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CAT Critical Reasoning Practice question with Solution 04

Fines levied against those responsible for certain environmentally damaging accidents are now so high that it costs a company responsible for such an accident more to pay the fine that it would have cost to adopt measures that would have prevented the accident. Therefore, since businesses value their profits, those that might have such accidents will now install adequate environmental safeguards.

Which one of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument?

[A]. Businesses generally greatly underestimate the risk of future accidents.
[B]. Businesses are as concerned with long-term as they are with short-term strategies for maximizing profits.
[C]. Businesses generally do the environmentally "right" thing only if doing so makes good business sense.
[D]. Businesses treat fines that are levied against them as an ordinary business expense.
[E]. Businesses are leaning to exploit the public's environmental awareness in promoting themselves.
Answer: A

The conclusion that we are to weaken is a prediction: that businesses at risk of suffering environmental accidents will now install safeguards, on the seemingly sensible rationale that it’s now more expensive to pay a fine than to prevent an accident in the first place. But that assumes, of course, that those businesses are prudent rather than gamblers by nature. If (A) is true—if businesses typically do not acknowledge the risk of accident—then why would they start installing safeguards as the author predicts? They’d be far more likely to do nothing and take their chances. (A) severs the connection between evidence and conclusion pretty effectively.

(B) is yet another irrelevant distinction—we’ve seen so many in the section so far, and indeed many Logical Reasoning wrong answers feature such. The argument makes no mention of long- vs. short-term business issues.

(C), if true, leaves us wondering whether the argument is damaged or strengthened. If, as (C) says, making good business sense is a necessary condition of business’s doing the right thing, environmentally speaking, we’re left to ask the question, “Does planning ahead for potential disaster make good business sense or doesn’t it?” If Yes, the argument is strengthened; if No, it’s weakened.

(D) is implying that businesses can write off a fine as if it’s nothing, and so they wouldn’t bother with risk prevention. However, (D) still leaves open the possibility that a fine, even seen as an “ordinary business expense,” might be so much bigger than the cost of prevention that the author’s prediction would remain in effect.

(E) Business self-promotion and public awareness—however relevant to the general issues raised—are irrelevant to the conclusion drawn.

Remember, we can only strengthen or weaken an argument on the arguer’s own terms. Choices like (B) and (E), which have nothing to do with those terms, cannot be correct.

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