ARG-140

The following is a letter that recently appeared in the Oak City Gazette, a local newspaper.

"The primary function of the Committee for a Better Oak City is to advise the city government on how to make the best use of the city's limited budget. However, at some of our recent meetings we failed to make important decisions because of the foolish objections raised by committee members who are not even residents of Oak City. People who work in Oak City but who live elsewhere cannot fully understand the business and politics of the city. After all, only Oak City residents pay city taxes, and therefore only residents understand how that money could best be used to improve the city. We recommend, then, that the Committee for a Better Oak City vote to restrict its membership to city residents only. We predict that, without the interference of non-residents, the committee will be able to make Oak City a better place in which to live and work."


Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.


In this letter appeared in a newspaper in Oak City, the author suggests that the Committee for a Better Oak City should only include people who live in the city, and if this proposal is in effect the money could be best used to improve the city. He/She attributes the recent failure to make crucial decisions in the committee to non-residents who do not know how to make the best use of the city’s money and make foolish objections. Instead, only the residents, as the author points out, understand the business and politics of Oak City as well as how to use the money. Thus, they are capable of making the city a better place. Although the recommendation appears seemingly convincing, closer examination reveals several unsubstantiated assumptions that might adversely affect the validity of the argument. There are several questions that need to be answered and evaluated before we could evaluate whether this suggestion will have the predicted results.


First, we need to know if those objections from non-residing committee members in Oak City are indeed, as the author claims, foolish. The author assumes that any obstruction towards reaching an important decision must be bad. However, those important decisions may imply very difficult issues that could not be easily resolved. If an issue is controversial and the concerns raised by those non-residents committee members are quite legitimate, the absence of consensus within the committee should not be considered as a failure, nor the obstruction considered foolish. It may be the case that, even if the committee is composed of only residents, problems may still occur, and the author’s recommendation would not have the predicted result. However, if it can be demonstrated that non-resident committee members filibuster any beneficial bills due to policital or personal motives, the author’s suggestion will be more convincing.


Next, granted that nonresidents do sometimes thwart the decision-making process, we need to know whether or not they pay taxes at all to determine if they have the fundamental rights to be in the committee. In the letter, the author claims only residents pay city taxes. Yet, it is possible that nonresidents also pay other kinds of taxes, such as the income tax or sales tax. If so, then they also contribute to the financing of Oak City and should be included in the committee as well. In other words, nonresidents, just like the residents, are also entitled to discuss and know how and where their money shall be spent, weakening the author’s argument. On the contrary, if the nonresidents pay no taxes whatsoever, it is more reasonable to exclude nonresidents from the committee, at least from an entitlement point of view.


Finally, even if we acknowledge the nonresidents’ inefficiency in decision-making and no tax contributions, we still need to consider whether or not residents know where to put the money to contribute to the betterment of Oak City. The fact that all residents pay city taxes do not mean they understand how to wisely spend it. Some of them might not know where the city’s issues lies, nor do they think about which aspects need to be improved; rather, they pay taxes just because they are required to fulfill the obligation of being Oak City citizens. If those who comprehend little of Oak City’s problems were in the committee, improvements of the city are far less likely to be made, challenging the author’s prediction. On the other hand, if residents who are in the committee are well-informed about the city’s problems and have clear and unified plans about how to improve it, this committee would be able to achieve its goal, thus strengthening the author’s argument.


Overall, without asking these three questions, we cannot know if the author’s recommendation would lead to the predicted results. Only when we are informed that the nonresidents deliberately filibuster, that only residents pay taxes, and that they are knowledgeable of Oak City, we could conclude replacing the committee with only residents is an advisable suggestion and would make Oak City better.




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