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E. Read and translate the text. Match the headings with the text.

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  The role of the government


  Types of businesses


  Key sectors of the economy and their contribution towards the GDP


Historical background


  Basic ingredients of the American economic system

The modern American economy traces its roots to the quest of European settlers for economic gain in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The New World then progressed from а colonial economy to a small, independent farming economy and, eventually, to a highly complex industrial economy. The United States entered the 21st century with an economy that was bigger, and by many measures more successful, than ever.

The first ingredient of a nation's economic system is its natural resources. The United States is rich in mineral resources and fertile farm soil, and it is blessed with a moderate climate. It also has extensive coastlines on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as on the Gulf of Mexico. Rivers flow from far within the continent and the Great Lakes - five large, inland lakes along the U.S. border with Canada - provide additional shipping access. These extensive waterways have helped shape the country's economic growth over the years and helped bind America's 50 individual states together in a single economic unit.

The second ingredient is labor, which converts natural resources into goods. The number of available workers and, more importantly, their productivity help determine the health of an economy. Throughout its history, the United States has experienced steady growth in the labor force, and that, in turn, has helped fuel almost constant economic expansion. Today, Americans consider "human capital" a key to success in numerous modern, high-technology industries. As a result, government leaders and business officials increasingly stress the importance of education and training to develop workers with the kind of nimble minds and adaptable skills needed in new industries such as computers and telecommunications.




But natural resources and labor account for only part of an economic system. These resources must be organized and directed as efficiently as possible.

Today, the American economy boasts a wide array of enterprises, ranging from one-person sole proprietorships to some of the world's largest corporations. Most businesses are sole proprietorships - that is, they are owned and operated by a single person. Another way to start or expand a venture is to create a business partnership with two or more co-owners. Successful small businesses can sometimes grow through a practice known as franchising and chain stores. In a typical franchising arrangement, a successful company authorizes an individual or small group of entrepreneurs to use its name and products in exchange for a percentage of the sales revenue. Some individual proprietors have joined forces with others to form chains of their own or cooperatives. Often, these chains serve specialized, or niche, markets.

A particular strength of small businesses is their ability to respond quickly to changing economic conditions. They often know their customers personally and are especially suited to meet local needs. Small businesses - computer-related ventures in California's "Silicon Valley" and other high-tech enclaves, for instance - are a source of technical innovation. Many computer-industry innovators began as "tinkerers," working on hand-assembled machines in their garages, and quickly grew into large, powerful corporations. Small companies that rapidly became major players in the national and international economies include the computer software company Microsoft; the package delivery service Federal Express; sports clothing manufacturer Nike; the computer networking firm America OnLine; and ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's.

Although there are many small and medium-sized companies, big business units play a dominant role in the American economy. In the United States, most large businesses are organized as corporations. A corporation is a specific legal form of business organization, chartered by one of the 50 states and treated under the law like a person.




The Unites States is said to have a mixed economy because privately owned businesses and government both play important roles. The American free enterprise system emphasizes private ownership. Private businesses produce most goods and services, and almost two-thirds of the nation’s total economic output goes to individuals for personal use (the remaining one-third is bought by government and business). The consumer role is so great, in fact, that the nation is sometimes characterized as having a “consumer economy”.

The role of government in the American economy extends far beyond its activities as a regulator of specific industries, notably energy and agriculture. The government also manages the overall pace of economic activity, seeking to maintain high levels of employment and stable prices. It has two main tools for achieving these objectives: fiscal policy, through which it determines the appropriate level of taxes and spending; and monetary policy, through which it manages the supply of money. The Fed, the independent U.S. central bank, manages the money supply and use of credit (monetary policy), while the president and Congress adjust federal spending and taxes (fiscal policy).




The best way to understand the U.S. economy is by looking at GDP, which is the statistic used to measure the economy. In other words, the U.S. economy, as measured by GDP, is everything produced by all the people and all the companies in the U.S. 2007 GDP – the total output of goods and services – was three times the size of the next largest economy, Japan. US dominance has been eroded however by the creation of the EU common market, which has an equivalent GDP of over $13 trillion, and by the rapid growth of the BRIC economies, in particular China. The recent failure in the US housing and credit markets has also resulted in a slowdown in the US economy.

In common with most developed countries, services is the key sector of the economy. It contributes nearly 67.8% towards the GDP of the country. Information, retail, scientific, technical and professional services form the major parts of this sector. Out of all the services, wholesale and retail trade comes up as the leading business areas. If net income is taken into consideration, then finance and insurance services take the lead.

In 2007, the service sector contributed almost 78.5% and the industrial sector contributed 20.5% towards USA’s GDP. Petroleum, chemicals, fertilizers, electronic goods, mining are some of the chief industries of this sector.

Though agriculture is a major industry, yet its contribution is only 1% towards the GDP. Today it increasingly has become an “agribusiness”. Agribusiness includes a variety of farm businesses and structures, from small, one-family corporations to huge conglomerates or multinational firms that own large tracts of land or that produce goods and materials used by farmers. Over the last 50 years production doubled, while farm numbers dropped by more than two-thirds.

Labor, agriculture, small businesses, large corporations, financial markets, the Federal Reserve System, and government all interact in complex ways to make America's economic system work.

But, as the late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy, the brother of President John F. Kennedy, explained in 1968, economic matters are important, but gross national product "does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud to be Americans."

Extracts from An Outline of the U.S. Economy


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