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The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  201 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Aleading 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 modes
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 6th 2009 by Times Books
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108th out of 142 books — 32 voters

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Jul 19, 2010 Blarg rated it it was amazing
This book was absolutely fascinating. Everyone I know should read it -- you may not agree with all of the author's conclusions and policy prescriptions (I didn't) but I guarantee that you will shake your head numerous times in agreement with the underlying analysis, and have at least a few "oh crap" moments as you realize how much differently we're going to need to do things here in America if we are to have a reasonable chance at maintaining our standard of living and our status in the world.

Susan in NC
Feb 13, 2009 Susan in NC rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Susan in NC by: Kathleen Parker column in Washington Post
Shelves: favorites
I really enjoyed this look at the "Dead Ideas" we as a nation and (often) Republicans/conservatives cling to, even as we see the economy spiral out of control, our schools failing, affordable health care becoming a disappearing dream for millions of Americans, Social Security looming on the horizon as millions of Baby Boomers reach that magical age of 62 . . . AAAGGGH!!!

I know, sounds depressing and scary, but I actually found it really refreshing and cautiously optimistic; his style reminds me
Dec 23, 2011 Barney rated it it was ok
Well, this is it, 100 books in one year. Would it be that this book was in the top 10 of the year, or the top 50. The first half of the text, which deals with Mr. Miller's Dead Ideas, is excellent, reasoned and well argued. I found myself nodding in agreement with most of his points, especially those about taxes (should be higher) and schools (should be nationalized). Most of Miller's points are diametrically opposed to the talking points of both parties.

Take taxes, for instance. He quotes Wagn
Dec 06, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it
As with any writing about economic and political policy, the author's beliefs and values influence his interpretation of history and the conclusions he draws about the current situation. I'm sure a large part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much is that I'm coming from a very similar place as Miller and he confirms my thinking much more often than he challenges it (why I noticed the book in the first place and decided to read it, I'm sure). Still, I think it's a well-written book that may n ...more
Mark Valentine
Mar 13, 2016 Mark Valentine rated it really liked it
Yes, definitely, read this, if for no other reason than to shake the firmness off of ossified thinking. "Intellectual inertia" and low motivation to change from the comfort zone will do more than cripple us as a culture and society. I suggest that anyone who has any charge over others (managers, teachers, organizers) read this to be refreshed and invigorated.

Miller's seven deadly sins have become seven separate albatross birds that we seem to have firmly fixed in front, bringing doom. Since tru
Jun 01, 2009 Kim rated it really liked it
I heard an NPR segment about this book that piqued my interest. Who wouldn't LOVE this title?? I am so glad I read this book, it is great to get you thinking about things you may not have thought about and in ways you may not usually think. I almost returned the library copy and went to buy my own copy so I could write in it, but it is a very "current" book, so it may not be relevant in 10 years. For full disclosure, it took me almost 2 full months to wade through this book. It is NOT an easy or ...more
David Gray
Apr 17, 2012 David Gray rated it really liked it
This book certainly gets you thinking about the overall concept of dead ideas... those ways of thinking that are usually taken for granted but no longer serve their original purpose or defeat the ability to improve. In the context of management I think of it as pretty much any idea or process that begins with "but we've always done it that way." The question that has long sicen stopped being asked is why it is being done that way and is that way actually serving any valuable purpose.

This book ex
Oct 18, 2012 Andrea rated it liked it
Not generally a fan of books that are about the economy or politics. However,I picked up this book as a start in trying to research and gain a better prospective as the 2012 elections approach. I am not anywhere close to understanding the complicated issues tied with our economic system, so for a person who has a limited background or vocabulary in that realm this book was fairly simple and the concepts easy to grasp. It is a middle ground perspective with an outside the box analysis which I app ...more
Jun 14, 2009 Gail rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
Here is another great nonfiction book recently released by Matt Miller who purposes that the world is changing and we are living with a lot of "dead ideas. We wrongly believe that (1)our kids will earn more than we do (2) free trade is always good no matter who gets hurt, (3) employers should be responsible for health coverage, (4) taxes hurt the economy (5) schools are a local matter (6) money follows merit.

