The Winner-Take-All Society: Why the Few at the Top Get So Much More Than the Rest of Us

The Winner-Take-All Society: Why the Few at the Top Get So Much More Than the Rest of Us

by Robert H. Frank, Philip J. Cook
     
 

In this book, two distinguished economists draw attention to an important and disturbing new trend that has dramatically transformed our economy in the last two decades: the spread of "winner-take-all" markets, where more and more people compete for ever fewer and bigger prizes. Such markets, where tiny differences in performance translate into huge differences in…  See more details below

Overview

In this book, two distinguished economists draw attention to an important and disturbing new trend that has dramatically transformed our economy in the last two decades: the spread of "winner-take-all" markets, where more and more people compete for ever fewer and bigger prizes. Such markets, where tiny differences in performance translate into huge differences in reward, have long been the hallmark of the performing arts and professional sports, where increasingly sophisticated recording technologies and the global reach of television have enabled millions to listen to and watch only "star" artists and athletes, leaving nothing for the also-rans. In recent years, however, winner-take-all markets have reached into virtually every part of the nation's economic life, spreading into such businesses as fashion, investment banking, and media; into professions like law and medicine; into higher education; and, increasingly, into management itself. While not for a moment denying that consumers have sometimes benefited - nobody has to listen to a second-rate soprano when virtually everyone can afford recordings of first-rate singers - Frank and Cook argue persuasively that, on balance, the result has been disastrous. They show how winner-take-all markets have dramatically widened the gap between rich and poor by concentrating all rewards among just a small handful of winners, and how they have lured some of our most talented individuals into socially unproductive and sometimes even destructive pursuits. Finally, in their relentless stress on winners - the bestselling novel, the blockbuster film, and so on - winner-take-all markets have diluted our culture in ways that many people find deeply disturbing.

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Editorial Reviews

Gilbert Taylor
If everyday avarice explained the astronomical remunerations garnered by stars and ente (info)tainers, this would be a one-page book, but economists Frank and Cook have broken down the market forces that push salaries into the stratosphere and produced some 200-odd pages on the subject. One major culprit is inherent in mass culture: when millions have a small interest in the winner's performance, however minutely superior to the runner-up's, a large reward goes to that winner (as in a golf tournament). The reward ratchets upward as the market in question becomes overcrowded with aspiring winners (as in acting), but at the end of the game, the inevitable multitude of losers are left with little reward for their efforts. Result: increasing inequality in income. If confined to arts and sports, the authors would just be telling interesting anecdotes, but the phenomenon has invaded law, business, and academia, where the pressure to win leads to sterile "positional arms races." Their solution won't appease free marketeers, who nonetheless will have nothing to object about in this economic analysis of the situation.
From the Publisher
"A major contribution to the debate about causes and consequences of inequality in America"
—The New York Times Book Review.

"Should be at the forefront of everyone's attention"
—Lester C. Thurow, Los Angeles Times

"Frank and Cook break new ground by linking the win-at-all costs mentality to economic and cultural problems."
Business Week

"A fun, informative, and provocative read"
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780028740348
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
09/15/1995
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.68(h) x 1.00(d)

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