ask a K Hack: What’s the Best Permutation to Make Against a Kritik?

  1. Cedric says:

    Couldn’t the “all other instances” perm be severance since the permutation severs from immediacy?

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      This perm is not severance, because it does not sever the immediacy of the plan.

      A legitimate permutation contains ALL of the plan and all or part of the alternative. This perm still contains all of the aff plan. It only removes the immediacy of the alternative, but legitimate perms do not need to contain every part of the alternative.

      It is, however, intrinsic, as is discussed above.

      I hope that helps!

  2. Rayheun says:

    I was wondering. What other perms are there I know there’s graffiti perms and delayed perms but could you list like all the perms possible? or is there too many?

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      To answer this question, we first need to go over what makes a “legitimate” permutation. Legitimate perms (ie ones the judge will vote for) include ALL of the plan and ALL OR PART of the counterplan/kritik.

      As the aff, you are obligated to defend your plan, so obviously you cannot shed any part of it in an attempt to perm- this is a “severance” perm, and it is not allowed. Obviously, this is because affs would always win if they could change their advocacy in different speeches– especially since they speak last! However, as indicated above, as the aff you are not obligated to include ALL of the neg argument in the perm- just one piece (or several pieces) is fine.

      The other type of illegitimate perms are “intrinsic” perms. Intrinsicness is when you add an element to the perm that was in neither the plan nor the CP/K. This is also not allowed, because it too would make rounds impossible for the neg– the aff could just say “do both and ban war” or “do both and feed all the world’s hungry children,” thereby generating offense they aren’t entitled to. Permutation by definition means combining things, it does NOT mean adding in anything new.

      So, with that understood, the answer to your question is that there are infinite possible perms, because you can attempt to permute any aff with any neg position/segment of the neg’s position. When making any permutation, it is important that you argue why the perm solves for both the aff’s impacts and the neg’s (or, at least, enough of the neg’s to mitigate them enough to allow the aff to outweigh any residual risk).

