GMAT : Analysis of An Argument
42. The following appeared in the opinion section of a national newsmagazine.
To reverse the deterioration of the postal service, the government should raise the price of postal stamps. This solution will no doubt prove effective, since the price increase will generate larger revenues and will also reduce the volume of mail, thereby eliminating the strain on the existing system and contributing to improved morale.
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate in conclusion.
The author concludes that a postage-stamp price increase is needed to reduce the deterioration of the service. He reasons that raising the price of stamps will accomplish this goal because it will generate revenue, thereby eliminating the strain on the system. The author further reasons that a price increase so reduce the volume of mail, thereby improving the morale of postal workers.
The reasoning in this argument is problematic in three respects.
The main problem with the argument is the author's mistaken assumption that eliminating strain on the system and improving employee morale are mutually achievable by way of an increase in stamp prices. A price increase will generate more revenue only if the volume of mail remains constant or increases. But, if the volume of mail increases or remains constant, worker morale will not be improved.
On the other hand, if the price increase reduces the volume of mail, revenues may decrease and the strain system will not be eliminated. Consequently, eliminating the strain on the system and improving the morale of the workers cannot both be achieved by simply raising the price of postage stamps.
Secondly, the author's conclusion that the proposed price increase is necessary to reduce deterioration of the postal service relies on the assumption that no other action would achieve the same result. However, the author provides no evidence to substantiate this assumption. It is possible, for example, that careful cost-cutting measures that do not decrease worker morale might achieve the same goal. It is also possible that revenue-enhancing measures that do not undermine employee morale are available.
Thirdly, the author unfairly assumes that reducing mail volume and increasing revenues will improve employee morale. This is not necessarily the case. It is possible that employee morale is materially improved only by other means and that additional revenues will not be used in ways that improve morale. It is also possible that a decrease in mail volume will result in a reduction of the size of the labor force, regardless of revenues, which in turn might have the opposite effect of undermining morale.
In conclusion, the author's proposed solution to the problem of the deterioration of the postal service may not work. Raising postage-stamp prices cannot bring about both of the outcomes the author identifies as being necessary to solve the problem. Before we can accept the argument, the author must modify the proposal accordingly and must provide more information about the relationship between employee morale and mail volume.