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RC practice Passage with Explanation -18

The recurring theme of equality in the United States has flared into a fervent moral issue at crucial stages: the Revolutionary and Jacksonian periods, the Civil War, the populist and progressive eras, the New Deal, and the 1960s and 1980s. The legitimacy of American society is challenged by some set of people unhappy with the degree of equality. New claims are laid, new understandings are reached, and new policies for political or economic equality are instituted. Yet the equality issue endures outside these moments of fervor. Ideologies in favor of extending equality are arrayed against others that would limit its scope; advocates of social justice confront defenders of liberty.

In the moments of egalitarian ascendancy, libertarians are on the defensive. In the moments of retrenchment, egalitarians cling to previous gains. And in either period the enemy is likely to be the "special interests " that have too much power. In egalitarian times, these are the moneyed interests. In times of retrenchment, these are labor or big government and its beneficiaries.

The moments of creedal passion, in Samuel Huntington's words, have usually been outbursts of egalitarianism. In part, the passion springs from the self—interest of those who would benefit from a more equal distribution of goods or political influence. But the passion also springs from ideology and values, including deep religious justifications for equality.

The passion accompanying the discovery or rediscovery that ideals do not match reality is particularly intense when the ideal is as deeply felt as is equality. Yet there can be passion on the nonegalitarian side as well. The self—interested passion to protect an established position may be even more powerful than the passion to redress inequality, though its expression may be more muted.

Devotion to inequality may also be based on ideals, such as liberty, individualism, and the free market, which are no less ancient and venerable. Like the ideals of equality, these alternative ideals serve as yardsticks for measuring whether society has moved away from its true principles.

Yet the spirit of reform during Reconstruction dissipated in the face of spent political struggles, sluggish social institutions, and outright mendacity. Society's entrepreneurial energy was channeled into economic activity, and the courts failed to endorse many of the reformers' grandest visions. The egalitarian thrust of the Populists around the turn of the century inspired an anti—egalitarian counterthrust over the next two decades.

Americans do not have an ideology that assigns clear priority to one value over any other. At every historical juncture where equality was an issue, its proponents failed to do all that they had set out to do. Swings in the equality of social conditions are restrained not just by institutional obstacles but by fundamental conflicts of values that are a traditional element of American politics. Faith in the individualistic work ethic and belief in the legitimacy of unequal wealth retard progression to the egalitarian left. As for conservatism, the indelible tenet of political equality firmly restrains the right and confirms a commitment to the disadvantaged. In seeking equal opportunity over equal result, Americans forego a ceiling, not a floor.


Suppose there is a government plan to raise taxes to pay for more social programs for the disadvantaged. If the information that the author presents in the passage about libertarians is correct, how would libertarians be expected to react this plan?

[A] They would support the plan because they think that the government should help the disadvantaged.
[B] They would condemn the plan because they do not think that the government should use its power to redistribute wealth.
[C] They would neither support nor condemn the plan because it does not address political values.
[D] They would call on the government to let private welfare agencies look after the disadvantaged
Option: 2

Why does the author talk about libertarians? To describe an ideal that tends to conflict with equality, the principle behind the action in the question. Libertarians would probably therefore attack the plan precisely because it was promoting equality. (B) says the same.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. Libertarians as the author describes them think just the opposite.

(C): Opposite. The author clearly thinks that libertarians would have an opinion on an action that runs counter to their principles.

(D): Distortion. Though they'd support private enterprise, they wouldn't support private enterprise promoting an ideal contrary to their own.


The existence of which of the following would most strongly challenge the author's view about the American public's ideology?

[A] A study that demonstrates that Americans have always favored equality above all other political values
[B] A book that asserts that Americans have always believed in the economic principle of unequal wealth
[C] An article that suggests that Americans are willing to support the taxation of the rich in order to assist the poor
[D] A lecture that shows that Americans have grown increasingly tolerant of minority political views since the turn of the century
Option: 1

The author talks about the American public's ideology throughout the passage, but most thoroughly in the last paragraph. When hitting the answer choices, start with the most likely paragraph and work from there. In this case, (A) rewards you immediately for the prediction: The point of the last paragraph is that America is bound by several more—or—less equal ideals, a view that (A) would certainly challenge.

Wrong answers:

(B): Opposite. The author mentions this in paragraph 6.

