The GRE Issue writing task is designed to test your ability to communicate a position on an issue effectively and persuasively. Your basic task is to analyze the issue presented, considering more than one perspective, and to develop and support your position on the issue. There is no "correct" answer. [Issue format and directions]
The following GRE-style writing prompt consists of an Issue statement followed by a directive for responding to the statement. Keep in mind: the Issue statement here is not from the official pool, and so you won't see this one on the actual GRE.
GRE Issue Prompt
Some people believe that government regulation is needed in order to ensure the safety of consumer goods, while others believe that voluntary efforts of the producers of those goods suffice.
Write a response in which you discuss which view on the issue more closely aligns with your position and explain your reasoning. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address both views expressed above.
Sample Essay (475 Words)
The extent to which government should oversee the production of goods by the private sector is a complex issue involving a tug-of-war between the interests of public safety and free enterprise. On balance, however, I tend to agree that consumer safety is best left to the private sector, given the dubious effectiveness of government regulation and the proven tendency of our corporate culture to set its own safety standards irrespective of those set by government.
One compelling argument against such regulations is that they are costly to administer and enforce, and can even be counterproductive. Government regulatory agencies tend to be unwieldy bureaucracies; thus administrative delays can frustrate the purpose of regulations, particularly those designed to curb activities that pose an immediate threat to the public's safety or health. Moreover, the costs of administering and enforcing government regulations are passed on to the same taxpayer-citizens whom the regulations are designed to protect, thereby countervailing their value.
A second compelling argument against such regulations is that they are ineffectual when it comes to large corporations, which have the power and financial resources to undermine them. Specifically, in my observation the private sector tends to view potential civil and criminal penalties simply as business risks to be weighed against the potential profit accruing by violating the law. Two other responses to government regulation are common as well: circumventing them by relocating to places where it is legal to produce harmful products, and lobbying lawmakers to modify or repeal regulations that serve to reduce profitability.
Those who disagree with my view might argue that, left unfettered by regulation, private enterprises will naturally sacrifice product safety for profit — because the profit motive is what drives them. Thus absent product-safety regulations, the argument goes, consumers would find themselves in constant peril of injury, illness, and even death.
However, this argument overlooks the offsetting economic and social benefits of free enterprise. By maximizing profits, businesses provide jobs, stimulate the economy, and facilitate innovation and progress. The argument also ignores the fact that many corporations today actually go further than regulations require in ensuring that their products are safe. Many car manufacturers, for instance, design their automobiles to exceed government safety guidelines. Admittedly, such safety measures are probably born not of social conscience but of self-interest; after all, consumer-friendly products attract consumers and thus can enhance longer-term profits. Regardless of the motive, however, the empirical evidence is that businesses produce safe goods whether or not they are subject to government regulation.
In conclusion, I acknowledge that the private sector's profit motive is not about to yield to a collective social conscience any time soon. Nevertheless, given the ineffectiveness of government regulation and the economic benefits of a laissez-faire economic system, product-safety issues are best resolved by the producers of products — and ultimately by consumers who choose to buy or not buy them.
The U.S. economic system of free enterprise operates according to five main principles: the freedom to choose our businesses, the right to private property, the profit motive, competition, and consumer sovereignty.
Freedom to Choose Our Businesses
In this country, the decision whether or not you should go into computer services or any other kind of enterprise (business) is basically yours alone to make. You will decide what fees to charge and what hours to work. Certain laws prohibit you from cheating or harming your customers or other people. But, in general, you will be left alone to run your business as you see fit.
Right to Private Property
Private property is a piece of land, a home, or a car owned by an individual, a family, or a group. It differs from a public building, or public property, such as the city hall, a park, or a highway, all of which provide a government service for all citizens. In the U.S. economic system, people's right to buy and sell private property is guaranteed by law. People must use the property in safe and reasonable ways, of course. In setting up computer systems for your customers, for example, you do not have the right to interfere with the electrical, telephone, or computer systems of other people.
The main reason why you or any enterprising person organizes a business is to make money. You do this by earning more money than you spend. The amount of money left over after subtracting your business expenses from your business income is known as your profit. In the free enterprise system, business firms try hard to keep costs down and increase their income from sales. The better they succeed at this, the higher are their profits. Economists describe the efforts by business firms to earn the greatest profits as the profit motive.
Just as you are free to start a computer business, so is everyone else. The rivalry between sellers in the same field for consumers' dollars is called competition. If your business is profitable, it is likely that others will enter the same business hoping to be as successful as you are. They will be competing with you for the same customers. To win a share of the computer business, other sellers may try to offer more and better services, or services at lower prices. Because of the pressure of competition, business firms must constantly try to provide the best services and create the best products at the lowest possible prices.
In the end, it is the customers, or consumers, who determine whether any business succeeds or fails. In the U.S. free enterprise economy, consumers are said to have sovereignty-the power or freedom to have final say. Consumers are free to spend their money for Product X or for Product Y. If they prefer Y over X, then the company making X may lose money, go out of business, or decide to manufacture something else (perhaps Product Z). Thus, how consumers choose to spend their dollars causes business firms of all kinds to produce certain goods and services and not others.
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