Book Review- The Winner-Take-All Society

The Winner-Take-All Society
by Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook, 1995


A 1990’s primer on increasing economic inequality and the rise of markets in which small relative differences in ability lead to huge differences in income. Things have only gotten more extreme. It’s written from an academic point of view, so there are more data and facts than the typically business book.

While many of the trends in this book are worrisome, I don’t see many ways to counter the proliferation of winner-take-all. With easier access to the best in the world in most fields, the demand for the best has skyrocketed while the demand for “good enough” has fallen off. “Arms Control Agreements”, the topic of Chapter 9, describe ways that various fields try to dampen competition for the top spot (e.g. salary caps and tests for performance enhancing drugs in sports), but most of these agreements are terribly hard to patrol. There is always incentive to deviate from the agreement to gain a leg up in obtaining top ability/talent, similar to the incentive to deviate in the prisoner’s dilemma.

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