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【每日晨读】经济学人GRE双语阅读 经济学公司理论科斯集结令

2017年12月26日14:50 来源:互联网
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【每日晨读】经济学人GRE双语阅读 经济学公司理论科斯集结令图1

The theory of the firm——Coase call

公司理论:科斯集结令

If markets are so good at directing resources, why do firms exist?

如果市场这么擅长于指挥资源,公司是为什么而存在呢?

The first in our series on big economic ideas.

我们六大经济思想系列的第一篇。

这篇阅读材料还有MP3音频哦!下载>>传送门

One morning, an economist went to buy a shirt.

一天早上,一位经济学家去买了一件衬衫。

The one he chose was a marvel of global production.

他选了的那件衬衫是全球产品的一个奇迹。

It was made in Malaysia using German machines.

它是用德国机器在马来西亚生产的。

The cloth was woven from Indian cotton grown from seeds developed in America.

布料是用在美国研发的种子长成的印度棉花织就的。

The collar lining came from Brazil; the artificial fibre from Portugal.

领衬来自巴西;人造纤维出自葡萄牙。

Millions of shirts of every size and colour are sold every day, writes Paul Seabright, the shirt-buying economist, in his 2004 book, “The Company of Strangers”.

每天都有数百万件各种型号和花色的这种衬衫被售出,这位购买衬衫的经济学家保罗·西布莱特( Paul Seabright)在他2004年的《陌生人的团队》(The Company of Strangers)一书中写道。

No authority is in charge.

没有官方机构主导这一切。

The firms that make up the many links in the chain that supplied his shirt had merely obeyed market prices.

那些组成给他提供给了衬衫的这一链条上的许多环节的公司不过是遵守了市场价格而已。

Throwing light on the magic of market co-ordination was a mainstay of the “classical” economics of the late-18th and 19th centuries.

解释市场合作的魔力是18世纪末和19世纪的“经典”经济学的一条主线。

Then, in 1937, a paper published by Ronald Coase, a British economist, pointed out a glaring omission.

到了1937年,一篇由英国经济学家罗纳德·科斯(Ronald Coase)发表的论文指出了一个刺眼的漏洞。

The standard model of economics did not fit with what goes on within companies.

经济学的标准模型与发生在公司内部的事情不符。

When an employee switches from one division to another, for instance, he does not do so in response to higher wages, but because he is ordered to.

例如,当员工从一个部门转到另一个部门时,他这样做不是为了回应更高的工资,而是因为他奉命如此。

The question posed by Coase was profound, if awkward for economics: why are some activities directed by market forces and others by firms?

这个由科斯提出来的问题,虽然让经济学处境尴尬,影响却是深远的:为什么有的行为是由市场力量主导,有的是则是由公司主导呢?

His answer was that firms are a response to the high cost of using markets.

他的答案是:公司是对使用市场的高昂成本的一种回应。

It is often cheaper to direct tasks by fiat than to negotiate and enforce separate contracts for every transaction.

靠命令指挥任务经常要比为了没一个交易而谈判和执行单独的合同更划算。

Such “exchange costs” are low in markets for standardised goods, wrote Coase.

科斯写道,在标准化商品的市场中,这类“交易成本”(exchange costs)是低廉的。

A well-defined task can easily be put out to the market, where a contractor is paid a fixed sum for doing it.

定义明确的任务可以被轻轻松松地交于市场。在那里,签约人被付给一笔固定的钱来完成这项任务。

The firm comes into its own when simple contracts of this kind will not suffice.

当这类简单的合约不够用时,公司会转向自身。

Instead, an employee agrees to follow varied and changing instructions, up to agreed limits, for a fixed salary.

为了一笔固定的薪水,雇员会转而同意听从种类繁多和不断变化的指令。

【每日晨读】经济学人GRE双语阅读 经济学公司理论科斯集结令图2

Coase had first set out his theory while working as a lecturer in Dundee, in 1932, having spent the prior academic year in America, visiting factories and businesses.

