英语四级天天练2020-07-31 14:53:43


  The rise of the sharing economy

  Last night 40 000 people rented accommodation from a service that offers 250 000 rooms in 30 000 cities in 192 countries. They chose their rooms and paid for everything online. But their beds were provided by private individuals, rather than a hotel chain. Hosts and guests were matched up by Airbnb, a firm based in San Francisco. Since its launch in 2008 more than 4 million people have used it—-2.5 million of them in 2012 alone. It is the most prominent example of a huge new "sharing economy", in which people rent beds, cars, boats and other assets directly from each other, co-ordinate via the internet.

  A) You might think this is no different from running a bed-and-breakfast (家庭旅店),owning a timeshare (分时度假房)or participating in a car pool. But technology has reduced transaction costs, making sharing assets cheaper and easier than ever —and therefore possible on a much larger scale. The big change is the availability of more data about people and things, which allows physical assets to be divided and consumed as services. Before the internet, renting a surfboard, a power tool or a parking space from someone else was feasible, but was usually more trouble than it was worth. Now websites such as Airbnb, RelayRides and SnapGoods match up owners and renters; smartphones with GPS let people see where the nearest rentable car is parked; social networks provide a way to check up on people and build trust; and online payment systems handle the billing.

  What's mine is yours, for a fee

  B) Just as peer-to-peer businesses like eBay allow anyone to become a retailer, sharing sites let individuals act as an ad hoc (临时的)taxi service, car-hire firm or boutique hotel (精品酒店〉as and when it suits them. Just go online or download an app. The model works for items that are expensive to buy and are widely owned by people who do not make full use of them. Bedrooms and cars are the most obvious examples, but you can also rent camping spaces in Sweden, fields in Australia and washing machines in France. As advocates of the sharing economy like to put it, access trumps (胜过)ownership.

  C) Rachel Botsman, the author of a book on the subject, says the consumer peer-to-peer rental market alone is worth $ 26 billion. Broader definitions of the sharing economy include peer-to-peer lending or putting a solar panel on your roof and selling power back to the grid (电网).And it is not just individuals; the web makes it easier for companies to rent out spare offices an idle machines, too. But the core of the sharing economy is people renting things from each other.

  D) Such "collaborative (合作的)consumption" is a good thing for several reasons. Owners make money from underused assets. Airbnb says hosts in San Francisco who rent out their homes do so for an average of 58 nights a year, making $ 9 300. Car owners who rent their vehicles to others using RelayRides make an average of $ 250 a month; some make more than $ 1 000. Renters, meanwhile, pay less than they would if they bought the item themselves, or turned to a traditional provider such as a hotel or car-hire firm. And there are environmental benefits, too: renting a car when you need it, rather than owning one, means fewer cars are required and fewer resources must be devoted to making them.

  E) For sociable souls, meeting new people by staying in their homes is part of the charm. Curmudgeons (低脾气的人)who imagine that every renter is a murderer can still stay at conventional hotels. For others, the web fosters trust. As well as the background checks carried out by platform owners, online reviews and ratings are usually posted by both parties to each transaction, which makes it easy to spot bad drivers, bathrobe-thieves and surfboard-wreckers. By using Facebook and other social networks, participants can check each other out and identify friends (or friends of friends) in common. An Airbnb user had her apartment trashed in 2011. But the remarkable thing is how well the system usually works.

  Peering into the future

  F) The shying economy is a little like online shopping, which started in America 15 years ago. At first, people were worried about security. But having made a successful purchase from, say, Amazon, they felt safe buying elsewhere. Similarly, using Airbnb or a car-hire service for the first time encourages people to try other offerings. Next, consider eBay. Having started out as a peer-to-peer marketplace, it is now dominated by professional “power sellers" (many of whom started out as ordinary eBay users). The same may happen with the sharing economy, which also provides new opportunities for enterprise. Some people have bought cars solely to rent them out, for example.

  G) Existing rental businesses are getting involved too. Avis, a car-hire firm, has a share in a sharing rival. So do GM and Daimler, two carmakers, in future, companies may develop hybrid (混合的)models, listing excess capacity (whether vehicles,equipment or office space) on peer-to-peer rental sites. In the past, new ways of doing things online have not displaced the old way entirely. But they have often changed them. Just as internet shopping forced Wal-mart and Tesco to adapt, so online sharing will shake up transport, tourism, equipment-hire and more.

  H) The main worry is regulatory uncertainty. Will room-renters be subject to hotel taxes, for example? In Amsterdam officials are using Airbnb listings to track down unlicensed hotels. In some American cities, peer-to-peer taxi services have been banned after lobbying by traditional taxi firms. The danger is that although some rules need to be updated to protect consumers from harm, existing rental businesses will try to destroy competition. People who rent out rooms should pay tax, of course, but they should not be regulated like a Ritz-Carlton hotel. The lighter rules that typically govern bed-and- breakfasts are more than adequate.

  I) The sharing economy is the latest example of the internet's value to consumers. This emerging model is now big and disruptive (颠覆性的)enough for regulators and companies to have woken up to it. That is a sign of its immense potential. It is time to start caring about sharing.


  46. Sharing items such as cars does good to the environment.

  47. Airbnb's success clearly illustrates the emergence of a huge sharing economy.

  48. The major concern about the sharing economy is how the government regulates it.

  49. The most frequently shared items are those expensive to buy but not fully used.

  50. The sharing economy has a promising future.

  51. Online sharing will change the way business is done in transportation, travel, rentals, etc.

  52. Airbnb is a website that enables owners and renters to complete transactions online.

  53. The sharing economy is likely to go the way of online shopping.

  54. One advantage of sharing is that owners earn money from renting out items not made full use of.

  55. Sharing appeals to the sociable in that they can meet new people.

  Is College a Worthy Investment?

