The Tyranny of Dead Ideas; Matt Miller, 2009

The Tyranny of Dead Ideas

This book is a challenge to our ways of thinking about public policy. Dead ideas are the no longer appropriate beliefs that have calcified in our brains over the years, blocking the free flow of new and, perhaps, better ideas. Dead ideas have been with us so long, we don’t consciously acknowledge them. They’re just the way things have always been. They’re pervasive, oppressive, and not all that helpful anymore. It may be human nature to stick with what’s comfortable and known, but that’s not a very good reason to continue along a dead path.

At their origin, there may have been a dozen good reasons for every dead idea, but times change, people change, and so does context. Miller explains the reasons for these dead ideas and then provides another way. The dead ideas discussed here include:

  • Your kids will earn more than you do
  • Free trade is always good
  • Your company should take care of you
  • Taxes hurt the economy, and they’re always too high
  • Schools are a local matter
  • Money follows merit

This book got me to thinking about urban planning’s dead ideas: alleviate traffic congestion by building more lanes, provide housing for the poor in Corbusian towers, Euclidean zoning.

Hopefully, as planners, we’re smart enough to learn from them.

What dead ideas would you like to see buried in the backyard?

Also by Matt Miller:

The 2% Solution


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