In the most revealing study yet undertaken of compensation practices in the fields of business, law, medicine, higher education, teaching, and government, Derek Bok, renowned for his extensive writings on professional ethics, law, and labor relations, argues persuasively that the compensation paid to top executives, lawyers, and doctors cannot be justified, nor is there evidence that huge bonuses and other financial incentives motivate them to do better work. Moreover, Bok asserts, the lucrative rewards of Wall Street, the elite law firms, and the medical specialties act as a magnet to deprive poorly paid but vitally important teaching and public service professions of desperately needed talent.
Bok argues that as our economy becomes more complex, the demand for able, highly educated people increases constantly and takes on greater and greater importance. Losing our most talented individuals to the lure of high compensation will affect the very nature of health care, the progress of the economy, the effectiveness of public policy, the pursuit of justice, and the quality of education in America.
President Clinton's tax proposals to curb excessive executive pay now before Congress are only a first step toward reform. Bok concludes that as we enter a new period of national development, we must rethink our deepest values, motivations, and priorities -- reflected in our compensation practices -- in order to better serve America's long-term interests.