Political scientist: As a political system, democracy does not promote political freedom. There are historical examples of democracies that ultimately resulted in some of the most oppressive societies. Likewise, there have been enlightened despotisms and oligarchies that have provided a remarkable level of political freedom to their subjects.
The reasoning in the political scientist’s argument is flawed because it
confuses the conditions necessary for political freedom with the conditions sufficient to bring it about
fails to consider that a substantial increase in the level of political freedom might cause a society to become more democratic
appeals to historical examples that are irrelevant to the causal claim being made
overlooks the possibility that democracy promotes political freedom without being necessary or sufficient by itself to produce it
bases its historical case on a personal point of view
Explanation for Question 5
This question asks you to identify how the reasoning in the political scientist’s argument is flawed. The argument bases its conclusion—that democracy does not promote political freedom—on two sets of historical examples. The first set of examples demonstrates that democracy is not sufficient for political freedom, and the second set demonstrates that democracy is not necessary for political freedom. But it does not follow from these examples that democracy does not promote political freedom. Even if democracy is not, by itself, sufficient for political freedom, it can still promote political freedom by contributing to it in most instances. Even if democracy is not necessary for political freedom, it can still be true that democracy is something that promotes political freedom wherever it is found. Thus, (D) is the correct response.
Response (A) is incorrect. The political scientist’s argument does not indicate that any particular conditions are necessary for political freedom, nor does it indicate that any particular conditions are sufficient to bring about political freedom. Thus the argument could not be said to confuse these two sorts of conditions. Rather, the political scientist’s argument attempts to demonstrate that democracy does not promote political freedom on the grounds that democracy is neither necessary nor sufficient for bringing about political freedom.
Response (B) is incorrect. The argument does fail to consider whether a substantial increase in the level of political freedom would cause a society to become more democratic, but this does not constitute a flaw in its reasoning. The truth of the claim that increased political freedom causes greater democratization would not by itself undermine the political scientist’s conclusion that democracies do not promote political freedom. Nor does that claim engage with the argument’s premises, which are concerned with the effect of democracy on political freedom, not the effect of political freedom on democracy.
Response (C) is incorrect. The “causal claim being made” could only be the argument’s conclusion that democracy does not promote political freedom, which denies that there is a causal connection between democracy and political freedom. The historical examples in the argument are relevant to this claim, however. These examples are an important part of the larger body of historical evidence that one would look to when investigating the issue of whether democracy promotes political freedom.
Response (E) is also incorrect. The political scientist does not express a personal point of view or base the historical examples on such a view. On the contrary, the historical examples themselves are an impersonal, though flawed, basis for the argument’s conclusion.
This was a difficult question, based on the number of test takers who answered it correctly when it appeared on the LSAT.