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Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, 10th Anniversary Edition [Paperback]

by Charles Murray
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1, 1994 0465042333 978-0465042333 Anniversary
This classic book serves as a starting point for any serious discussion of welfare reform. Losing Ground argues that the ambitious social programs of the1960s and 1970s actually made matters worse for its supposed beneficiaries, the poor and minorities. Charles Murray startled readers by recommending that we abolish welfare reform, but his position launched a debate culminating in President Clinton’s proposal “to end welfare as we know it.”

Frequently Bought Together

Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, 10th Anniversary Edition + Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 + American Exceptionalism: An Experiment in History (Values and Capitalism)
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Murray, coauthor of The Bell Curve, argued that the social programs of the '60s and the '70s worsened the plight of the poor and minorities. This 10th anniversary issue includes a new introduction by the author.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.


''A great book.'' --Wall Street Journal

''Without bile and without rhetoric it lays out a stark truth that must be faced.'' --Business Week

''A remarkable book. Future discussions of social policy cannot proceed without taking the arguments and evidence of this book into account.'' --James S. Coleman, University of Chicago

''Charles Murray will infuriate people. But if they read carefully he will also make them think.'' --Ken Auletta, New York Times bestselling author

''A remarkable book. Future discussions of social policy cannot proceed without taking the arguments and evidence of this book into account.'' --James S. Coleman, University of Chicago

''Charles Murray will infuriate people. But if they read carefully he will also make them think.'' --Ken Auletta, New York Times bestselling author --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Anniversary edition (January 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465042333
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465042333
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 3.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
134 of 145 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could we have been that wrong? January 22, 2000
Mr. Murray's analysis of government social programs in the past half century was an eye-opener for a born-and-raised liberal Democrat like myself. It is difficult to disagree with his overall conclusion that these programs have generally been failures, and in many cases did more harm than good. This is not easy to swallow if you were raised with the firmly entrenched (and deeply righteous) belief that people who "really care" always support well-intentioned government programs that aim to solve social problems. It has always been an assumption in my thinking that those who opposed virtually any new government agency or social program lacked compassion, or worse. But, as Mr. Murray points out, these programs, including welfare, housing projects, medicaid, and other twentieth century experiments, must be judged as objectively as possible based on results. And the results are not impressive.
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57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much needed debate March 29, 1998
While the President and the Congress debate the levels of funding for the welfare state in the coming century, Charles Murray makes a very convincing arguement for why it should be done away with altogether. Replete with statistical analysis (including the raw data from federal government sources), Murray argues that should an outside observer review the statistics on the economic progress of blacks and the poor from about 1963 onward, without any social context, they would have to conclude that a systematic effort was afoot to ensnare a large group of people in perpetual poverty. Murray explains the dynamics behind the failure of welfare policy and argues a more generic case as to why nearly all government efforts to induce behavioral change in the population are doomed to failure. Murray's account is well supported, crystal clear, and highly thought-provoking. Recommended for all who wish to be involved in welfare policy or its debate for the coming century.
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64 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Convincing July 24, 2000
It is not often that you read a perfectly convincing argument, but this book did it for me. The charts alone tell the whole story: increased spending on welfare while poverty is decreasing, coupled with higher crime, illegitimacy, unemployment, low birth weight all beginning within the years 1964-68. I've never cried at a movie, but if any book deserved a few tears, this would be it. Apart from the increase in birth rates, which Murray tries but fails to explain as a function of rational choices (can it ever?), every other statistic is shown by Murray to be the indirect result of well-intentioned and perfectly disastrous policies. Beginning with the indifference to poverty in 1954, to the modest programs under Kennedy, to the whole-hearted expansion under Johnson, to the institution of a permanent minimum income under Nixon, the war on poverty was lost within three years without anyone bothering to call off the troops. Murray makes the point that any slight "variance" in the statistics, even if only a tenth of a percent, is considered significant, but illegitimacy among poor blacks, for instance, drops from 80% to 40% in a matter of a few years. How human behavior, perfectly stable for decades, can change in a matter of a few years is, in fact, shocking, and Murray engages in a little detective work that is entirely convincing. The reason is in fact no mystery: if you pay people to stay unmarried, live apart, and not work, they will do precisely that. If, on top of that, you stop jailing criminals and seal their juvenile records, crime will also go up. That the Watts riots occured just two weeks after the 1964 civil rights legislation, and the new welfare poliicies were instituted the same year, is no accident either. Read more ›
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111 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charles Murray hits the nail right on the head May 30, 2000
This is an important book that explains an incredibletransformation in American social policy. Sometime around themid-1960s, a new code of private values and government policies pushed their way into mainstream society. This vision and its consequences were a radical departure from our nation's past. From 1950 to 1965, an economy founded on free market principles, nurtured on minimal government regulation, and protected from large welfare programs, had slashed the poverty rate from one third of the population to just over one-tenth. Eliminating poverty seemed like a real possibility to Americans as long as the wheels of capitalism continued to spin unhindered. From 1950 to 1965, African-Americans won court battles giving them the human rights guaranteed to every citizen. These belated changes were cemented by the hallmark 1964 Civil Rights Act and accompanied by a remarkable surge in African-American incomes. This fifteen-year period was an era of immense progress. Not only were the classes and races coming together but crime was remarkably low, families exceptionally resilient, and drug use almost non-existent. Then around 1965 something happened. All of a sudden the capitalist economy that made Old World immigrants into middle-class, suburban home-owners was described as a guilty, imperialist system that exploited the poor and the weak. Government planners in Washington got right to solving this "problem." From now on, people could expect a guaranteed income for an unlimited period of time, without regard to personal behavior or the ability to work. To show what a compassionate society we are, we would destroy the work ethic that was the bedrock of Western civilization. But that wasn't the best part. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars As valid in 2014 as it was in 1984
Charles Murray provides an exceptional amount of empirical data to support the conclusions in this book. Read more
Published 29 days ago by Alan
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent insight into a huge social problem in the U.S.
Clear and fairly easy to read and understand the issues that are pulling America by class apart. He offers a possible solution as he sees it from a libertarian perspective that... Read more
Published 2 months ago by GRUM
5.0 out of 5 stars Mandatory Reading from High School on Up
"Facts are stubborn things." (John Adams) Losing Ground is about the facts of so-called social policy in America. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Phoenix Montag
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for EVERY person in America.
Charles Murray puts forth a very convincing case that the BILLIONS of dollars we've spent on social programs simply don't work. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Howard S. Alford, Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Malice aforethought
Murray's classic text does a wonderful job of exploring the consequences of welfare. What it fails to do is examine the purposes behind welfare. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars very interesting
In my quest to understand the history of welfare, I read most of this today and found the author's arguments fairly compelling. Read more
Published 17 months ago by E.Dickenson
1.0 out of 5 stars Contradictions, specious arguments, and outright lies
According to Murray's formulation, welfare did not alleviate or decrease the ravages of poverty; it perpetuated and entrenched them. Read more
Published 21 months ago by The Girl Next Door
5.0 out of 5 stars Losing Ground
Wow, what an insightful book -- complete with a careful selection of statistics from 1950-80. Today's HUGE problems with social welfare are better understood when seen in the... Read more
Published 23 months ago by coach
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading for every registered voter, students
Average productive American Citizens who work, play, worship, study, rent, own, manage, invest, and raise families have noticed the symptoms and effects of secular government "aid"... Read more
Published on March 22, 2012 by WorkingStiff
Charles Alan Murray (born 1943) is an American libertarian political scientist, author, columnist, and pundit currently working as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Read more
Published on March 7, 2012 by Steven H. Propp
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