科斯是在1932在敦提做讲师时第一次提出他的理论的,之前一个学年,他是在美国渡过的,游历了许多工厂和公司。

“The nature of the firm”, his paper, did not appear for another five years, in part because he was reluctant to rush into print.

他的论文——《公司的性质》(The nature of the firm)在那之后的5年中没有出场,部分是因为他不情愿匆忙出版。

Though widely cited today, it went largely unread at first.

尽管这篇论文如今被广泛引用,最初却乏人问津。

But a second paper, “The problem of social cost”, published in 1960, by which time he had moved to America, brought him to prominence.

但是,在他已经移居美国的1960年发表的第二篇论文——《社会成本问题》(The problem of social cost)却让他名声大振。

It argued that private bargaining could resolve social problems, such as pollution, as long as property rights are well defined and transaction costs are low (they rarely are).

这篇论文指出,只要产权有明确的定义而且(很少低廉的)交易成本低廉,私下的讨价还价能够解决污染这类社会问题。

He had been asked to expound his new theory earlier that year to a sceptical audience of University of Chicago economists.

那一年的早些时候,他曾被要求向芝加哥大学经济学家中一群持怀疑态度的听众解释他的新理论。

By the end of the evening, he had won everyone around.

到那天晚上为止,他赢得了在场的每一个人。

Coase was invited to join the university's faculty in 1964; and there he remained until his death in 2013 at the age of 102.

1964年,科斯应受邀加入这所大学,并且在那里一直执教到2013年他以102岁高龄去世为止。

In 1991 Coase was awarded the Nobel prize for economics, largely on the strength of these two papers.

1991年,主要是因为这两篇论文的力量,科斯荣获了诺贝尔经济学奖。

But as late as 1972, he lamented that “The nature of the firm” had been “much cited and little used”.

但是,早在1972年,他就曾经抱怨说,《公司的性质》“被引用了很多次,却很少被用到”。

In a strange way, Coase himself was partly to blame.

说来奇怪,这部分要怪科斯本人。

The idea of transaction costs was such a good catch-all explanation for tricky subjects that it was used to close down further inquiry.

交易成本的思想是一种如此优秀的对棘手课题的全方位的解释,以至于一度被用来封杀进一步的探讨。

In fact, Coase's paper raised as many difficult questions as it answered.

实际上,科斯的论文提出了与其回答了一样多的难题。

If firms exist to reduce transaction costs, why have market transactions at all?

如果公司是为降低交易成本存在,为什么还会有市场交易呢?

Why not further extend the firm's boundaries?

为什么不进一步扩展公司的边界呢?

In short, what decides how the economy as a whole is organised?

简言之,决定经济体是怎样作为一个整体被组织起来的是什么?

Almost as soon as Coase had wished for it, a body of more rigorous research on such questions began to flourish.

几乎就在科斯希望对这类问题的研究开花结果的同时,一批严禁的研究结出了硕果。

Central to it was the idea that it is difficult to specify all that is required of a business relationship, so some contracts are necessarily “incomplete”.

其核心观点是,列出为一种商业关系所需要的一切是困难的,因而有些合约必然是“不完整的”。

Important figures in this field include Oliver Williamson, winner of the Nobel prize in economics in 2009, and Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmstrom, who shared the prize in 2016.

这一领域的重要人物包括2009年诺贝尔经济学奖得主奥利弗·威廉姆森(Oliver Williamson) 以及在2006年分享了这一奖项的奥利弗·哈特(Oliver Hart) 和本格特·霍姆斯特罗姆(Bengt Holmstrom)。

These and other Coase apostles drew on the work of legal theorists in distinguishing between spot transactions and business relations that require longer-term or flexible contracts.

这些以及另外一些科斯的信徒,在区分现货交易和需要长期或灵活合约的商业关系时,借鉴了法理学家的研究。

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