In Our Hands by Charles Murray
Charles Murray first came to wide public attention in 1984 with his controversial book, Losing Ground. With a mixture of statistics and “thought experiments” involving a hypothetical couple named Harold and Phyllis, he argued that the anti-poverty programs of the 1960’s had halted and then reversed the social and economic progress being made until then by the poor, especially African-Americans. The book’s final chapter raised the audacious question of whether eliminating government assistance to the poor might not do more to solve the problem, by empowering those able to work and helping to put an end to the deepening culture of dependency.
Though initially provoking heated debate, Losing Ground’s main claim eventually became broadly accepted, contributing substantially to the changes in welfare policies of the late 1990’s. These, by limiting access to public assistance, produced a dramatic decline in the number of people receiving welfare and a rise in the number of those gainfully employed.
About the Author
Leslie Lenkowsky is professor of public affairs and philanthropic studies at Indiana University.