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Matt Miller Hates Dead Ideas
Matt Miller is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress; a contributing editor at Fortune; and the host of "Left, Right & Center," public radio's popular week-in-review program. Miller's first book, The Two Percent Solution: Fixing America's Problems In Ways Liberals And Conservatives Can Love, was published in 2003, and was a Los Angeles Times bestseller. His latest book, The Tyranny Of Dead Ideas, was published by Henry Holt/Times Books in January 2009. Miller served as Senior Advisor to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1993 to 1995. He lives with his family in Los Angeles.
Question: What is a dead idea?
Miller: To me, dead idea is something that’s a conventional wisdom that’s so engrained particularly among the opinion leaders of the country, the business elite, the politicians, the policy makers, the media observers, professionals, other media folks, that is so engrained and yet so out of date and wrong headed that it’s become destructive or harmful for the nation. Now, there’s probably dozens of these in our public life, maybe there’s, you know, hundreds in our personal and business lives, but I try to focus on what I thought were the six biggest dead ideas that were stopping us from coping the way we need to with globalization and rapid technological change.
Question: Which ones do we find in The Tyranny of Dead Ideas?
Miller: I tried to focus on the ones that pose the biggest threat to America’s economic future and, you know, that might be a long list and we’ve got a contest going at my website mattmilleronline.com where people can send in their own dead idea nominees, but I was really trying to focus on six big ones that are kind of… because of their power to shape our future and their sacred kind of status really are holding us back.
Question: How did you brainstorm the book?
Miller: It was basically me in the process of thinking through the book. I thought, you know, I knew I wanted to write a book on what was wrong, how we weren’t thinking clearly about the challenges we face in this global age. And then it just occurred to me once I hit on the dead ideas framework that these six were the ones that were most potent and would be the ones to really wrap the book around and try and get people engage to it.
Question: Are Americans addicted to dead ideas?
Miller: I actually think dead ideas are something that’s part of human nature. I think we all have this, you know, if we’re honest, we have them in our relationships, in our marriages, at the office, and I think this is just, you know, society wide this is something that things [crop] up conventional wisdoms take hold and then they kind of dug in because that’s the way things have always worked. Nothing is really rising up to challenge them. A lot of vested interest obviously build themselves up around the current conventional wisdom. And so, I think it’s a sort of a human, it’s a human nature thing, and, you know, at different periods of change I think that’s when it becomes really important to be open to the idea that we’re in the grip of these outdated dead ideas, because, otherwise, we can’t cope with rapidly changing circumstances and that’s the situation we’re in now.
The author explains his approach to identifying the dead ideas we love.
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