New issues are likely to hold more significance in the coming years than the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook tackle this trend head-on in the new-to-paperback The Winner-Take-All Society: Why the Few at the Top Get So Much More Than the Rest of Us (Penguin, $12.95 paper).
Clearly, the worlds of entertainment and sports have long bestowed outrageous salaries on their star players. But, as Frank and Cook point out, economic disparity is far from limited to these fields nowadays. "In effect," write the authors, "the reward structure common in entertainment and sports . . . has now permeated many other sectors of the economy."
We're not merely talking personal incomes, either. Products with little appreciable difference in quality (for instance, the onetime rivalry between VHS- and Beta-formatted home video recorders) battle in a hypercompetitive system in which there is often only one winner (in this case, VHS).
In Frank and Cook's view, such a lopsided reward system ultimately stifles overall economic growth. The good news, however, is that the authors propose clear-headed reforms that make fairness and prosperity indispensable partners.