Policy debate uses the word "inherency" in an unusual way. One side in the debate proposes a plan and part of what they are obliged to show is that the plan will not happen in the status quo. This is termed "inherency". Despite using the term this way for several years, this has never made sense to me.

A longer description of the concept of inherency in policy debate can be found on Wikipedia.


My thought had been that it was meant in the sense, "it is an inherent part of the status quo that the plan will not happen", but the Wikipedia link uses the word differently, "This plan is inherent because...".

Is this usage of the word inherency unique to policy debate? Is there any precedent for this usage?

11/20/14 I'd still like a good answer and will upvote and accept one if it shows up.


Inherency in a debate ( often political) refers to the inherent ( characteristic or specific) issues related to the problem whose solution is being discussed: (from www.department.monm.edu)

  • At stake is the adoption of reforms that may change the 'status quo'.
  • The problems cited by the affirmative must be inextricably connected to elements of the status quo. Problems are NOT inherent if they are temporary or accidental. We can show that a problem is likely inherent if we can specify features of the status quo that cause the problem or if we can show the problems are relatively enduring or are unique to the status quo or cannot be eliminated without reform to the status quo.

There are a few types of inherency:

  • Gap Inherency - something is missing in the status quo that is required to solve the problems cited. (This meets the tests of inherency for cause and/or reform.)

  • Barrier inherency - something in the status quo is preventing a solution to the problem cited. (This meets the tests of inherency for cause and/or reform.)

  • Attitudinal inherency - a deeply held, enduring attitude (held by those whose actions lead to the problem or whose actions are necessary to solve the problem) prevents a solution.

  • Minor repairs - Small adjustments to the status quo, proposed by the negative, that show the problems raised by the affirmative can be solved without adopting the proposition. These, in effect, show the affirmative's problems are not inherent.

  • "Status Quo solves" - an argument by the negative showing that processes currently at work in the status quo will likely solve the problem without adoption of the resolution, thus, showing a lack of inherency in the affirmative's claim.

Ngram shows that that usage of this term has been in place in the last couple of centuries.

An early example of inherency usage:

  • Standpoint; and justified in doing this, because bia conclusion is tbat Germany's conduct is, in effect, a ..

  • “... merchant vessel, armed ifi entitled to be, for defence, might begin operations sending the submarine under water. question of inherency, however, can justify methods ... ”

  • (Wednesday 04 April 1917 , Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer , West Yorkshire, England)

Inherent simply means that it is a given that this or that condition exists in this or that situation naturally. Inherent is a concept, like gravity, relativity or the like, and can be use in infinite ways in grammar.

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