The Tyranny of Dead Ideas:
Letting Go Of The Old Ways Of Thinking To Unleash A New Prosperity
What's the greatest threat to our economic future? The things we think we knowbut don't...
America is at a crossroads. In the face of global competition and rapid technological change, our economy is about to face its most severe test in nearly a centuryone that will make the recent turmoil in the financial system look like a modest setback by comparison. Yet our leaders have failed to prepare us for what lies ahead because they are in the grip of a set of "dead ideas" about how a modern economy should work. They wrongly believe that
In The Tyranny of Dead Ideas, Matt Miller offers a unique blend of insights from history, psychology, and economics to illuminate where today's destructive conventional wisdom came from and how it holds our country back. He also introduces us to a new way of thinkingwhat he calls "tomorrow's destined ideas"that can reinvigorate our economy, our politics, and our day-to-day lives. These destined ideas may seem counterintuitive now, but they will coalesce in the coming years in ways that will transform America.
A strikingly original assessment of our current dilemma and an indispensable guide to our future, Miller's provocative and path-breaking book reveals why it is urgent that we break the tyranny of dead ideas, for it is only by doing so that we can move beyond the limits of today's obsolete debates and reinvent American capitalism and democracy for the twenty-first century.
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Table of Contents
PART ONE: TODAY'S DEAD IDEAS
1. The Kids Will Earn More Than We Do
2. Free Trade Is "Good" (No Matter How Many People Get Hurt)
3. Your Company Should Take Care of You
4. Taxes Hurt the Economy (and They're Always Too High)
5. Schools Are a Local Matter
6. Money Follows Merit
7. The Tyranny of Dead Ideas
PART TWO: TOMORROW'S DESTINED IDEAS
8. Only Government Can Save Business
9. Only Business Can Save Liberalism
10. Only Higher Taxes Can Save the Economy (and the Planet)
11. Only the (Lower) Upper Class Can Save Us from Inequality
12. Only Better Living Can Save Sagging Paychecks
13. Only a Dose of "Nationalization" Can Save Local Schools
14. Only Lessons from Abroad Can Save American Ideals
15. From Dead to Destined Ideas
Afterword: Burying Dead Ideas in Business and Beyond
Three facts are now poised to shape our economic life for a generation. First, thanks to global competition and rapid technological change, America's economy is about to face its most severe test in nearly a century. Second, our political and business leaders are doing next to nothing to prepare us to cope with what lies ahead. And third, the reason for this inaction is that our entire economic and political culture remains in thrall to a set of "Dead Ideas" about how a modern economy should work. This book is about the threat that individuals, companies, and the country face from the things we think we know, and about the new (and surprising) ways of thinking destined to replace these Dead Ideas so that America will continue to prosper.
The next decade will bring a collision of forces that threaten to disrupt U.S. society, sink the middle class, and call into question the political and business arrangements on which our prosperity and stability have rested for decades. These perils have little to do with the housing- related financial crisis that gripped America in the fall of 2008; in fact, the need to steer our way through this near-term credit crunch now masks longer-term economic challenges that are far more consequential. The stakes couldn't be higher: if America doesn't decisively manage these tides of change, we'll face a backlash against our economic modelwhich, for all its flaws, has produced more betterment for more people than any other system in human history. If this backlash proves contagious, and other advanced nations lose faith in capitalism's ability to improve the lives of ordinary people, the rich world's efforts to protect its citizens from economic change will doom the developing world to dollar-a-day poverty. The good news is that there are ways to avert this dark scenario and to flourish. The trouble is we're not doing what we need to because of the Tyranny of Dead Ideas...
Read full introduction (printable version)
Reviews & Press Coverage
NPR's Morning Edition features Matt and Dead Ideas
Tom Friedman (NY Times) cites Matt and Dead Ideas on health reform
U.S. Chamber of Commerce says Dead Ideas a must-read for business leaders
The Conference Board ReviewJan 2009
Frenemies by Matthew Budman
Matt Miller argues that business and government canand mustwork together. Read the article here.
Better Off Dead: A Q&A With the Author of The Tyranny of Dead Ideas:
"It isn't hard to think of ideas that were once considered conventional wisdom"Women shouldn't vote," "People should be segregated by race"but were eventually laid to rest. In his book The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash A New Prosperity, Matt Miller writes that the country's biggest problem right now isn't the suffering economy, but a few outdated ideas that "prevent us from responding forcefully in this new situation to improve people's lives."
Annika Mengisen, Freakonomics blog at New York Times.com (read the full Q&A here)
"Read The Tyranny of Dead Ideas. Matt Miller...has written a fact-based, provocative, and persuasive critique of the cliched notions imprisoning our politics. And he gives us the truths that can set us free."
Rich Barlow, The Boston Globe (read the full review here)
"Matt Miller is a one-man economic stimulus package. His ambitious new book...has more intriguing proposals packed into it than might be found in a month of congressional debates. Whatever the book lacks in deep analysis, it more than makes up for in intellectual honesty and courage. Miller acknowledges that our problems are vast and systemic and, thus, the solutions will not come in half measures."
Jonathan Shapiro, Truthdig.com (read the full review here)
Check out Matt on The Lionel Show on Air America.
"Trillions in government spending, while raising taxes on those who do the most to drive the economy...is a frightening proposition. Or is it? That question led me to sit down with Matt Miller, one of the saner voices amid the cacophony. Miller, who so strongly resembles Tom Hanks that you want to ask him about "Wilson," isn't a shouter. A former Clinton budget aide and author of The Tyranny of Dead Ideas, he finds the hysteria over Obama's proposed budget misplaced."
Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post (read the full column here)
"In his new book, The Tyranny of Dead Ideas, Matt Miller nicely lays out the history of American taxes. He begins the story with Adolf Wagner, a 19th-century German economist who predicted that taxes would rise as societies became wealthier. The idea became known as Wagner's Law. "As people grew more affluent," writes Mr. Miller, a journalist and a consultant for McKinsey & Company, "they'd want more of what only government could providea strong military, public order, good schools and assorted welfare benefits, services that private citizens would have trouble arranging for on their own."
David Leonhardt, The New York Times (read the full column here and another one here)
The Daily Beast recommends Dead Ideas on its new book "cheat sheet" (featuring "must reads").
Recessionwire.com, the hot new site chronicling "the upside of the downturn," features an interview with Matt on Dead Ideas.
Lynn Parramore, RecessionWire (read the full post here)
"As Matt Miller argues in his fascinating new book, The Tyranny of Dead Ideas, the idea that "money follows merit" is a myth."
EJ Dionne, The Washington Post (read the full post here)
Matt Miller's prediction of the revolt of the lower upper class "is looking downright prescient."
Justin Fox, Time (read the full post here)
"Miller's concise accounts of how each 'dead idea' came to dominate Americans' consciousness are fascinating. . . . His breezy, engaging yet substantive book should prompt a national re-examination that's long overdue."
Seattle Times (read the full column here)
Newsweek.com interviews Matt on the book:
"Matt Miller, a purveyor of unconventional wisdom, has identified six "dead ideas" in his new book, The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Prosperity to Unleash a New Prosperity (Times Books). And while these zombie modes of thinking are 'tacit assumptions and ingrained instincts broadly shared by business executives, professionals, policy makers, media observers and other opinion leaders,' Miller believes there are a set of relatively simple, though frequently counterintuitive, answers."
Newsweek.com (read the full interview here)
LA City Council President Eric Garcetti interviews Matt on KCRW's "Politics of Culture":
Matt in conversation with David Brooks of the New York Times at the Center for American Progress: