Luxury Fever: Why Money Fails to Satisfy In An Era of Excess

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9780684842349: Luxury Fever: Why Money Fails to Satisfy In An Era of Excess

Robert Frank caused a national debate in 1995 when he and co-author Philip Cook described the poisonous spread of "winner-take-all" markets. Now he takes a thought-provoking look at the flip side of spreading inequality: as the super-rich set the pace, everyone else spends furiously in a competitive echo of wastefulness. Frank offers the first comprehensive and accessible summary of scientific evidence that our spending choices are not making us as happy and healthy as they could. Furthermore, he argues that human frailty is not at fault. The good news is that we can do something about it. We can make it harder for the super-rich to overspend, and capture our own competitive energy for the public good. Luxury Fever boldly offers a way to curb the excess and restore the true value of money.

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Review:

Luxury Fever: Why Money Fails to Satisfy in an Era of Excess is a serious examination of the long-term costs associated with our society's ever-accelerating spiral of conspicuous consumption, followed by a far-reaching remedy that will intrigue anyone concerned with related fiscal issues. Robert Frank, a Cornell University professor of economics, ethics, and public policy, who previously coauthored The Winner-Take-All Society, believes neither foolishness nor greed is really responsible for our relentless desire to own flashier household appliances, bigger sport-utility vehicles, and fancier suburban houses; rather, he contends, it is the ongoing behavior of our peers which ultimately determines how much we spend and how we spend it. Frank goes on to claim, however, that this knowledge alone may actually point us toward an alternative that is both acceptable and practical. "By a simple and easily achieved rearrangement of our current consumption incentives," he writes, "we can effectively enrich ourselves by literally trillions of dollars a year." He then goes on to discuss the recent boom in luxury spending, its potential implications for those at all income levels, his suggestions for altering current consumption patterns, and the reasons that redirecting these funds could benefit everyone. --Howard Rothman

About the Author:

Robert H. Frank is Goldwin Smith Professor of Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at Cornell University. He is the co-author with Philip J. Cook of The Winner-Take-All Society (Free Press, 1995) and a frequent contributor to The American Prospect. He lives in Ithaca, New York.

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