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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 [Kindle Edition]

Robert H Frank , Philip J Cook
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"One of the ten best business books of the year" (Business Week)

"A major contribution to the debate about the 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)

"[Frank] makes an excellent populariser, with a lucid writing style and a willingness not to take himself too seriously" (Guardian)

Book Description

New from the bestselling author of The Economic Naturalist - now published in the UK for the first time

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 619 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0140259953
  • Publisher: Virgin Digital (3 Jun 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003PJ6FSY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #423,444 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious and lacking in any real conclusion 6 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book seems to miss entirely the point that life is not and should not be judged on a strict monetary cost/benefit basis. People are not motivated solely by money. People who strive to reach the top and narrowly fail are not necessarily wasting their time. They might well benefit greatly from having made the effort and from the experience gained. And that benefit could be a monetary one but not necessarily. Sadly, the book struck me as a thinly disguised example of the economics of envy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good if a little dated 2 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Although a little dated Frank provides a very useful critique of how neo-liberal capitalism has created an ever greater level of inequality within most modern societies.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a Winner take All Economy, 23 Aug 1998
By A Customer
As CEO of the Santa Felite Corporation, I feel that it is impossible to understand the economy of the United States with out this book. I've had some of the same thoughts as these authors for quite a few years now. One of the top ten books of the century, I think I can.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good to read 20 Dec 2010
By kpwxx
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book for a university module: 'The economics of film and television'. I was very much a beginner with economics, having not taken anything to do with it before, but I really enjoyed this book.

I found it easy to understand, but not because the ideas were really basic- just because it was written so well. It was really nice to read, enjoyable; like proper authors, not just people who are good at economics.

It was also quite compelling- I'm no expert at the topic, but still, they managed to persuade me to their point of view pretty easily!

Thoroughly recommend, either if you're studying the topic or just fancy a nice read on the subject area, from beginners to experts.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Explanation for the Growing Economic Inequality 2 Oct 2002
By Dale Susan Brown - Published on
The basic premise of this book is that the U.S. has too many markets where the "star" or top performer gets a large percentage of the proceeds. Examples are the sports market, the movie star market and the publishing market; The reasons given are;
-Technology. National distribution channels such as network television make it easier for an individual to penetrate the market. For example, at one time villages and towns had their own musicians. Now a singer can make a CD and sell it nationally.
-Falling transportation and tariff costs. Goods have gotten lighter. It is easier to send computer discs all over the world than books. CD's are lighter than phonograph records
-- Mental shelf space constraints. We have a limit to the number of items we can keep in our head..."the amount of information we can actually use is thus a declining fraction of the total information available."
-Weakening of regulations and civil society. At one time, informal and formal rules limited the winner take all markets. Now, like free agents in baseball, the top performers have the leverage to demand high prices.
-Self-reinforcing processes. This is another way of saying "success begets success." For example, a sales person does well and gets bigger customers. A person does well and the word of mouth referral causes them to saturate the market. This virtuous cycle increases the income and power of top performers.
The author argues that winner take all markets are not good for society. People are unrealistically optimistic about their own chances of winning "a prize." Thus they are siphoned off from other productive endeavors.
This book was helpful to me in understanding today's economy and job market. If anything, the winners are doing better than ever today, long after the book was published. Just take a look at the latest article on CEO salaries.
41 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provoking book that goes steadily downhill 24 Sep 2006
By Stan Vernooy - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The first half to 2/3 of this book makes some very good points that have escaped most of the popular discussions of economic issues. The authors point out, persuasively in my opinion, that certain industries and professions have "winner-take-all" characteristics that pervert the usual reward/punishment consequences of free-market economic policies.

The markets for which the authors have the strongest evidence of "winner take all" characteristics are presented earliest. As the book goes on, however, it falls into the same pattern of thousands of books before it: the authors have made one important and interesting observation, and they proceed to claim that virtually everything in the world that they disapprove of can be accounted for by this one observation. They assume, without plausible evidence, that the declines in education and popular culture are the direct consequence of winner-take-all markets. In a couple of cases they even admit that the evidence for winner-take-all characteristics in a particular industry or occupation is scanty or even nonexistent. But that doesn't prevent them from offering further arguments and policy recommendations based on the assumption that every one of these markets is dominated by winner-take-all distortions.

By the end of this book, where the authors make policy recommendations, they come close to leaving reality behind. They make these recommendations based on the assumptions that the **entire economy** is dominated by winner-take-all characteristics - a proposition for which they offer no evidence whatever. It is hard to escape the impression that their goal in writing this book was to justify a more socialistic economic policy on the part of the government, rather than to evenhandedly examine and explain an important issue.

