One speechmaker inspired millions with his words, the other utterly destroyed his own multi-million-dollar business with just a few phrases.
Civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr (played by Jeffrey Wright of Westworld, The Hunger Games, and the James Bond films) and jewelry store owner Gerald Ratner offer starkly contrasting stories on when you should stick to the script and when you should take a risk.
Cautionary Tales is written by me, Tim Harford, with Andrew Wright. It is produced by Ryan Dilley and Marilyn Rust.
The sound design and original music is the work of Pascal Wyse. Julia Barton edited the scripts.
Thanks to the team at Pushkin Industries, Mia Lobel, Jacob Weisberg, Heather Fain, Jon Schnaars, Carly Migliori, Eric Sandler, Emily Rostek, Maggie Taylor, Daniella Lakhan and Maya Koenig.
Further reading and listening
I discussed the contrast between the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gerald Ratner in my book, Messy.
Key sources on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. include Taylor Branch Parting the Waters, David Garrow Bearing the Cross, Stephen B. Oates Let the Trumpet Sound, the Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr., Patrick Parr’s profile in The Atlantic and Alex Haley’s interview with Dr King in Playboy.
“Nobody makes the statistics of everyday life more fascinating and enjoyable than Tim Harford.”- Bill Bryson
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