(C): Opposite. This is also suggested in paragraph 6 by the "commitment to the disadvantaged. "

(D): Out of Scope. Increased tolerance of minority views would have no effect on the author's argument about balanced American ideologies.


In political discussions, the word enemy is bandied about with little regard for its precise meaning. In the context of the passage, the word, as used in the second passage, refers to:

[A] those who are associated with the political left.
[B] those who promote the redistribution of America's wealth.
[C] those who oppose the prevailing view of American equality.
[D] those who favor a return to populist and progressive ideals.
Option: 3

Hit the passage to read the phrase in context. The author is using the phrase to refer to the opponents of the drives towards equality. Choice (C) fits perfectly.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. The political left would promote equality, since equality is the progressive viewpoint of the times the author refers to in this paragraph.

(B): Opposite. This would also be in keeping with the proponents of equality rather than "the enemy " of that ideal.

(D): Faulty Use of Detail. This distorts the discussion of these keywords in paragraph 1, which have nothing to do with the contrast the author sets up here.


According to the passage, none of the following statements are true EXCEPT:

[A] the political upheaval of the Civil War increased the popularity of progressive ideals among the American public.
[B] eras of egalitarian reform in American history have been followed by eras of retrenchment.
[C] those who endorse nonegalitarian ideals have generally been less committed to their position than those who endorse egalitarian ideals.
[D] special interests have always had too much political power within the American government.
Option: 2

First keep track of all the negatives in the question! You're actually looking for the one true statement. Choice (B) summarizes the point of paragraph 6 that pushes towards equality lead to backlashes.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. The author would argue that fervor for equality during the Civil War would lead to a backlash against it rather than an increase in support for it.

(C): Opposite. The point of paragraph 4 is that passion can exist equally on both sides of the debate.

(D): Out of Scope. The author mentions special interests in paragraph 2 but doesn't argue that they always have too much power. In fact, they seem to fluctuate in power and identity depending on the dominating ideal of the time.


A history professor contends that American egalitarian movements have been motivated entirely by selfish concerns. Which of the following best characterizes the relevance of this information to the passage?

[A] It is not relevant to the author's claim about the motives of those movements.
[B] It completely supports the author's claim about the motives of those movements.
[C] It completely contradicts the author's claim about the motives of those movements.
[D] It partly contradicts the author's claim about the motives of those movements.
Option: 4

Where does the author talk about motives? Check your map and go back to paragraph 3. If pushes for equality were always born out of selfish motives, the author's argument would be half wrong in that he cites selfish and unselfish reasons. Choice (D) says just that.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. The author definitely takes on this subject in the passage, so it must have an effect on the argument.

(B): Distortion. It does support one of the two claims...

(C): Distortion. ...and contradicts the other.


In an effort to gain support for their respective causes, egalitarians and libertarians claim that powerful "special interests " oppose their policies. This claim seems most likely to be:

[A] perhaps false, given the information presented in the passage.
[B] perhaps true, and supported by information presented in the passage.
[C] perhaps true, but not supported by any information presented in the passage.
[D] necessarily false, given the information presented in the passage.
Option: 2

Search back for the text on special interests in paragraph 2. Scanning the answer choices vertically shows you what you're looking for: true or false with a cause. The author seems to be sympathetic to the claim he cites, identifying the special interests as powerful forces with something to lose and a motive for opposition. Subsequent paragraphs provide some support for the claim. This narrows it down to (B).

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. The information in the passage supports the claim that action meets with an opposite reaction.

(C): Distortion. The author cites periods of backlash in paragraph 6 as support for the claim.

(D): Opposite. The author doesn't refute the contention at all.


The author would see all of the following as not uncharacteristic of American Society EXCEPT:

[A] uneven distribution of wealth and power.
[B] recurring interest in issues of equality.
[C] an ideology that clearly recognizes some values as more important than others.
[D] passion toward maintaining inequality.
Option: 3

Again, watch the negatives in the question stem—you're looking for the choice that is uncharacteristic. Keep the map in mind, and eliminate three characteristics or search for the odd one out. While three are scattered throughout the passage, (C) contradicts the author's contention in the last paragraph that the competing ideologies more or less keep each other in check.

Wrong answers: 

(A): Opposite. This is mentioned in paragraph 7.

(B): Opposite. This is the main focus of paragraph 1.

(D): Opposite. This is the point of paragraph 4.

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