GMAT : Analysis of An Argument
72. The following appeared in a letter to the editor of a regional newspaper.
In response to petitions from the many farmers and rural landowners throughout our region, the legislature has spent valuable time and effort enacting severe laws to deter motorists from picking fruit off the trees, trampling through the fields and stealing samples of foliage. But how can our local lawmakers occupy themselves with such petty vandalism when crime and violence plague the nation's cities? The fate of apples and leaves is simply too trivial to merit their attention.
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 of this editorial asserts that trespassing, vandalism and theft associated with stealing fruit from farms is a trivial problem and as a result enacting laws to protect farm and land-owners from these crimes is a waste of lawmakers' time. In support of this claim, the author points out that the nation's cities are plagued by far more serious problems of violence and crime.
To the extent that this author has provided any argument at all, it is a poor one.
First of all, the author unfairly assumes that if lawmakers are taking rural crime issues seriously, then they cannot be taking urban crime issues seriously. The author is presenting a false dilemma by imposing an either or choice between two courses of action that need not be mutually exclusive. It is equally possible that legislators can address both areas of concern concurrently.
Secondly, the argument relies on the assumption that the legislators in question have the opportunity to address urban crime problems. However, we are not told whether this legislature's jurisdiction encompasses both rural and urban areas. If it encompasses only rural areas, then the author's implicit conclusion that the legislators in this region should instead be addressing urban crime problems would be completely undermined.
Finally, the author unfairly trivializes the severity of rural crime by simply comparing it with urban crime.
While trespassing, vandalism and fruit-stealing may seem minor peccadilloes, especially compared to violent urban crimes, these rural crimes might nevertheless result in serious financial damage to farm owners depending on the frequency and extent of the violations. The author fails to provide evidence for the claim that these rural crimes are trivial. Instead, the author attempts to call attention to a more dramatic but potentially irrelevant problem.
In conclusion, the argument is weak. It potentially distorts the alternatives available to legislators in the region as well as deflecting attention from the problem at hand. To better evaluate it, we will need more information about the geographical scope of this legislature's jurisdiction and about the extent of the fruit stealing problem in the region.