Miller does a concise job of explaining his premise that we need fresh ways of looking a
Dave Lefevre
It's a very interesting time to be reading this book. Every one of Miller's "dead ideas" listed in this book is being brought forth as a timeless fact in our current GOP political campaign. While I can quibble with the details, the ideas that are brought up can be proven, in fact, dead. Most of the ideas are still believed to be tried and true descriptions of the way the U.S. works, but some ideas, such as the idea that the people at the top deserve to be there through meritocracy, are finally b ...more
Marc Brackett
May 26, 2013 Marc Brackett rated it it was ok
Great idea for a book, the problem is that each issue covered in this book is a book itself- versus the soundbite he wrote. For those with a very limited knowledge of these issues this is a great book to start with, you'll be able to navigate a cocktail party afterwards.

I will however not knock the quality and direction of his thought. With few exceptions I think his take on things is right on(have to differ on free trade with him, Britain tried to keep the industrial revolution tech at home- i
Mar 11, 2010 Nathan rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Justin Jaeger
Apr 18, 2011 Justin Jaeger rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Economic and Political Liberals looking to support their argument
Recommended to Justin by: NPR
In most things political, I am a fence-sitter. I try to see the merit of both sides of any argument and then when the time comes to make a decision or a vote, I take in as much evidence to support both sides and make the best choice I can with the information I have. I am a member of no political party. These things may be indicative of my career as a journalist. When I came to this book I expected an unbiased account of problems facing us today and some profound paths toward positive change. Ma ...more
Mike Angelillo
Sep 08, 2010 Mike Angelillo rated it it was ok
Let me start by saying I like Matt Miller. A bunch. Call his politics whatever you like...Centrist Democrat, Progressive, Socialism loving Liberal..I really don't care.

I find his ideas around taxes, education and health care reasonable and compelling. Two things I've always appreciated about his columns is his use independent organizations to back up the numbers he uses (CBO, CED etc) and that he suggests legislation to address issue and fiscal programs to pay the bill. He suggests what he views
Jan 14, 2011 James rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
The author, who was a White House aide during the Clinton administration and who works as a consultant, examines some "dead ideas," i.e., ideas that we take for granted in our world that are holding back potential prosperity. A quick summary of the "dead ideas" he examines:

Our kids will earn more than we do.
Free trade is always good.
Companies should provide for their employees (i.e., benefits like health insurance).
Taxes always hurt the economy and must be lowered.
Education should be dealt with
Dec 16, 2015 Rajiv rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
This is a (somewhat) nonpartisan take on the Dead Ideas that are paralyzing the American economy: education is a local matter, our kids will make more than us, employers should be responsible for health care, et al.

The book is not very data driven and assumes a lot in the way of proposed solutions. There's kind of a lefty slant to his palliative measures, which is maybe applicable for some cases, but not in others. Also, the thinking doesn't go terribly deep on some issues, e.g. the chapter on h
May 26, 2009 Barbara rated it it was amazing
WOW! I learned so much in each section of this book. Each chapter lays out a clear timeline/history that useful just in itself. He challenges ideas on the left and the right.

Summary: "These ways of thinking—dubious at best and often dead wrong—are on a collision course with economic developments that are irreversible.
• 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 a
Sep 01, 2009 Robert rated it it was amazing
If you listen to KCRW's Left, Right, and Center, you know the moderator Matt Miller. He worked in the Clinton Administration and now works as a consultant for corporations and non-profits. His perscriptions here are powerful. He identifies a list of dead ideas that continue to paralyze us politically. They include: Employers should be responsible for health care; Taxes hurt the economy; Local control of schools is a good thing. This book is not an ideological diatrabe but a book that will shake ...more
Dec 19, 2011 Chris rated it liked it
Shelves: wishlist
Okay just to get the negative out of the way about this book, and why it didn't get 4 stars. The author basically doled out a lot of advice on avoiding "dead ideas", but never really delves into the the firm guidelines needed to grasp new ideas.

