Reflections on the Revolution at Middlebury

– Murray, Charles. "Reflections on the Revolution at Middlebury." AEIdeas blog. March 5, 2107.
Text: A few months ago, AEI’s student group at Middlebury College invited me to speak on the themes in Coming Apart and how they relate to the recent presidential election. Professor Allison Stanger of the Political Science Department agreed to serve as… More

An Open Letter to the Virginia Tech Community

– American Enterprise Institute, March 17, 2016.
Excerpt: Last week, the president of Virginia Tech, Tim Sands, published an “open letter to the Virginia Tech community” defending lectures delivered by deplorable people like me (I’m speaking on the themes of Coming Apart on March 25). Bravo for… More

Trump’s America

Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2016.
Excerpt: If you are dismayed by Trumpism, don’t kid yourself that it will fade away if Donald Trump fails to win the Republican nomination. Trumpism is an expression of the legitimate anger that many Americans feel about the course that the country has… More

The Regulators’ Yoke

National Review, November 9, 2015.
Excerpt: Earlier this year, I published a book called “By the People” that laid out a plan for systematic civil disobedience of stupid and pointless regulations. It is a subversive position. The rule of law is the foundation of civilization. It is… More

Kids Today

Claremont Review of Books, Summer 2015.
Excerpt: My takeaway from all this was expressed in the closing chapter of my own work on Putnam’s topic, Coming Apart (2012). Very briefly, I don’t think America’s civic culture will be revitalized by the kinds of programs that Our Kids advocates. If… More

The United States of Diversity

Commentary, June 2015.
Excerpt: The received wisdom about multicultural America goes something like this: “At the time of the Founding, America’s free population was not only white but almost entirely British, and the nation’s culture was based on their common heritage. That… More

Regulation Run Amok—And How to Fight Back

Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2015.
Excerpt: America is no longer the land of the free. We are still free in the sense that Norwegians, Germans and Italians are free. But that’s not what Americans used to mean by freedom. It was our boast that in America, unlike in any other country, you… More

Curing American Sclerosis

– Lecture, Edmund Burke Award for Service to Culture and Society, April 29, 2015. Reprinted in The New Criterion, June 2015.
Excerpt: I am a little wary about receiving an award named for Edmund Burke two weeks before the publication of a book in which I advocate massive, systematic civil disobedience. I am not at all sure that Mr. Burke would approve. So let me try to placate Mr.… More

Why the SAT Isn’t a ‘Student Affluence Test’

Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2015.
Excerpt: Spring is here, which means it’s time for elite colleges to send out acceptance letters. Some will go to athletes, the children of influential alumni and those who round out the school’s diversity profile. But most will go to the offspring of the… More

Our Futile Efforts to Boost Children’s IQ

Bloomberg View, November 14, 2014.
Excerpt: It’s one thing to point out that programs to improve children’s cognitive functioning have had a dismal track record. We can always focus on short-term improvements, blame the long-term failures on poor execution or lack of follow-up and try,… More

The Trouble Isn’t Liberals. It’s Progressives

Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2014.
Excerpt: Social conservatives. Libertarians. Country-club conservatives. Tea party conservatives. Everybody in politics knows that those sets of people who usually vote Republican cannot be arrayed in a continuum from moderately conservative to extremely… More

How To Get Ahead in Suck-up City

Politico, April 23, 2014.
Excerpt: I just published a book called “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead” for people making the transition from college to the real world. It consists of tips that I originally wrote for the interns and research assistants at the American… More

Does America Still Have What It Takes?

