The Tyranny of Dead Ideas
Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity
By Matt Miller
(Times Books, Hardcover, 9780805087871, 272pp.)
Publication Date: January 6, 2009
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A leading political and business thinker identifies the greatest threat to our economic future: the things we think we know—but 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 century—one 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
- Our kids will earn more than we do
- Free trade is always good, no matter who gets hurt
- Employers should be responsible for health coverage
- Taxes hurt the economy
- Schools are a local matter
- Money follows merit
These ways of thinking—dubious at best and often dead wrong—are on a collision course with economic developments that are irre-versible.
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 thinking—what 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.
Matt Miller is a contributing editor for Fortune, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and the host of public radio’s popular week-in-review program Left, Right & Center. He is a consultant to corporations, governments, and nonprofits, and his first book, The Two Percent Solution: Fixing America’s Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love, was a Los Angeles Times bestseller. He lives in Los Angeles.
"Matt Miller writes and thinks with amazing clarity about some of the most difficult problems this country is facing. The Tyranny of Dead Ideas offers the most plausible way to renovate our political and policy thinking to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century -- if we have the guts to go forward. This is must reading for the next president and for anyone who wants to be a creative citizen in a difficult time."—Joe Klein, political columnist, Time
"This book will make you the most valuable contributor to your next workplace discussion of politics or the economy. Matt Miller explains the history of ideas in a way that forces fresh insights about the future. I feel smarter already."—Chip Heath, author of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
"With crisp prose and compelling arguments, Matt Miller overturns orthodoxies left and right. Whatever your political persuasion, you will agree that The Tyranny of Dead Ideas is a tour de force -- the rare book that can reshape the national agenda."—Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind
"To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, our times are piled high with difficulty, and just as we must act anew we must think anew. Matt Miller is one of those few, invaluable voices who is able to reach beyond the truisms of yesterday to help us think anew about tomorrow. I warmly recommend his pathbreaking new book The Tyranny of Dead Ideas."—David Gergen, director of the Center for Public Leadership, Harvard University, and senior political analyst, CNN
"In The Tyranny of Dead Ideas, Matt Miller drives a bulldozer into the complacent conventional wisdoms of our society, including the desirability of free trade, of paternalistic corporations, and even of low taxes. You need not agree with every idea to be invigorated by Miller’s bold and original vision."—Philip K. Howard, author of The Death of Common Sense and Life Without Lawyers