As I was reading this book, the one thing I noticed in my conversations, is that this book inspired me to discuss the possibilities of exploring new and different ideas. It can't be said that this book provided and specific ideas or methods of thinking, b
Mar 10, 2009 Thomas.harrop rated it it was amazing
This is the best book ever written about what it happening in America today. Whatever side of the political spectrum you fall into, MIller explains the history of things like health care, unions, corporations and many other things in ways that make sense and ring true. He talks about how we have reached a point where many of our assumptions are no longer true but set in stone. One such idea is that every generation will earn more than their parents, which is no longer true.

I highly recommend th
Apr 09, 2013 Debasis rated it it was amazing
It took me quite some time to finish this. Not the only reason that I am a slow reader. But I wanted to read it properly. At a time when politics seems to be so destructive and politicians so determined to do everything possible to keep the wealth and control of the country within a narrow set of people, it is actually refreshing to see that there are still people out there who can think rationally for collective good.

Mind that there are a few policy suggestions from Matt that are already dead
Aug 19, 2012 Ray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this book (audio book), and probably should have picked in up in print instead. I think I liked it, but often was distracted and don't believe I captured the full context of the author's arguments. I certainly found his ideas interesting at least. At least in a print book, you can pause when you choose to and think about the author's point. In audio, you're at the mercy of the speed of the reader, and while hitting the pause button is possible, you lack seeing the text to review th ...more
Stephen Wong
A succinct read from the get-go in the diagnosis, an iconoclasm that burns brightly, but which falters or weakens with a prescription that manages to throw in an apotheosis of the business leader, the C-suite executive and the board of directors as American heroes, fully flawed and unable to follow instructions or examples of exo-American experience. Read it for the contours of the debate, the framing behind the framing of the debate, and you will benefit from the clearer perspective, but dash t ...more
Jul 19, 2009 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is an excellent book; I highly recommend it to every person who cares deeply about the course of our nation. The book is actually quite an easy read--I finished it in a couple of days. But the ideas are profound. What is most interesting in this book is the balance between which things should be done by the national government, and which policies are best handled by private industry. It is very thought-provoking, and really made me think about my assumptions about politics, economics, and e ...more
Aug 08, 2015 Kate rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Quite interesting, I wish I remembered it better.
Serval Spots
Apr 16, 2016 Serval Spots rated it it was ok
A very long op-ed.
Sean Ab
Aug 26, 2009 Sean Ab rated it it was ok
This book was very interesting, and it did have a LOT of good ideas, but it also had a couple of severe weaknesses. First, it presented NO evidence whatsoever for the claims that it was making. Second, it took the "bipartisan" approach...that of attempting to pretend like everyone and every political attitude was always equally to blame for everything...which is a dangerous and boring crock of crap.

Read the chapters about the problems, skim the ones aobut Miller's suggested solutions.
Aug 19, 2011 Mike rated it liked it
A book that is full of common sense and logic. I found that I did not get much new out of it (although there are some new slants on a few things) as it closely matches my own thinking. Unfortunately, as the author admits near the end it is highly unlikely that anything as sensible, practical, and workable as these ideas will ever see the light of day in Washington DC, the vortex of dead ideas.
Aug 30, 2013 Linda rated it it was ok
Matt Miller is one of the many former Clinton White House aides still active in politics. He's a centrist through and through. He writes well and assembles coherent arguments. The title is catchy, the Tyranny of Dead Ideas, and he weaves this theme throughout the book. The book's copyright is 2009 and is badly dated as of August 2013.

Brian Ayres
Mar 03, 2009 Brian Ayres rated it really liked it
Provacative to say the least, Miller does more than force you to to pay attention to issues of capitalism and education, but he makes you change uncomfortable. Very few poltical thinkers want to do that anymore, which is a shame seeing it is groupthink that has gotten us into the economic mess we current face.

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