Mosaic, April 2014.
Excerpt: Some years ago, I conducted an ambitious research project to document and explain patterns of human accomplishment across time and cultures. My research took me from 800 BCE, when Homo sapiens’ first great surviving works of thought appeared, to… More

Advice for a Happy Life

Wall Street Journal, March 30, 2014.
Excerpt: The transition from college to adult life is treacherous, and this is nowhere more visible than among new college graduates in their first real jobs. A few years ago, I took it upon myself to start writing tips for the young staff where I work about… More

Poker is America

New York Times, February 24, 2013.
Excerpt: Let’s start by getting this straight: poker is about money. If you took the money out of it, I wouldn’t play. But even when I lose, I’ve had a good time. I love playing poker as an escape from the world I usually live in, and I especially love… More

The Shaky Science Behind Obama’s Universal Pre-K

Bloomberg, February 20, 2013.
Excerpt: “Study after study shows that the earlier a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road,” said U.S. President Barack Obama in Feb. 14 speech in Decatur, Georgia. “Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can… More

Why Capitalism Has an Image Problem

Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2012.
Excerpt: Mitt Romney’s résumé at Bain should be a slam dunk. He has been a successful capitalist, and capitalism is the best thing that has ever happened to the material condition of the human race. From the dawn of history until the 18th century,… More

Future Tense, IX: Out of the Wilderness

The New Criterion, May 2012.
Excerpt: Upon reading Daniel Boorstin’s The Discoverers many years ago, I became fascinated with the ebbs and flows of human achievement, and especially those points in world history that have been associated with a flowering of great accomplishment. The… More

“Coming Apart” and Fishtown

Philadelphia Inquirer, April 23, 2012.
Excerpt: Coming Apart, the book I published a few months ago, tracks the cultural divergences in America’s classes from 1960 to 2010, focusing on whites as a way of getting people to understand that the problems I describe aren’t driven by minorities. I… More

Why Economics Can’t Explain Our Cultural Divide

Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2012.
Excerpt: Some reviewers of “Coming Apart,” my new book about the growing cultural divide between America’s upper and lower classes, have faulted me for ignoring the role of the labor market in undermining once widely shared values involving… More

Narrowing the Class Divide

New York Times, March 7, 2012.
Excerpt: THERE’S been a lot of commentary from all sides about my recently published book, “Coming Apart,” which deals with the divergence between the professional and working classes in white America over the last half century. Some of the critiques… More

Five Myths About White People

Washington Post, February 10, 2012.
Excerpt: 1. Working-class whites are more religious than upper-class whites. This is a pervasive misconception encouraged by liberals who conflate the religious right with the working class, and by conservative evangelicals who inveigh against the godless… More

Belmont and Fishtown

The New Criterion, January 2012.
Excerpt: American exceptionalism is not just something that Americans claim for themselves. Historically, Americans have been seen as different, even peculiar, to people around the world. I am thinking of qualities such as American industriousness—not just… More

The Tea Party Warns of a New Elite. They Are Right

Washington Post, October 24, 2010.
Excerpt: The tea party appears to be of one mind on at least one thing: America has been taken over by a New Elite. “On one side, we have the elites,” Fox News host Glenn Beck explained last month, “and the other side, we have the regular people.” The… More

Software’s Pull on Hard-to-Reach Teens

Washington Times, October 10, 2010.
Excerpt: Forget teachers unions, undisciplined classrooms, social promotions or any of the other usual complaints about public secondary education. The real problem is that we are not playing to our children’s strengths. In an age when teenagers master… More

Why Tiger Won’t Catch Jack

The American, July 22, 2010.
Excerpt: Predicting that Tiger Woods can win five more majors assumes that nothing has significantly degraded the freakish combination required for extreme accomplishment. That assumption is untenable.

Why Charter Schools Fail the Test

New York Times, May 5, 2010.
Excerpt: The latest evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the oldest and most extensive system of vouchers and charter schools in America, came out last month, and most advocates of school choice were disheartened by the results. The evaluation… More

Intelligence and College

National Affairs, Fall 2009.
Excerpt: Imagine a high-school senior who is trying to decide whether to go to college. He walks into the office of his school’s counselor and asks for help in making up his mind. The counselor knows that this student’s grades are Bs and Cs, and that his… More

Tax Withholding Is Bad for Democracy

Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2009.
Excerpt: America is supposed to be a democracy in which we’re all in it together. Part of that ethos, which has been so essential to the country in times of crisis, is a common understanding that we all pay a share of the costs. Taxes are an essential… More

