Wednesday Night GMAT: Analysis of an Argument

The following appeared as part of an advertisement for Adams, who is seeking reelection as governor:

“Reelect Adams, and you will be voting for proven leadership in improving the state’s economy. Over the past year alone, 70 per cent of the state’s worker’s have had increases in their wages, 5,000 new jobs have been created, and six corporations have located their headquarters here. Most of the respondents in a recent poll said they believed that the economy is likely to continue to improve if Adams is reelected. Adam’s opponent, Zebulon, would lead our state in the wrong direction because Zebulon disagrees with many of Adams’s economic policies”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument.

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From the passage above, it seems that there is little reason to not reelect Adams as governor of the state. The economy is booming, new jobs are being created and more are on the way, if the new corporations making their headquarters in the state is any indication. The people polled are happy with the current regime and who can blame them? 70 per cent of them are earning more than this time last year!

Even more encouraging for Adams’s campaign is that the incumbent’s opponent is directly opposing the very policies that bought the state such prosperity. Who wouldn’t vote for Adams?

On face value, it seems that Adams is the perfect candidate for the job. Until that is, one rereads the opening phrasing and discovers that the passage is not an unbiased, authoritative endorsement of Adams’s tenure, but a paid-for advertisement from the Adams campaign machine.

The passage, it turns out, was brought with cold hard cash; not earned through successful policies.

With this glaring conflict of interests in mind, the prudent voter would do well to return to the passage and scrutinize it with a more critical eye.

While the passage presents a logical, well structured argument for Adams as governor, as a paid for advertisement, we must look at the facts presented with an eagle eye.

Taking the facts point by point as they appear in the advertisement gives us the following analysis:

70 per cent of workers have had increases in their wages – but how were the wage increases relative to inflation? A worker could receive a 40 per cent wage increase, but if inflation is 41 per cent, the wages have actually decreased in value on a year-over-year basis. In addition, what has happened to the other 30 per cent of workers? Have their wages decreased or, have they possibly disappeared through redundancies? This statistic can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on the context in which is exists.

5,000 new jobs have been created, but at what cost? 7,500 jobs could have been lost through redundancies or through industries retooling. These 5,000 jobs could be in a dying industry and the state could have been better served in attracting an industry with a healthier future. The jobs could have also been created at the expense of more jobs from a larger employer that governor Adams offended either personally or through financial policies.

This critical analysis can also be applied to the six corporations who have made their home in governor Adams’s state. Which, richer, wealthier corporations could Zebulon attracted to the state?

Again, context is vital when analysing the “facts” presented in any advertisement – political or otherwise.

The poll presented by Adams’s campaign is also of interest. Was the poll conducted or endorsed by a respected third party research scientist? Was the polled population sample selected at random or was it selected from Adams’s cronies? What was the sample size large enough for scientific analysis – and what was the margin for error?

Again, there are many questions raised by this advertisement that would not have been raised had this been an editorial opinion piece from the state’s largest and most respected newspaper’s editor.

Finally, the advertisement makes mention of Zebulon’s disagreement with Adams’s economic policies but leaves the reader in the dark when it comes to exactly what Zebulon’s policies are – meaning readers of the advertisement are denied the ability to make an informed choice over who the best person to run their state is.

Unfortunately, political propaganda such as this can often get misconstrued by an unsuspecting general public as a legitimate endorsement from an authoritative source.

2 Responses to Wednesday Night GMAT: Analysis of an Argument

  1. John says:

    Ed,

    Your posts are consistently well-reasoned and compelling arguments. No better way to practice.

    I’ve been glancing at the GMAT prep book myself from time to time. I’ve got to assume that, as a fellow public relations professional, the math section is most terrifying part. That’s the case for me at least.

    Best of luck.

  2. Ed Lee says:

    thanks John – nice to get some validation this close to the test!

    i was that worried with the math section initially, but i’ve been struggling to get more than 2/3 of the questions right in the data sufficiency section. apparently this is the easiest section to improve your score on by not making silly mistakes so i’ll be hitting that section hard tonight and tomorrow night!

    Ed

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