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Political Commentator: In order for a democracy to flourish, it is essential that political and journalistic freedom of expression exist. Even if commentators voice ideas that do not support the current government, a society is strengthened by the variety of views expressed. Yet, our government continues to exercise a stranglehold on certain forms of speech. It is essential that the government loosen its control on the media. Despite the potential short-term instability this may cause the country, it will strengthen the long-term health of the country.
Which of the following expresses the conclusion of the argument?
Correct Answer: B
The commentator's main point is that the government must loosen its control on the media.

The conclusion of the commentator's argument is: "It is essential that the government loosen its control on the media."

To see this, consider the points that the author makes:
(1) political and journalistic freedom are essential for democracy
(2) society is strengthened by many views being expressed
(3) our government stifles free speech
(4) government must loosen speech controls
(5) loosening control of the media leads to long-term strength

Notice that the logical progression of the argument is as follows:
(2) -> (1) -> (3) -> (5) -> (4)

To see the relationship between premises and conclusion, notice how awkward the argument would become if a point such as 1, 2, or 3 were to be the conclusion.
It makes no sense to say: since "government must loosen speech controls," therefore "political and journalistic freedom are essential for democracy."
Rather, it makes sense the other way around:
Since "political and journalistic freedom are essential for democracy," therefore "government must loosen speech controls."

Some test-takers believe that the conclusion is the last sentence of the paragraph. However, this is incorrect since, in this argument, the last sentence serves as a premise to the conclusion. To see this, try to allow the second to last sentence to serve as a premise to the last sentence and it should be clear that this is not the way the sentences are functioning in the argument.

  1. Although this statement is true, it is a premise not a conclusion. It is because the government is exercising too much control that "it is essential that the government loosen its control on the media."
  2. This is a paraphrase of the conclusion. Every other sentence or major idea in the argument serves as a premise to this statement, which is the conclusion or main point of the author's argument.
  3. This mirrors the first sentence of the paragraph. However, it functions as a premise not as a conclusion. It is because democracy requires a free press that "it is essential that the government loosen its control on the media."
  4. Although this is similar to the last sentence of the paragraph, it is not the conclusion. The line of reasoning in the paragraph is:
    democracy --> long term health --> government must open press
    The reasoning is NOT:
    government must open press --> democracy --> long term health (it makes no sense to say that since the government must open the press, therefore we will have long term health)
    Moreover, the last sentence deals with the health of the country, not the strength of the government.
  5. Although this is true, it is not the main thrust of the argument. The author is not trying to make this point. Instead, he is granting that this is true and then trying to argue that the government needs to open the press.

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