Thank God America Isn’t like Europe—Yet

Washington Post, March 22, 2009.
Excerpt: Do we want the United States to be like Europe? The European model has worked in many ways. I am delighted whenever I get a chance to go to Stockholm or Amsterdam, not to mention Rome or Paris. There’s a lot to like–a lot to love–about… More

The Happiness of the People

– Irving Kristol Lecture, American Enterprise Institute, March 11, 2009.
Excerpt: My text is drawn from Federalist 62, probably written by James Madison: “A good government implies two things: first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that… More

Twelve Ideas for the Middle Class

National Review, February 9, 2009.
Excerpt: Contemporary conservatism has too often lost touch with the concrete concerns of middle-class America. For a long time, conservatism thrived politically on the domestic troika of welfare, crime, and income-tax rates. The Left yowled when conservative… More

Should the Obama Generation Drop Out?

New York Times, December 28, 2008.
Excerpt: BARACK OBAMA has two attractive ideas for improving post-secondary education — expanding the use of community colleges and tuition tax credits — but he needs to hitch them to a broader platform. As president, Mr. Obama should use his bully pulpit… More

Poverty and Marriage, Inequality and Brains

Pathways, Winter 2008.
Excerpt: It may be said with only a little exaggeration that policy analysts are happy describing the causes of problems while ignoring their solution, and politicians are happy proposing solutions to problems while ignoring their causes. At least, such is… More

We Can’t All Make the Grade

Standpoint, October 2008.
Excerpt: It is a gradient that, given fine-grained tests, will be found to apply from Year 1 to university. In Year 1, it is indeed true that almost all children can learn everything that Year 1 teaches. Some will learn it faster than others, but almost… More

Love Has Nothing to Do with It

South Texas Law Review, Fall 2008.
Excerpt: And now, for something completely different. When I say something completely different, I am afraid that it is perhaps more different than the organizers of this event would really prefer. In some respects, gay marriage has the same relationship to… More

Good Teachers in Bad Times

Washington Times, October 14, 2008.
Excerpt: It is a bad time to be a good public school teacher, as I had occasion to discover at a personal level when I recently wrote a book on education. I was criticizing the anemic curricula in history, science and literature currently taught in too many… More

College Daze

Forbes, September 2008.
Excerpt: College is not all it’s cracked up to be. Dumbed-down courses, flaky majors and grade inflation have conspired to make the letters B.A. close to meaningless. But another problem with today’s colleges is more insidious: They are no longer a good… More

Guaranteed Income as a Replacement for the Welfare State

Basic Income Studies, August 2008.
Excerpt: Professor Amitai Etzioni’s policy brief presents a cogent case for a guaranteed income (GI). Like other advocates, he sees the GI as a moral imperative — in his case, it is an expression of a moral obligation we have to one another as human… More

Leave This Child Behind

New York Post, August 17, 2008.
Excerpt: When it comes to thinking about our schools, politicians and educators recoil from a truth that the rest of us learned in first grade when we read “Dick and Jane.” That terrifying truth? Some kids just weren’t very good at reading and math. In… More

For Most People, College Is a Waste of Time

Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2008.
Excerpt: Imagine that America had no system of post-secondary education, and you were a member of a task force assigned to create one from scratch. One of your colleagues submits this proposal: First, we will set up a single goal to represent educational… More


The Weekly Standard, June 2, 2008.
Excerpt: So there I am in Avignon, lost, and I go into a shop and ask, “Où est le bistro La Fourchette, s’il vous plaît?” in my best Iowa accent. The woman behind the counter comes out onto the sidewalk and gives me instructions, pointing… More

The Age of Educational Romanticism

The New Criterion, May 2008.
Excerpt: This is the story of educational romanticism in elementary and secondary schools—its rise, its etiology, and, we have reason to hope, its approaching demise. Educational romanticism consists of the belief that just about all children who are not… More

Abolish the SAT

The American, July-August, 2007.
Excerpt: For most high school students who want to attend an elite college, the SAT is more than a test. It is one of life’s landmarks. Waiting for the scores—one for verbal, one for math, and now one for writing, with a possible 800 on each—is… More

