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The following appeared as part of an annual report sent to
stockholders by Olympic
Foods, a processor of frozen foods.
"Over time, the costs of processing
go down because as organizations learn how to do
things better, they become more efficient. In color film processing, for
example, the cost of a
3-by-5-inch print fell from 50 cents for five-day service in 1970 to 20 cents
for one-day service in 1984. The same principle applies to the processing of
food. And since Olympic Foods
will soon celebrate its twenty-fifth birthday, we can expect
that our long experience will enable us to minimize costs and thus maximize
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.
Citing facts drawn from the color-film
processing industry that indicate a downward trend in the costs of film
processing over a 24-year period, the
author argues that Olympic Foods will likewise
be able to minimize costs and thus
maximize profits in the future. In support of
this conclusion the author cites the general principle that "as
organizations learn how to do things better, they become more efficient."
This principle, coupled
with the fact that Olympic Foods has had
25 years of experience in the food processing industry leads to the authorís
This argument is unconvincing because it suffers from two critical flaws.
First, the authorís forecast of minimal
costs and maximum profits rests on the gratuitous
assumption that Olympic Foodsí
"long experience" has taught it
how to do things better. There is, however, no guarantee that this
is the case. Nor does the author cite any
evidence to support this assumption. Just
as likely, Olympic Foods has learned
nothing from its 25 years in the food-processing business. Lacking
this assumption, the expectation of increased efficiency is entirely unfounded.
Second, it is highly doubtful
that the facts drawn from the color-film
processing industry are applicable to the food processing industry. Differences
between the two industries clearly outweigh the similarities, thus making the
analogy highly less than valid. For example, problems
of spoilage, contamination, and timely transportation all affect the food
industry but are virtually absent in the film-processing industry.
Problems such as these might present insurmountable
obstacles that prevent lowering
food-processing costs in the future.
it stands the authorís argument is not
compelling. To strengthen the conclusion that Olympic Foods will enjoy minimal
costs and maximum profits in the future,
the author would have to provide evidence that the company has learned how to do
things better as a result of its 25 years
of experience. Supporting
examples drawn from industries more
similar to the food-processing industry would further
substantiate the authorís view.