THE COST OF TALENT by Derek Bok

THE COST OF TALENT

How Executives and Professionals Are Compensated and How It Affects America

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A disappointingly superficial and inconclusive critique of US pay practices. Relying mainly on secondary sources and anecdotal evidence, former Harvard president Bok (Higher Learning, 1986, etc.) first surveys the widely variant financial rewards afforded by business, education, government, law, and medicine from the turn of the century to the present. Equity apart, he deplores the fact that differentials in earnings potential have lured America's best and brightest college grads away from careers in teaching and the federal civil service. Bok goes on the castigate attorneys, corporate executives, and physicians, among others, on grounds that their superior incomes aren't determined by supply/demand forces in genuinely free markets. While the author's concerns about comparable worth have obvious economic implications, he stops short of linking compensation norms to American competitiveness (or lack thereof) in international trade. Bok also fails to employ objective data or standards in his adversarial review of income. To make his essentially populist points, he depends largely on worst-case examples and pejorative phrases--``swollen paychecks,'' ``undeserved wealth,'' ``bloated compensation,'' etc. In some cases, Bok seems to ignore inconvenient realities: He's way off the mark, for instance, in his unattributed estimate of directorial pay. Nor does his canvass of pay for performance, stiffer taxation of high incomes, industrial policies, and other means to attract more talent into the public sector carry much conviction. In summation, in fact, he merely suggests America would be well advised to examine its values and priorities. Detached analysis that sheds more heat than light on an issue of critical importance.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-02-903755-7
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993




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