Monday, June 4, 2007

The Winner-Take-All Society, by R. Frank

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 the participants on American Idol had read this book before appearing on national television.

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