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In Our Hands : A Plan To Replace The Welfare State Hardcover – February 21, 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Libertarian Murray's Losing Ground laid the groundwork for controversial welfare reform proposals. His latest volume continues in the same vein, positing that government support has exacerbated dysfunctional underclass behavior, and offering a compromise to social democrats who call starve-the-beast policies cruel. In "The Plan," all the money currently used in transfer programs Murray doesn't deem universal (Social Security, agricultural subsidies, corporate welfare, as opposed to national defense, clean air, etc.) would be redirected into a new program that gives each citizen an annual $10,000 cash grant, beginning at age 21. The plan would slice one Gordian knot: everyone would be required to buy health insurance, insurers would have to treat the entire population as a single pool and changes in tort and licensing laws would enable low-cost clinics for minor problems. But Murray's purposes are larger: to enable the search for a vocation by making it easier to change jobs; to encourage marriage among low-income people; and to move social welfare support from bureaucracies back to Tocquevillian civil society—a nostalgic argument that deserves a more cyber-era analysis. His volume makes an intriguing contrast to 1999's left-meets-libertarian book The Stakeholder Society (unmentioned by Murray), which proposed $80,000 grants, financed by taxing the rich. Given Murray's track record—he coauthored The Bell Curve—and his think tank backing, expect much discussion of this book in print and on air. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Murray has ardently advocated scrapping the welfare state since well before his best-seller Losing Ground (1984) cogently argued that welfare harms recipients. He has been criticized most for not proposing something to replace welfare. Now he does. Give $10,000 (to begin with) per year, tax free, to every adult over 21, with the stipulation that $3,000 of it be spent on health insurance and the strong recommendation that $2,000 be invested toward retirement income. Once an individual's earned income reaches $25,000, surtax on the grant begins, and those making $50,000 and more would pay back half the grant. The grant plan is accompanied by not that many legal changes, and they're worth doing, anyway (e.g., creating a single pool of the insured for health insurance, greatly compressing rate differentials). After a first few expensive years, the plan would develop much less expensively than the present welfare system. Gone would be Social Security, Medicare, and the rest, and everyone would have at least $5,000 annual discretionary income. Sweet? As lucidly argued by Murray, seems practical, too. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 214 pages
  • Publisher: Aei Press (February 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0844742236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0844742236
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It is not possible to get a fair picture of Charles Murray or his writings from the popular media. His thinking is so interesting and refreshing that establishment types dismiss his ideas out of hand and mischaracterize even the nature of his discussions. They then resort to endless personal attacks through unfair and unjustified smear, innuendo, and even childish ridicule. We are all done a disservice when we are not allowed to hear Charles Murray's voice. He is an original thinker who is brave enough to say some very interesting things that we would all be better off actually discussing and considering. Even if we end up not agreeing with him, which is always fair AFTER study and debate, we will be better off by becoming clearer about what it is we do believe.

This terrific book is a brief discussion of what Murray calls "The Plan" (for lack of a better term) that would actually end poverty as we know it, make everyone more free and end dependence on politicians and bureaucrats for so much of our lives. Of course, this means that anyone who benefits from things as they are is going to instantly attack this book or ignore it and hope it just goes away. I hope for just the opposite. I hope there is a big debate and the real motives and power seeking of the establishment goes on display.

The Plan is quite simple. Everyone over the age of 21 - regardless of status - who has a bank account gets $10,000 per year paid monthly. Once your income reaches and passes $25,000 per year your payment begins to get taxes until your reach $50,000 where you end up with only $5,000 that year. That is really it. In return, ALL transfer programs are ended. This means no agricultural supports, no Medicare or Medicaid, no social security, and so on.
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Format: Hardcover
What an intriguing book. As an Independent with a strong disdain for partisan ideology...for the sake of partisan ideology, I found Murray's ideas both thought provoking, encouraging and attractive to all voting blocs. I have a mixed voting history that leans slightly Democratic and the premise Murray puts forth buoyed all my varying sensibilities from libertarian to conservative to liberal to populist to free capitalist to humanist to idealist to pragmatist.

"The Plan" is simple. Everyone at the age of 21 receives $10,000 (tagged for inflation) per annum for life. No changes for marital status or any other demographic tag. Erring on the high side, this program will, at the most, cost about $1.73 trillion to start and, according to demographics, will descrease over time in equal-valued dollars. This replaces all entitlement spending at all levels of government which Murray states in 2002 totaled almost 1.4 trillion dollars. This includes business and agricultural subsidies and means tested programs for the poor. According to Murray, "The Plan" will effectively eliminate involuntary poverty.

Seems radical but it isn't. It makes more sense than other policy innovation I've ever heard of. The liberal skeptic needs to consider how much we spend on social assistance and take a sobering look at how far the battle over poverty is from being won. This plan gives every American, regardless of circumstances, the financial base to escape poverty. Failure is in "our hands". Virtually every extreme circumstance one can imagine is countered by "the plan". For the average and below average american it is a base to build from and protect oneself.

The conservative skeptic needs to see how much we spend and what it does and doesn't do.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a graduate student in economics, writing my dissertation on economic issues and policies related to the poor. I've read through the book, and while I find the idea compelling, there are some problems I can't get past.

Critiques of the finances

1. Murray is fairly careful to outline who the winners and the losers are in this plan. But in doing so, he ignores the transition, especially with older people. As I understand it, if we implemented "the Plan" tomorrow, retirees who had previously had Medicare and Social Security benefits would now get $10,000 and be forced to buy into the health insurance plan, leaving them with at most $7,000 per year. This new benefit level would represent a severe decrease for a significant fraction of the elderly, and for single retirees, it would not be sufficient to allow them to live above poverty. It is certainly true that a 21 year old might be able to save more over his lifetime and do better under "the Plan" than under the current social security system, but we wouldn't realize those benefits for 40 years. The pain of newly impoverished retirees would be immediate. In fact, it seems to me that the reason "the Plan" becomes more affordable than the current system in a few years is that baby boomers (to whom we currently owe Medicare and social security) would start receiving incredibly reduced benefit levels. If I understand the proposal correctly, this seems like a glaring omission from Murray's analysis of winners and losers. I found a little discussion of this buried in Appendix D, but there's never a direct comparison of someone already now retired under the current system and under "the Plan".

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