      There are a few basic “types” of perms that you will often see, though. I’ll list them, but these is by no means exhaustive:
      *“Perm- do both,”
      *“Perm- do the plan and all non-competitive parts of the alternative” (I think this one is kinda lazy, but it’s in most 2ACs against Ks…YMMV)
      *“Perm- do the aff and the alt in all other circumstances” (this is explained above, and is useful against kritiks, but not counterplans)
      *Delay perms (as you mention– remember that these add time that wasn’t in either position originally, meaning they are intrinsic. However, some debaters argue that intrinsicness is ok in specific situations; you can look into that. You’re a lot more likely to see a delay counterplan than a delay perm, in my experience.)
      *“Perm- do the plan” and “Perm- do the alt” are things debaters say, but these are really just basic “no link” arguments dressed up as permutations. Basically, they are suggesting that the plan and the alternative are the same. For example, an aff reading a case that dramatically reduces governmental authority, when debating a neg reading something like a “state bad” K, might argue that their case is functionally the alternative put into action. If the neg wants to break down the state, and the aff accomplishes a step in that process, this makes a certain amount of sense. But, like I said, they’re not really perms per se.
      *Against consult CPs, there is the “Lie Perm.” Lie perms say that we can consult [whoever,] act as though it was a binding consultation (consult CPs usually have evidence claiming this is key), but then do the plan no matter what they say. I happen to think this perm is pretty slayer, because it sets up a double-bind: if [whoever] says no, then the CP can no longer be said to solve the aff, so you can weigh all your impacts against it. If [whoever] says yes, the aff can argue that the “lie” never happened (they didn’t need to lie, because [whoever] said yes from the beginning). Most of the time, this forces the neg to counter the perm with arguments about leaks (“the plan to lie will be leaked and destroy relations,” etc). Sometimes they’ll win that, sometimes they won’t. If you’re going to use this perm against consult CPs, you’ll probably want to be carrying some “no leaks” evidence. (People have said the Obama administration has run an extremely tight ship when it comes to leaks– Snowden not withstanding– so these cards are out there.)
      *Perms that defend the plan text in a vacuum these are used against kritiks with representations/discursive/linguistic/etc links. The argument is that the action of the plan doesn’t link, even if their rhetoric does. But, a legitimate perm only has to defend the plan, not every single word they have said. Of course, the neg is going to dispute this, and say something like “discourse shapes reality.” Then you can debate about that, obviously.
      *Textual Perms are similar to “plan text in a vacuum,” but they’re justified a little differently. This makes more sense against a CP, while PTIAV pretty much only makes sense against a kritik with a discursive link. Whereas PTIAV is arguing that the plan action does not link (just maybe their rhetoric does), textual perms argue that, in a legal sense, the actual text of the “legislation” the aff is proposing does not contradict/disallow the text of the neg’s “legislation,” and therefore a policy-maker could pass both, even though they might be funtionally incompatible once actually enacted. To put an unnecessarily fine point on it, in other words, as long as the laws themselves don’t explicitly forbid each other, it doesn’t technically matter if it would be actually possible to physically implement them in the real world. The courts evaluate laws exactly as written (or, theoretically they are supposed to), so the actual language determines whether it’s legally possible to have both laws. IRL, There are tons of laws on the books that are not enforced/followed, because they are obsolete or contradicted by more recent laws (in terms of what they actually do, NOT their language). Legislatures all have analysts on staff whose job it is to make sure laws don’t directly refute each other (such as if the laws contained the phrases “ban [X]” vs “require [X]”) so real-life conflicts usually arise from functional issues, not purely textual ones. IRL, textual competition is probably mostly established by in laws specifically intended to invalidate a different law. If necessary, courts evaluate which of the 2 they think is more applicable to the case at hand, using something called “statutory construction.” There are a bunch of rules/principles that determine how they make these decisions; I am not a lawyer, but you can look them up, if you’re really into textual perms for some reason. There are also a handful of (mostly bad) theory arguments about why the judge should reject positions that aren’t textually competitive, and in that case the textual perm is primarily used as a tool to prove there isn’t textual competition. If you are interested in having the “lack of textual competition is a reason to reject” debate, you can easily look it up and find advice from people who know what they’re taking about. There are also probably other justifications people have for this line of thought, but I have never heard any different explanations that makes any sense at all to me in 13+ years in debate (but it’s possible that problem is with me and not the argument). Anyway, that was a lot of ado about nothing, because textual perms almost never win anyway… if the neg has a functional disadvantage to the perm, which presumably they do, that is still a reason not to vote for the perm. The aff can win that textual perms are theoretically legitimate, and technically/legally possible, but that doesn’t matter very much if doing both at the same time is still a bad idea.
      *If you want to get really fancy/annoying (depending on who you ask!) you can perm a politics disad. This is one of those “you might get away with it, but you probably won’t” type of arguments. Basically, the aff says that DA link isn’t intrinsic to the plan– here, what that means is that the link isn’t to plan implementation, but rather to the process of passage. So, 2 things: first, if they are taking the role of a policymaker, the judge could just choose to vote for both pieces of legislation. Second, fiat ought to resolve the links, because the purpose of fiat is to focus the debate on the effects of plan implementation, whether it has good or bad outcomes, not on plan passage. If argued well, I think it’s an ok argument against political capital links, but winning it will likely take some time investment in theory (eg regarding the nature of fiat). Also, these are useless against certain link scenarios, such as when the neg says [whatever] must pass now because the deadline is [extremely soon], etc. The reason is that the neg is correct in arguing that congress takes forever, especially when it comes to major legislation, and extra especially when they’ve already pushed the bill to the edge of the deadline (this indicates there is no consensus/deal, and they haven’t reached one despite having a significant amount of time to do so). Political capital isn’t a quantifiable thing, though, so the politics DA perm makes some sense there.

      I’m gonna stop there, because I suspect I’ve already said more junk than you were asking for 🙂 Basically, just remember “all of the plan; all or part of the [cp/k]” and you’ll know whether or not something is a legitimate perm (but also remember that theoretical legitimacy alone is not a reason to vote for the perm, it’s just a reason not to immediately reject it.)

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