GMAT : Analysis of An Argument

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An Argument


55. The following is taken from an editorial in a local newspaper.

Over the past decade, the price per pound of citrus fruit has increased substantially. Eleven years ago, Megamart charged 15 cents a pound for lemons, but today it commonly charges over a dollar a pound. In only one of these last eleven years was the weather unfavourable for growing citrus crops. Evidently then citrus growers have been responsible for the excessive increase in the price of citrus fruit and strict pricing regulations are needed to prevent them from continuing to inflate prices.


Question


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.


Analysis


In this editorial the author argues for the imposition of strict pricing regulations in order to prevent citrus growers from continued inflation of prices of citrus fruit.

The need for such regulation is supported by the author's contention that citrus growers have been unnecessarily raising prices of citrus fruit in the past. The evidence for this allegation is the fact that the price of lemons has increased from 15 cents per pound to over a dollar per pound by a supermarket chain during the preceding 11-year period, even though weather conditions have been favourable to citrus production in all but one of those years.

This argument is flawed in two important respects.

First and foremost, the author assumes that the only factor that influences the price of citrus fruit is the weather. Other factors - such as monetary inflation, increased distribution and labor costs or alterations in supply and demand conditions - are ignored as possible reasons for the increase. The charge that citrus growers have unnecessarily raised prices can be sustained only if these and other possible factors can be completely ruled out as contributing to the price increases.

The author makes the unwarranted assumption that the increase in the retail price of lemons has been substantially passed on to the growers. Nor does he compare the increase in price of lemons during this period with similar price-increases in the case of other agricultural products.

Second, the author assumes that the only way to combat increased prices is through government intervention. In a free-enterprise system many other means of affecting the pricing of goods are available. For example, boycotting a product and there-by influencing supply and demand conditions of the commodity is an effective means of influencing the price of the product. In a free market economy the government should consider regulating prices only when all other means to rectify the problem have been exhausted.

In conclusion, the author's argument is unconvincing. To strengthen the argument the author would have to show that the only factor influencing the price increases is the growers' desire for increased profits.

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