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In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State


America's population is wealthier than any in history. Every year, the American government redistributes more than a trillion dollars of that wealth to provide for retirement, health care, and the alleviation of poverty. We still have millions of people without comfortable retirements, without adequate health care, and living in poverty. Only a government can spend so much money so ineffectually. The solution is to give the money to the people. This is the Plan, a radical new approach to social policy that defies...
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America's population is wealthier than any in history. Every year, the American government redistributes more than a trillion dollars of that wealth to provide for retirement, health care, and the alleviation of poverty. We still have millions of people without comfortable retirements, without adequate health care, and living in poverty. Only a government can spend so much money so ineffectually. The solution is to give the money to the people. This is the Plan, a radical new approach to social policy that defies any partisan label. Murray suggests eliminating all welfare transfer programs at the federal, state, and local levels and substituting an annual $10,000 cash grant to everyone age twenty-one or older. In Our Hands describes the financial feasibility of the Plan and its effects on retirement, health care, poverty, marriage and family, work, neighborhoods and civil society.
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Editorial Reviews

The Economist
[Charles Murray] has done more to provoke serious debate on subjects ranging from welfare to IQ than any of the million or so members of American academe, and more to produce changes in America's welfare state than any of the army of professional politicians.
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 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780844742236
  • Publisher: Aei Press
  • Publication date: 3/25/2006
  • Pages: 214
  • Sales rank: 813,354
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar in Culture and Freedom at the American Enterprise Institute. His previous books include Losing Ground (1984), In Pursuit (1988), The Bell Curve (1994, with Richard J. Herrnstein), What It Means to Be a Libertarian (1997), and Human Accomplishment (2003).
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Table of Contents

1 The plan 8
2 Basic finances 15
3 Retirement 24
4 Health care 37
5 Poverty 52
6 The underclass 61
7 Work disincentives 72
8 The pursuit of happiness in advanced societies 82
9 Vocation 95
10 Marriage 101
11 Community 111
12 Conclusion 125
App. A The programs to be eliminated 130
App. B Computation of budget projections 140
App. C Tax rates and after-tax income under the current system and the plan 148
App. D Preliminary thoughts about political feasibility and transition costs 157
App. E Assumptions about the costs of the current system versus the costs of the plan 174
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A bold proposal

    Charles Murray is well known author of popular yet controversial social science books (see for instance Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, 10th Anniversary Edition, Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (A Free Press Paperbacks Book), Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 ). He is an engaging writer and all of his books are replete with hard data and precise quantitative analysis. A large deal of what makes his ideas so controversial is the fact that they are backed precisely with this kind of objective and precise analysis, that often flies in the face of common wisdom of the times. This book too, although much slimmer and less exhaustive than the abovementioned ones, falls in that category. It's premise is simple: abolish all social wealth redistribution programs and in their place institute an annual allowance of $10,000 for all US citizens 21 and older who make less than $25,000 annually. This in fact would be a Negative Income Tax (NIT), something that has been proposed by many economists over the years. The proposal is rooted in Murray's newfound acceptance of the fact that a full-blown abandonment of all social programs is politically completely unfeasible, and his desire to make an alternative wealth redistribution scheme that would minimize many social ills that such schemes usually bring along.

    Most of this book is dedicated to arguments that explore the feasibility of this new scheme, as well as providing the theoretical evidence that the scheme would in fact bring the desired outcomes. The biggest underlying assumption is that the US economy is finally large and strong enough to actually implement this plan. The other, related, assumption is that the US economy as reflected in the stock market will continue its long-term growth at the same rate it has been growing between 1800 and 2000. The recent economic crisis may or may not undermine the first assumption: on one hand there is certainly less wealth to be redistributed as compared to just a few years ago, but on the other hand the various government redistribution schemes have been larger than anything ever seen. Using a much more streamlined redistribution program has never seemed more desirable. As for the second assumption, some recent scholarship has shown that the data from the early 19th century stock values is at best not comprehensive enough. The claim of two centuries of continuous growth all of a sudden doesn't seem as convincing. However, even in the case that the US does not continue to grow its economy at the historically high rates, this only weakens but does not demolish Murray's main arguments. For in fact all other wealth redistribution schemes are even more vulnerable to the vicissitudes of future economic growth.

    Overall, this is a provocative and engaging book, a kind that we have come to expect from Charles Murray. It outlines a worthy and feasible social policy that may very well be the best option that we have right now. However, I suspect that its impact on the actual policy on the ground will be largely indirect for time to come.

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