Dave Lefevre's Reviews > The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity

The Tyranny of Dead Ideas by Matt Miller
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's review
Jan 06, 12

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bookshelves: political, economics
Read from January 05 to 06, 2012

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 beginning to get some scrutiny. There have been too many examples of malfeasance, personal greed, and incompetence for meritocracy NOT to get a second look.

What is amusing about this book, however, is the ideas Miller himself take as common fact with no justification that could also be considered dead. The biggest one I take issue with is Miller's belief that the multinational corporation will basically save the world. This comes out in two different guises. First, Miller believes that without a doubt globalization can bring emerging countries out of poverty. This ignores quite a bit of evidence to the contrary; countries that are being used as sweatshop labor are often showing no improvements at all. The labor is being done is "free trade zones" that cut down any benefit from taxes and often groups organizing for more labor rights are put down at the end of the rifle. The jury is still out in other words and it's wrong to take it for granted. Global trade could be when all advantages are counted a lose-lose for the majority of the world's population. The second guise the belief that multinationals will save the U.S. itself. This overlooks the fact that the multinationals are doing their best to hollow themselves out and are, in themselves, a huge cause of income inequality. Miller decries income inequality but seems to overlook this key cause. By shedding their workforce multinationals assure that the bulk of the rewards go to a very elite class of people (and a very small group of unskilled laborers), not a group of middle income workers. Also he overlooks the fact that the current state of the U.S. is largely dictated by the elite upper group of CEOs. He calls on this group to help improve the country openly, but this group is the largest benefactor of the status quo and it's very unlikely to happen.

As long as you are aware of its flaws, this book provides quite a bit of food for though (especially in terms of its views on education, which I'm not going to get into). It's a worth read, but ironically it is also a partial victim of today's group of "dead ideas."

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