By BEN R. WILLIAMS
QUESTION 1: What caused World War II?
Argument: The Treaty of Versailles brought “The Great War” to a close, but at a massive cost to Germany. Germany had to pay enormous reparations to the Allies, which left the German economy in shambles and its government in chaos. Economic devastation often proves a fertile breeding ground for fascism, and a failed artist named Adolf Hitler followed the lead of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and led a successful populist campaign to ascend to power in Germany. Once named dictator, Hitler allied with Mussolini and eventually a rapidly-growing Japan and began aggressively invading other countries. Some of these countries, such as Britain and France, were already weary from the Great War and decided to keep the peace through appeasement — essentially, meeting Hitler’s demands. However, appeasement only caused the power-mad dictator to grow bolder while also offering him time to build his army. Some have even made the argument that World War I and World War II are not separate events but rather one long, continuous war, as the second could be argued to merely be an extension of the first. Ultimately, the main takeaway is that a populace forced to live in poverty and hardship is receptive to the honeyed words of a dictator.
Counter-argument: Germans are evil.
QUESTION 2: How does an automobile’s internal combustion engine work?
Argument: Internal combustion engines are comprised of fixed cylinders and moving pistons. At the most basic level, a combination of air and fuel is drawn into a combustion chamber and ignited, which pushes the piston. The piston is connected to a crankshaft, and the continual movement of the piston(s) rotates the crankshaft. Through an elaborate series of gears in the vehicle’s powertrain, the rotation of the crankshaft is translated to the vehicle’s wheels.
QUESTION 3: Why don’t we elect Presidents by popular vote?
Argument: Rather than simply choosing the President who wins the most votes, we instead have a system called the Electoral College. Each state in the union has a set number of electoral votes equal to the number of people the state has in Congress, and all of those votes are given to the winner of the plurality of votes in that state. The founders were concerned about giving too much power to the people, so the Electoral College was created to serve as a sort of checkpoint. There are different opinions on whether the Electoral College should still be in place today, although no matter which side of the aisle you fall on, it’s hard to argue that it’s a bit strange when Presidents win the popular vote but not the election.
Counter-argument: Don’t question the Founding Fathers.
QUESTION 4: Why are so many restaurants short-staffed?
Argument: After decades of wage stagnation, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the employment landscape. Members of the “Baby Boomer” generation retired, many taking early retirement, allowing members of subsequent generations to leave service industry jobs and fill in the gaps they left behind. Others began working from home during the pandemic or were forced from their service industry jobs due to pandemic-related closures, and over the subsequent months, they found different jobs at higher wages and felt no need to return to the service industry. Still others were forced out of the workforce due to a shortage of childcare options and have since found ways to make ends meet on a single parent’s salary. And of course, 762,000 Americans have died of COVID at present and an untold number — likely more than a million — were rendered disabled due to long COVID; in either case, they cannot return to the workforce.
Counter-argument: No one wants to work anymore.
QUESTION 5: Why is gas so expensive?
Argument: During the pandemic, the demand for gasoline plummeted due to lockdowns. In April 2020, a barrel of crude oil briefly traded for below $0, prompting many oil wells to temporarily shut down, since there was no sense in spending thousands upon thousands of dollars to produce a product that you couldn’t even give away. Now that effective vaccines are available and the COVID pandemic is beginning to subside, the demand for gasoline has increased dramatically, yet many wells are still offline. As crude oil production gradually increases and demand is met, the prices will reflect the increased supply.
Counter-argument: Let’s go Brandon.