Questions 23 through 28.
Listen to part of a discussion in an economics class,
Ml: The large economic unit called the “corporation” has come to define business activity in a modem industrial-service economy. Even a mid–sized corporation employs thousands of people, serves hundreds of thousands of customers, and controls assets and does business amounting to several million dollars. The growing power of corporations has brought increased intervention by the only body with sufficient strength and scope to match corporate power. And what body is this? What has enough power to control the corporation?
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W: The government.
M1: Yes. The federal government. The economic role of the government has grown tremendously over the past century, as more and more corporate activities have come under regulation. Why has this happened?
M2: Well, to prevent fraud against stockholders, for one thing. Also, to protect customers from fraud, like false advertising,
W: To protect the workers. For example, laws against child labor… and unsafe working conditions.
MI: Yes. These are all reasons why we have government regulation of business. Not just in this country, but in most advanced industrial and service economies, governments have taken on an increasing role in economic affairs. Let’s take a minute to review what we talked about last time What are the methods that governments use to influence economic activities? Elizabeth?
W: Taxes. Taxes encourage or discourage certain kinds of economic activity. Taxes are also a way for the government to get money to spend on programs.
MI: That’s right. So … OK. there’s taxes and .. what else? Joshua?
M2: Government spending the government gives business incentives to produce certain goods or services. Also … uh … spending could take the form of a tax break, or it could be a direct payment, tike a government contract, or a grant or a subsidy.
Ml: Yes, that’s right. Governments intervene in economic activity through taxation and spending, A third method, of course, what we’ve just been talking about: regulation. There’s been a tremendous increase in the laws and regulations governing the economic affairs of complex societies like ours. Beginning in the late 1800s, our political leaders rejected the idea that “government governs best which governs least.” The government started to use its power to police the economic system. One of the first things the government did was to limit the exercise of monopoly power by regulating railroads and public utilities. After that, the government began regulating utility rates costs for telephone, electricity, fuel, and so on. Since then, a whole set of industries has come under government regulation: financial markets, the airlines, trucking, barge and water traffic, oil and natural gas pipelines, and so on. Also, in recent decades there’s been a rapid growth of social regulation. What do 1 mean by social regulation?
W: Uh ,,. things like … like laws that require a food package to list all the ingredients?
M1: Yes, that’s a good example, There are a number of laws regulating food and cosmetics. Social regulation also includes the laws that were first passed to protect workers in mines, and then workers in general. Now there are laws that protect all of society for example, regulations for air and water pollution, and for storage and disposal of hazardous materials like nuclear waste. There ate also safety standards for automobiles and consumer products, such as car scats for babies. All of these are forms of social regulation. We’ve come a long way since the days of laissez faire capitalism, when business ran free and unchecked by government. When the political leaders of the nineteenth century first started proposing regulation of business, this was considered a radical idea. However, with the passage of time, the radical ideas of that era became the accepted convictions of today The general public has come to accept and even expect these limits on capitalism.
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