The winner-take-all society: how more and more Americans compete for ever fewer and bigger prizes, encouraging economic waste, income inequality, and an impoverished cultural life
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 deeplydisturbing.