The following appeared in the editorial section of a local newspaper.
“In the first four years that Montoya has served as mayor of the city of San Perdito, the population has decreased and the unemployment rate has increased. Two businesses have closed for each new business that has opened. Under Varro, who served as mayor for four years before Montoya, the unemployment rate decreased and the population increased. Clearly, the residents of San Perdito would be best served if they voted Montoya out of office and reelected Varro.”
Discuss how well reasoned... etc.
The recommendation endorsed in this argument is that residents of San Perdito vote current mayor Montoya out of office, and re-elect former mayor Varro. The reasons cited are that during Montoya’s four years in office the population has decreased while unemployment has increased, whereas during Varro’s term unemployment declined while the population grew. This argument involves the sort of gross oversimplification and emotional appeal typical of political rhetoric; for this reason it is unconvincing.
First of all, the author assumes that the Montoya administration caused the unemployment in San Perdito as well as its population loss. The line of reasoning is that because Montoya was elected before the rise in unemployment and the decline in population, the former event caused the latter. But this is fallacious reasoning unless other possible causal explanations have been considered and ruled out. For example, perhaps a statewide or nationwide recession is the cause of these events. Or perhaps the current economic downturn is part of a larger picture of economic cycles and trends, and has nothing to do with who happens to be mayor. Yet another possibility is that Varro enjoyed a period of economic stability and Varro’s own administration set the stage for the unemployment and the decline in population the city is now experiencing under Montoya.
Secondly, job availability and the economic health of one’s community are issues that affect people emotionally. The argument at hand might have been intentionally oversimplified for the specific purpose of angering citizens of San Perdito, and thereby turning them against the incumbent mayor. Arguments that bypass relevant, complex reasoning in favor of stirring up emotions do nothing to establish their conclusions; they are also unfair to the parties involved.
In conclusion, I would not cast my vote for Varro on the basis of this weak argument. The author must provide support for the assumption that Mayor Montoya has caused San Perdito’s poor economy. Moreover, such support would have to involve examining and eliminating other possible causal factors. Only with more convincing evidence could this argument become more than just an emotional appeal.