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Jul 06 2014, 15:25 IST
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SummaryWhile everyone wants to be ahead in the quest for power, money and recognition, there are strong tradeoffs along the way, A Bigger Prize reveals

how the private enterprise ethic does not quite provide the best solutions and, in the end, we do realise that what we need is team effort of a collaborative approach to move ahead. A long time back, Henry Ford actually paid higher wages to his employees and compromised on profit to ensure that the labour force stayed back. He recognised that we need to pay our employees if we have to keep a consuming class.

This is what several economies also experience when they follow the top-down approach and focus on making the rich richer—something Thomas Piketty has shown as being prevalent in western economies. But we need to provide equal opportunity and income to people at the lower ends to ensure that they provide the demand for capitalists. In fact, if one looks at the Indian schemes of providing income through the controversial NREGA programme, it did add to purchasing power and growth for everyone. Quite clearly, the author indicates that policymakers have to look everywhere to ensure there is prosperity or countries cannot progress.

Heffernan also addresses the issue of the ‘why’ of competition, which is quite interesting. It could be sheer testosterone and this explains why men tend to be more competitive. But still, one does not know why some men are more competitive than others. Similarly, it has been proved through experiments that the kind of society we live in could also drive this spirit. A female-dominated society will see women being more competitive. Risk-aversion is another factor, which determines the degree of competitiveness.

Power struggle or the quest for power is another factor, which has driven competition and, here, the author talks a bit on the champion of free thinking and capitalism, Ayn Rand. It all comes down to individuals, companies or societies craving for recognition, acceptance, attention and admiration, which force them to become more competitive at any cost.

What have we seen in the last few years on account of unbridled competition? Dilapidated institutions and ideas have crash-landed, driven excessively by competitive spirit. We have witnessed financial corrosion, financial crashes and stalled politics, which have been a result of the competitive spirit. Companies have worked their way up by pushing employees to increase the profit lines to make investors happy. It has become a mad dog-eat-dog world and what matters is to be at the top. The quest has been for infinite efficiency, miraculous economies,

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