Robert Frank

Robert H. Frank, a Cornell University economist, is a visiting faculty member at New York University?s Stern School of Business. His next book, The Economic Naturalist?s Field Guide: Common Sense Principles for Troubled Times, will be published in May.

Recent Articles

Post-Consumer Prosperity

We won't return to an economy driven by ever-increasing consumption. But by prioritizing investment and consuming less, we just might end up living better.

The economic bonfire fueled mostly by consumption in recent years has ended. As we have watched the familiar statistics plummet, with credit cards maxed out and home-equity loans a thing of the past, the reality has slowly become clear: We won't return to the economic world of 2007 anytime soon, if ever. But would we want to? In the boosterish world of CNBC, life without an ever-rising Dow Jones average and year-to-year gains in holiday-sales figures would self-evidently forecast protracted misery. Yet matters are less hopeless than they seem. There is an easily attainable future in which we consume less than at the peak of the boom and yet still enjoy far better opportunities to construct a fulfilling life for ourselves. Such optimism is possible if we look past traditional economic models, in which happiness depends primarily on absolute levels of consumption. These models assume, preposterously, that an investment banker remains just as satisfied with his twin-engine Cessna even...

Talent and the Winner-Take-All Society

Rising inequality reflects the growing importance of winner-take-all markets.

WORKS DISCUSSED IN THIS ESSAY Derek Bok, The Cost of Talent: How Executives and Professionals Are Paid and How It Affects America (Free Press, 1993) Although there was a flurry of denials from conservatives when the issue first received widespread public attention near the end of the Bush administration, there is no longer any doubt that the highest paid Americans have pulled sharply away from the rest of us. Yet despite a series of prominent books devoted to income inequality, most recently Derek Bok's The Cost of Talent , there remains little consensus on why. Many people cite changes in public policy, notably Reagan's program of tax cuts for the rich and program cuts for the poor. Others mention the decline of the labor movement, the growing impact of trade, and the downsizing of corporations. Largely unnoticed in these discussions has been a more fundamental change, namely, the growing prevalence of what Duke University economist Philip Cook and I have called "winner-take-all...