My dueling partner Alyce Lomax is correct, in one sense: Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) is generally considered an affordable luxury. The operative word, however, is luxury. You don't need Starbucks-branded coffee, even if you can't start your day without a cup or two of what Alyce referred to as "caffeinated bliss." If your job is at risk, or your salary isn't quite keeping up with property tax, health insurance, and energy cost increases, the luxuries are the first things to go. Plenty of other coffee sources out there are simply less economically sensitive than Starbucks.

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) grew into a retailing behemoth by lowering prices and constantly driving cost and waste out of their systems. As Alyce mentioned, however, Starbucks is taking the opposite approach. It's in the process of raising its prices, betting that it won't alienate its customers. That's a dangerous assumption to make in a rapidly globalizing economy, where cost and price containment are the general order of the day.

I'll grant that people may be willing to pay a premium for the overall Starbucks experience. History suggests, however, that people aren't willing to get gouged repeatedly for the same experience. Otherwise, why would theme park operators like Six Flags (NYSE:SIX) and Cedar Fair (NYSE:FUN) set their entire season passes at about the price of two single-day tickets?

Then there's China. China's population and current economic growth sing a siren song that has enticed many multinational companies to invest. Yet as legions of global titans that came before have discovered, the "affordable luxury" market is a tough nut to profitably crack in an economy with such a low per capita GDP.

Starbucks certainly has a successful past, and if it executes well, its operational future may be bright. Its stock, however, trades as if its continued rapid growth is guaranteed. That's always a dangerous situation for investors, no matter how strong the underlying company may be. Between newly hungry competition, increasing economic sensitivity, and the difficulty of profitable growth in the emerging markets, Starbucks' challenges are only increasing. I may purchase the occasional Starbucks coffee with my discretionary dollars, but my investing dollars are far more excited by the value experience.

Think you're done with the Duel? You're not! Go back and read the other three arguments, then vote for a winner and share your opinion at Motley Fool CAPS.

Starbucks is a Stock Advisor pick; Microsoft is an Inside Value selection; and Cedar Fair made the cut at our Income Investor service. Whatever your investing style, the Fool has a newsletter for you.

At the time of publication, Fool contributor Chuck Saletta had no direct ownership stake in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.