Public Policy

How to Win at Intelligence Squared US

by robertrosenkranz on April 23, 2016

I’m a big fan of the Intelligence Squared US (IQ2US) debate program, so when I learned that the program had compiled data on the 119 debates it had held since 2006, I was eager to dive in. And in doing so, I learned a few things: People do change their minds a fair amount. They are more likely to change their minds on science and technology issues; on politics and economics, opinions tend to be a little more stable, though still somewhat fluid. Also, what appears to be consensus at the start of a debate is often illusory.

Yes, this is a small and nonrepresentative sample with a self-selected audience — and generally thoughtful debaters on both sides. But the relative fluidity of opinion is important. It suggests that ideas and arguments can actually matter, and that when both sides get a fair and equal shot to make their case, minds can indeed be swayed.

robertrosenkranzHow to Win at Intelligence Squared US

We Need Better Presidential Debates

by robertrosenkranz on February 22, 2016

We Need Better Presidential Debates

Oxford-style would tell us more than the current uninformative and stilted face-offs.

Originally published on the Wall Street Journal on Feb. 21, 2016 6:09 p.m. ET


Prime-time presidential debates were a brilliant innovation of the 1960s, meant to inform voters and let them see the candidates in action. Their format, however, is due for an update.

robertrosenkranzWe Need Better Presidential Debates

Intelligence Squared US Debate Analysis: U.S. Prosecutors Have Too Much Power

by robertrosenkranz on December 15, 2015

Robert Rosenkranz: Intelligence Squared US Debate Analysis
U.S. Prosecutors Have Too Much Power

More than 90% of America’s prison population has never had a jury trial.   Instead, they are in jail following plea bargains negotiated with prosecutors. 

In these negotiations, prosecutors have vastly more bargaining power than the accused.   Since plea bargaining saves time for judges, juries, and the entire apparatus of the court system, it is arguably an efficient approach.   But does it produce just results? 


robertrosenkranzIntelligence Squared US Debate Analysis: U.S. Prosecutors Have Too Much Power

Recommended Reading: Superpower

by robertrosenkranz on June 16, 2015

Ian Bremmer, one of the most charismatic debaters to grace the IQ2US stage, has ignited a national debate about America’s role as a superpower. In his new book, Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World, he presents a nation in a state of identity crisis, and explores three alternative paths to help us find our way. Bremmer asks, which superpower would you choose: Indispensable America? Moneyball America? Or Independent America?

robertrosenkranzRecommended Reading: Superpower

Up for Debate: The Death Penalty

by robertrosenkranz on May 20, 2015

Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s recent death sentence cast a focused spotlight on the use of the death penalty in the United States. Just last month, in the wake of his conviction, Intelligence Squared U.S. presented the debate “Abolish the Death Penalty.”

While there were many headlines leading up to the debate – botched executions and erroneous convictions – the Boston trial is perhaps the highest-profile death sentencing America has followed in decades. Proponents of the death penalty argued that a crime this heinous is precisely where the death penalty is suitable. They see the death penalty as both moral and just, and a reasonable expression of our societal sense of outrage. Time in prison, even a lifetime in prison, treats the most monstrous criminals no differently from others and hence fails to express our revulsion at the nature of their crimes.

robertrosenkranzUp for Debate: The Death Penalty