The following appeared as part of a memorandum from a government agency.
“Given the limited funding available for the building and repair of roads and bridges, the government should not spend any money this year on fixing the bridge that crosses the Styx River. This bridge is located near a city with a weakening economy, so it is not as important as other bridges; moreover, the city population is small and thus unlikely to contribute a significant enough tax revenue to justify the effort of fixing the bridge.”
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 underlie 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 its conclusion.
The author of this government agency memorandum argues that the government should not spend any money this year fixing the bridge that crosses the Styx River, given the limited resources available for building and repair of roads and bridges. The author reasons that this bridge is less important than others because it is located near a city with a weakening economy, and because the city’s small population is unlikely to contribute enough tax revenue to Justify fixing their bridge. This argument is unconvincing for four reasons.
First of all, the author unfairly assumes that the importance of a bridge is determined solely by the economic condition of nearby cities. This assumption overlooks other criteria for determining a bridge’s importance—such as the number of commuters using the bridge, the role of the bridge in local emergencies and disasters, and the impact that bridge closure would have on the economies of nearby cities. Without accounting for these other potential factors, the author fails to provide a convincing argument that the Styx River Bridge is unimportant.
Secondly, the author fails to provide any evidence that other bridges are more important than the Styx River Bridge. Without such evidence, we cannot accept the author’s conclusion that no government funds should be directed toward maintaining the Styx River Bridge.
Thirdly, the fact that the nearby city has a weakening economy does not prove that the city will not contribute significantly to tax revenues. Perhaps tax revenues are based on property taxes, which are not related directly to economic conditions. If so, and if property values and taxes are high in this nearby city, then the city would contribute significantly to tax revenues, and the bridge would be important to maintain those property values and the revenues they generate.
Finally, the author assumes that a city should receive government services commensurate with the tax dollars it contributes. Substantiating this assumption requires examining the proper duty of government. However, the author provides no such examination. Accordingly, this assumption is simply an unproven claim.
In conclusion, this editorial fails to substantiate its claim that the Styx River Bridge is not important enough for the government to spend tax dollars to maintain and repair it. To strengthen the argument, the author must account for other factors that also determine a bridge’s importance, and must compare the importance of this bridge relative to other bridges.