  A) Why are we spending so much money on college? And why are we so unhappy about it? We all seem to agree that a college education is wonderful, and yet strangely we worry when we see families investing so much in this supposedly essential good. Maybe it's time to ask a question that seems almost sacrilegious (大不敬的):is all this investment in college education really worth it?

  B) The answer, I fear, is no. For an increasing number of kids’ the extra time and money spent pursuing a college diploma will leave them worse off than they were before they set foot on campus.

  C) For my entire adult life, a good education has been the most important thing for middle-class households. My parents spent more educating my sister and me than they spent on their house, and they're not the only ones... and, of course, for an increasing number of families, most of the cost of their house i actually the cost of living in a good school district. Questioning the value of a college education seems a bit like questioning the value of happiness, or fun.

  D) The average price of all goods and services has risen about 50 percent. But the price of a college education has nearly doubled in that time. Is the education that today’s students are getting twice as good? Are new workers twice as smart? Have they become somehow massively more expensive to educate?

  E) Perhaps a bit. Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economics professor, says, ‘.I look at the data, and I see college costs rising faster than inflation up to the mid-1980s by 1 percent a year. Now I see them rising 3 to 4 percent a year over inflation. What has happened? The federal government has started dropping money out of airplanes." Aid has increased, subsidized (补贴的)loans have become available, and "the universities have gotten the money." Economist Bryan Caplan, who is writing a book about education, agrees: "It’s a giant waste of resources that will continue as long as the subsidies continue."

  F) Promotional literature for colleges and student loans often speaks of debt as an "investment in yourself." But an investment is supposed to generate income to pay off the loans. More than half of all recent graduates are unemployed or in jobs that do not require a degree, and the amount of student- loan debt carried by households has increased more than five times since 1999. These graduates were told that a diploma was all they needed to succeed, but it won't even get them out of the spare bedroom at Mom and Dad's. For many, the most visible result of their four years is the loan payments, which now average hundreds of dollars a month on loan balances in the tens of thousands.

  G) It’s true about the money—sort of. College graduates now make 80 percent more than people who have only a high-school diploma, and though there are no precise estimates, the wage premium (高出的部分)for an outstanding school seems to be even higher. But that’s not true of every student. It's very easy to spend four years majoring in English literature and come out no more employable than you were before you went in. Conversely, chemical engineers straight out of school can easily make almost four times the wages of an entry-level high-school graduate.

  H) James Heckman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, has examined how the returns on education break down for individuals with different backgrounds and levels of ability. "Even with these high prices, you’re still finding a high return for individuals who are bright and motivated," he says. On the other hand, "if you’re not college ready, then the answer is no, it's not worth it." Experts tend to agree that for the average student, college is still worth it today, but they also agree that the rapid increase in price is eating up more and more of the potential return. For borderline students, tuition (学费)rise can push those returns into negative territory.

  I) Everyone seems to agree that the government, and parents, should be rethinking how we invest in higher education—and that employers need to rethink the increasing use of college degrees as crude screening tools for jobs that don’t really require college skills. "Employers seeing a surplus of college graduates and looking to fill jobs are just adding that requirement," says Vedder. "In fact, a college degree becomes a job requirement for becoming a bar-tender."

  J) We have started to see some change on the finance side. A law passed in 2007 allows many students to cap their loan payment at 10 percent of their income and forgives any balance after 25 years. But of course, that doesn't control the cost of education; it just shifts it to taxpayers. It also encourages graduates to choose lower-paying careers, which reduces the financial return to education still further. "You’re subsidizing people to become priests and poets and so forth," says Heckman. "You may think that's a good thing, or you may not." Either way it will be expensive for the government.

  K) What might be a lot cheaper is putting more kids to work. Caplan notes that work also builds valuable skills一probably more valuable for kids who don’t naturally love sitting in a classroom. Heckman agrees wholeheartedly: **People are different, and those abilities can be shaped. That’s what we’ve learned, and public policy should recognize that."

  L) Heckman would like to see more apprenticeship-style (学徒式)programs, where kids can learn in the workplace—learn not just specific job skills, but the kind of "soft skills," like getting to work on time and getting along with a team, that are crucial for career success. "It’s about having mentors (指导者) and having workplace-based education,” he says. "Time and again I’ve seen examples of this kind of program working.

  M) Ah, but how do we get there from here? With better public policy, hopefully, but also by making better individual decisions. ‘‘Historically markets have been able to handle these things,” says Vedder, "and I think eventually markets will handle this one. If it doesn't improve soon, people are going to wake up and ask, ‘Why am I going to college?"


  46. Caplan suggests that kids who don't love school go to work.

  47. An increasing number of families spend more money on houses in a good school district.

  48. Subsidized loans to college students are a huge waste of money, according to one economist.

  49. More and more kids find they fare worse with a college diploma.

  50. For those who are not prepared for higher education, going to college is not worth it.

  51. Over the years the cost of a college education has increased almost by 100%.

  52. A law passed recently allows many students to pay no more than one tenth of their income for their college loans.

  53. Middle-class Americans have highly valued a good education.

  54. More kids should be encouraged to participate in programs where they can learn not only job skills but also social skills.

  55. Over fifty percent of recent college graduates remain unemployed or unable to find a suitable job.

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