Sanctions don’t work

So the LD resolution is about the oughtness of economic sanctions, which dovetails nicely with the discussion about what to do about miscreant programs.  In LD I’m sure there are all kinds of theory negatives running around, but in the real world, the major disputes with sanctions are that they are ineffective in correcting negative behavior, and they fall hardest on the people who have the least power to change that behavior.

In tournaments, sanctions are similar.  A regime of penalty fines works fine for usual problems, to gently discourage usual antisocial behavior that ignorant teenagers often commit — “Oh, you mean I can’t go to the tournament AND attend my Irish stepdancing lessons on Saturday?!”  Penalty fines work best if the students themselves end up paying them, in my opinion; the pain is felt where the flakiness originates.  However, for the under-chaperoned teams, it’s often some other parent who pays the fine, or someone yells at you for daring to call them on their non-compliance of the rules and expectations of the tournament.  At best, also, managing fines and collecting payment costs just as much tournament overhead as the original offense does.  You have to levy it, invoice it, track the person down, talk them into the necessity of paying it, and then give them a receipt.  Often, especially at tournaments where there are a lot of shenanigans being pulled, you simply don’t have the time to go punish them; you’re too busy fixing the tournament from their damages.  You can either keep the tournament ship afloat, or you can let everything sink while you go chase down fines and miscreants.

But the fine regime also doesn’t catch the edge cases of behavior that is both so bizarre and so unacceptable that it really throws tournaments and tab rooms for a real loop.  There are gentle forms of this; the folks who don’t read the tournament invite, and proceed to ask just about every question whose answer is in the invitation over the course of the three weeks before the tournament.  Those, typically, are the independent entries or parents registering.   Then there are the people who waft through the debate community heedless of anything the tournament director tries to mandate, but feeling they have an ironclad right to attend any tournament regardless of how they interact with the community.

Those are the Problem Children, and they are the same week after week.  Ryan M suggests public shame as a method of enforcement.  It would be satisfying but I don’t think it’d work; these folks don’t necessarily care that much about public shame, given that they piss off every tournament director week after week anyway.  I don’t think it’s any way illegal or immoral to call people out who, on the face of facts, are committing public harms in a public arena; just as I don’t think anyone giving an extemp speech in front of hundreds of people carries an expectation of privacy.  But I don’t think it’d be effective.

So that’s why I’m thinking about graver efforts, actual revolving tournament bans for people.  It would be certainly effective, in that the people wouldn’t be there to cause problems in the first place.   It would correct the behavior since it strikes at the immediate self interest of the students on the team, who are often themselves complicit in the various shenanigans programs pull — especially when programs show up without adult supervision.  And it wouldn’t require all the monitoring and checking in advance for “the latest way school X is going to try to get out of having judges” the week registration ends.

But maybe I’m too tired for that :)