United States Foreign Service essay questions

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United States Foreign Service essay questions

Postby TerraFrost » Thu Nov 06, 2008 2:47 am

From a pamphlet I picked up from the United States Foreign Service booth at a career fair:

  1. Although rates for violent crime have fallen in the last few years, as a society we must continue to be concerned about existing crime rates and how to prevent violent crimes from occurring. Some argue that the most effective means of preventing crime is to expand the police forces, particularly in large urban areas, and put more police officers on the street. Others argue that more effective gun control laws are still needed to reduce the number and kinds of guns available to criminals. Still others argue that imposing stiffer legal penalties and keeping criminals in jail longer are the best means of preventing violent crime. In your view, what is the most effective public policy for preventing violent crime? Carefully explain the rationale for your position.
  2. In recent years, there have been a number of mergers between firms in entertainment, communications, publishing, banking, automobile manufacturing, and other industries. Some people think that mergers result in lower operating costs, greater efficiency, and increased productivity for businesses. Others think such mergers are beneficial because they result in enhanced services and lower costs for consumers. However, some argue that mergers are not beneficial for society because they often result in loss of jobs and may reduce people's access to goods and information. In your view, are mergers beneficial? Carefully explain the rationale for your position.

In the same vein as the answers Sarah Palin should have given, I think coming up with answers will be kinda fun, so... here's my attempt. Although I have an unfair advantage over those that would be taking the test in that I can, technically, look things up on wikipedia, I'm not going to do that.

  1. If crime were an easy problem to solve, it would have been solved, already. As the question states, some people "argue that more effective gun control laws are still needed", yet others argue that the complete opposite. Certainly there's merit to both arguments. Those that believe guns ought to be allowed believe that criminals will be deterred from committing violent crimes against people that are able to defend themselves. There are so called "castle laws" that codify this position, in fact.

    The flip side is that spur of the moment crimes can become much more lethal if the populace is armed. If someone you perceive as being intimidating approaches a trigger happy individual, that intimidating looking individual might find themselves dead, through no fault of their own, as well. So certainly gun ownership can have its drawbacks, too.

    Of course, as the saying goes, if guns are outlawed, only outlaws are going to have guns. Certainly someone guilty of multiple counts of first degree murder isn't going to have too much to worry about with a gun possession charge.

    Maybe mandatory training would encourage responsible gun ownership. Maybe a draft, like Israel's, would do an even better job. Not that drafts aren't without their drawbacks, either.

    More police presence doesn't seem like a feasible solution, either. There's a book on software engineering called "The Million Month". This book discusses how throwing more and more people at a problem often, counter intuitively enough, hinders progress. Besides, you don't want a police state. Small increases aren't going to get you that, but sufficiently large ones might.

    Impose stiffer penalties and you risk crossing over into "cruel and unusual punishment", as well. Plus, you can't very realistically imprison people, for instance, if your prisons are already overcrowded or underfunded.

    Certainly, violent crime ought to be reduced, but practical considerations dictate that it's not nearly so easy a task as it might initially appear.
  2. Free market capitalism requires competition. Mergers reduce competition and, past a point, can result in collusion, or worse, monopolies. Standard Oil engaged in so-called horizontal integration, buying up competitors, until eventually, their size was found to be problematic enough to justify their being split up into multiple entities.

    One might say that a truly free market requires companies have the freedom to buy other companies, but then again, one could say the same thing about violent crime - that the freedom on which this country was founded requires people have the freedom to enslave other people. Well, in point of fact, it doesn't.

    In short, I believe mergers are, for the most part, bad.

edit: another problem with mergers is that if a company merges too much it might become so large that it's essentially too large to fail. If an absolutely essential company with no competition (because they merged with all of their competitors) fails, you have little choice to bail it out. If, in contrast, you have lots of little companies, no one company can serve as a single point of failure - other companies can pick up the slack and can learn from the mistakes of their competitor. A company with no competitors can't learn from anyone else's mistakes because there isn't anyone else.
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