In short: read the first of half of this book, because it makes a lot of worthwhile points and observations. Read most of the rest if you're retired or have a lot of free time. Skip the last chapter, with their policy recommendations.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Commentary from a Chicago school follower 16 May 2000
By Lewis Gainor - Published on
This book is very well written, presenting an argument questioning some of the assumptions that the neo-classical economists make regarding human behavior. While I formerly thought that the outcome of a free market is always socially optimal, I cannot resist the conclusion after reading Frank that some regulations are necessary to divert us from our tendency to engage in arms races for relative status into other more productive activities. The book presents a sound argument for why popular culture has degraded so, and why some people make grossly large incomes, explaining each not on sociological grounds, but rather in terms of the increasing scope and competitiveness of markets. It is not technical in style, so even an Econ B.A. like myself can understand it in its totality (or anyone else, for that matter). The book promises in the beginning to demonstrate who there is not necessary a trade off between equity and efficiency, and in the end, it delivers. More than anything, if you look at the salary of an NBA player and question, "Is his jumpshot really worth $50 million/year? Are we paying him for something that is socially valuable?" then this book is for you. Frank's answer to that question is NO, and that incomes like those induce people to make erroneous career choices (like students who opt for playing hoops over studying math). The result of the free market then, is wasted talent that could have been useful in another application. MIZZOU ECON RULES!
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some Amusing, Yet Very Scary and Disturbing Truths 16 Sep 2002
By Gregory McMahan - Published on
Frank and Cook�s book, The Winner Take All Society, forces us to reconsider our position on the inherent good of the free market in light of newly emerging forms of destructive, albeit free, competition and growing income inequality. Written in the vein of a thinly veiled rebuke of the moral and social decline of the American economy and society, the book appears to focus too much on specific individuals, and merely states a few implications for society as a whole. In my mind, what the authors posit as the verities for individuals and corporations under a winner take all banner just as readily applies to the nation and ultimately, the world. Taking their arguments one step further, advances in high technology, such as the internet and telecommunications, have increased productivity, transformed labor markets all over the world, and created uniform standards for goods and services that can now be consumed anywhere in the world. In effect, technology has made the world a similar, smaller place. Thus, what is true economically in America now is most likely true elsewhere, though cultural differences still remain.
While winner take all markets can, with the aid of technology, make the goods and services of the few available to everyone in the world, they also have many negative consequences. Winner take all markets magnify the consequences of first mover advantages, making it difficult, if not impossible, for those late to the competition, be they corporations or countries, to establish themselves. Winner take all markets continue to increase the disparity between wealthy, industrialized countries of the North and the impoverished, besieged economies of the South. Winner take all markets continuously lure our most talented individuals into socially unproductive and often individually and socially destructive tasks. Many of the world�s economies already invest too little for the future, be they nations struggling to develop (such as those on the African continent), or fully industrialized nations (such as the United States), and the growth of winner take all markets has encouraged wasteful patterns of investment and consumption. Finally, winner take all markets have the proven ability to undermine what is in the best interests of our culture and society, and given the terrifying ability of winner-take-all markets to rigidly engender and enforce conformity, standardization, and one-upmanship, this growing phenomenon can only be counter-productive and disruptive to the efforts of indigenous peoples to maintain and preserve their fragile and threatened cultures.
Quite literally, in winner-take-all competitions, the rules really are there are no rules. As such, these competitions lead people to do very crazy things. When large payoffs are at stake and there is a very real certainty of the loser(s) getting absolutely nothing for their effort, contestants have powerful incentives to spend money to enhance their chances of winning, and have little or no moral compunction to exercise restraint and sensibility in their behavior. This is especially the case where unfettered, free competition is the rule and covenants and/or regulations to ensure orderly, equitable markets are not the norm.
Thus, there seems to be an inverse, negative relationship between investment in these all or nothing competitions and their (social) value to the larger group. As the pace of investment, size of the investment and the risk associated with the investment in the winner take all competition increases, the social and economic value of the competition steadily decreases. While these investments look justifiable from the individual�s or nation�s standpoint, especially if there is a considerable chance that the individual stands to win, and win big, the concomitant dueling that these investments fuel almost always appears excessive from the standpoint of the society. As such, these all-or nothing competitions have led to a plethora of economic versions of military arms races between individuals, corporations and nations.
Although one could surmise much of the content from experience and simple common sense, I generally found the book to be a straightforward and thought-provoking read. Yet, many of the examples demonstrating the extent to which such competitions have infiltrated all aspects of our economic life, as well as the often ridiculous, comical and increasingly desperate attempts by individuals to thrive in these all-or-nothing environments, profoundly scared and disturbed me. The authors could have done away with the last chapter, a rehashing of the same old remedies to the problem, and written a much better ending which could have summarized the main points of the book and discussed their implications, going forward, for all participants in the new global economy.
In conclusion, these all-or-nothing competitions have steadily become �the only game in town�. Yet, I seriously doubt that these dangerous economic games are really worth playing.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Book by 2 Top Notch Economists 12 Aug 2006
By Matthew Rafat - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book basically says that the rat race is harmful and we should constrain spending, because happiness isn't really what we have, but what our neighbor has; therefore, by creating incentives to spend less, we can create a trickle-down effect of less consumption and have more time and less coarseness in culture. The only problem is that the authors--as bright as they are--do not spend much time explaining exactly how a consumption tax would work. One gets the feeling that they felt going into specific details was inappropriate for a mass-market book. Along the way, we also learn about fun variations on game theory, the predecessor to Paris Hilton, and some prescient warnings on steroids. Despite the negative comments about lawyers in the book, I enjoyed it very much. The author reminds his readers, through facts and research, to be more humble and to remember that because the number of top positions is few in the U.S., it cannot be the case that all our dreams will be realized. While depressing on the surface, one may wish some of the participants on American Idol had read this book before appearing on national television.
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