Jewish Genius

Commentary, April 2007.
Excerpt: Since its first issue in 1945, COMMENTARY has published hundreds of articles about Jews and Judaism. As one would expect, they cover just about every important aspect of the topic. But there is a lacuna, and not one involving some obscure bit of… More

Aztecs vs. Greeks

Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2007.
Excerpt: If “intellectually gifted” is defined to mean people who can become theoretical physicists, then we’re talking about no more than a few people per thousand and perhaps many fewer. They are cognitive curiosities, too rare to have… More

Intelligence in the Classroom

Wall Street Journal, January 16, 2007.
Excerpt: Education is becoming the preferred method for diagnosing and attacking a wide range problems in American life. The No Child Left Behind Act is one prominent example. Another is the recent volley of articles that blame rising income inequality on the… More

The GOP’s Bad Bet

New York Times, October 19, 2006.
Excerpt: LAST week President Bush signed a law that will try to impede online gambling by prohibiting American banks from transferring money to gambling sites. Most Americans probably didn’t notice or care, but it may do significant political damage to the… More

Acid Tests

Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2006.
Excerpt: Test scores are the last refuge of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). They have to be, because so little else about the act is attractive. NCLB takes a giant step toward nationalizing elementary and secondary education, a disaster for federalism.… More

The $10,000 Solution

Los Angeles Times, April 9, 2006.
Excerpt: Suppose we assume people on the other side of the political divide are not hateful, not bent on destroying America, but are instead, by and large, decent and sensible humans. Assuming that’s the case — and really it is — then a thought… More

A Plan to Replace the Welfare State

Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2006.
Excerpt: This much is certain: The welfare state as we know it cannot survive. No serious student of entitlements thinks that we can let federal spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid rise from its current 9% of GDP to the 28% of GDP that it will… More

Thomas Sowell: Seeing Clearly

National Review, December 19, 2005.
Excerpt: One mark of a great book is a thesis so powerful that after a few years people take it for granted. Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions (1987) is such a book. Its thesis: The policy arguments between liberals and conservatives, socialists and… More

The Hallmark of the Underclass

Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2005.
Excerpt: Watching the courage of ordinary low-income people as they deal with the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, it is hard to decide which politicians are more contemptible — Democrats who are rediscovering poverty and blaming it on George W. Bush, or… More

The Inequality Taboo

Commentary, September 2005.
Excerpt: When the late Richard Herrnstein and I published The Bell Curve eleven years ago, the furor over its discussion of ethnic differences in IQ was so intense that most people who have not read the book still think it was about race. Since then, I have… More

How to Accuse the Other Guy of Lying with Statistics

Statistical Science, Vol. 20, No. 3, 2005.
Abstract: We’ve known how to lie with statistics for 50 years now. What we really need are theory and praxis for accusing someone else of lying with statistics. The author’s experience with the response to The Bell Curve has led him to suspect… More

The Advantages of Social Apartheid

Sunday Times (London), April 4, 2005.
Excerpt: Underclass is an ugly word, and we live in an age that abhors ugly words, so it is good to hear that the Blair government has devised a cheerier label: Neet, an acronym for “not in education, employment or training”. Once a government has given a… More

Sex Ed at Harvard

New York Times, January 23, 2005.
Excerpt: FORTY-SIX years ago, in “The Two Cultures,” C. P. Snow famously warned of the dangers when communication breaks down between the sciences and the humanities. The reaction to remarks by Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard, about the… More


The Public Interest, Summer 2004.
Excerpt: JONATHAN Rauch persuasively demonstrates, central to everything else, that those of us who are not proponents of gay marriage do not have the option of hoping the issue will go away. As Rauch puts it, we have reached a bend in the river. Major… More

Portrait of Privilege?

Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2004.
Last Wednesday’s record-breaking price of $104.2 million for Picasso’s “Boy with a Pipe” dramatizes the chasm that separates the art market from the contribution that great art can make to human life, a chasm that has been closed in… More

You Are What You Tax

New York Times, April 14, 2004.
Excerpt: Take a break as you fill out your 1040 form, and play this game: suppose you could choose which government entities your tax dollars support — and in what proportion. Since it’s a thought experiment, let’s assume that local and… More

Simple Justice

Sunday Times (London), January 25, 2004.
Excerpt: I recently interviewed Una Padel, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, a research foundation that advocates alternatives to prison and restorative justice. A fortnight before we talked, her 13-year-old daughter had been mugged. If… More

No Justice

Sunday Times (London), January 18, 2004.
Excerpt: The story was told by an American student named Valerie Ruppel who had returned from a term’s study in London. Two days after her group reached Britain, a policewoman came to South Kensington to brief them on how to keep themselves safe. I pick up… More

An Opportunity Lost

The Public Interest, Winter 2003.
Excerpt: IT is customary when making critical remarks to start out by saying nice things about the person one is criticizing, and I want to do that now, but not pro forma. The report of the President’s Council on Bioethics is superb. It embodies the kind of… More

Well, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

New York Times, November 30, 2003.
Excerpt: “BUT what are the worst accomplishments?” the interviewer asked. We had been discussing great accomplishments in the arts and sciences, a subject on which I’ve written. The question stopped me cold. Art and science that are simply… More

Accomplishment on High

American Enterprise, October/November 2003.
Excerpt: At rare times and in scattered settings, human beings have achieved great things. They have discovered truths about the way the universe works, written words that illuminate the human condition, arranged sounds and colors in ways that touch our… More

A Libertarian Looks at Human Accomplishment in the Arts and Sciences

–, October 1, 2003.
Excerpt: Six years ago, for reasons unknown, it popped into my head that a cool title for a book would be An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Human Accomplishment. My immodest idea was to do for human accomplishment what Adam Smith did for economic… More

Measuring Achievement: The West and the Rest

The Public Interest, Summer 2003.
Excerpt: Eurocentrism has in recent years joined racism and sexism as one of the postmodern mortal sins. The Left’s fight against Eurocentrism explains why students in elementary school are likely to know more about Mayan culture than French culture, and… More

SAT Reform Fails the Needy

Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2002.
Excerpt: Last week’s reforms of the SAT — a new writing test, elimination of the famous analogy items, and the addition of higher-level math problems — signal an evolution toward an SAT that is more “aligned with curricula,” in… More

Family Decay Hurts Equality

American Enterprise, April/May 2002.
Excerpt: Americans hate the idea of social classes. Accordingly, we try to pretend we don’t have any. Up to 80 percent of survey respondents in our country will tell the interview that they are in the “middle class.” Being middle class is… More

The Fathers Are Still Missing

Washington Post, October 30, 2001.
Excerpt: “Honey, I’m Home” was the cheery title of the Urban Institute Study. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities titled its study with the stodgier, “Declining Share of Children Lived with Single Mothers in the Late 1990s.” Business Week and… More

The British Underclass: Ten Years Later

The Public Interest, Fall 2001.
Excerpt: AS the 1980s came to an end, the Sunday Times asked me to come to England and look at the country’s social problems through the eyes of an American who had been writing about the American underclass. The questions: Does England have an underclass?… More

Family Formation

– In Rebecca Blank and Ron Haskins, eds., New World of Welfare Reform. Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2001.

Prole Models

Wall Street Journal, February 6, 2001.
Excerpt: That American life has coarsened over the past several decades is not much argued, but the nature of the beast is still in question. Gertrude Himmelfarb sees it as a struggle between competing elites, in which the left originated a counterculture… More

Deeper into the Brain

National Review, January 24, 2000.
Excerpt: We, Homo sapiens, are about to learn how to alter human nature at roughly the same time that we finally learn for sure what that nature is. Our ignorance about the underlying truth of human nature has not been for want of trying. Philosophers took up… More

Our Dreyfus Case

The Weekly Standard, February 22, 1999.
Excerpt: In light of the conclusion of the Senate trial of the president, the editors of the Weekly Standard asked 22 writers, thinkers, and political actors the following questions: “President William Jefferson Clinton has been impeached and acquitted.… More

And Now for the Bad News

Wall Street Journal, February 2, 1998.
Excerpt: Good news is everywhere. Crime rates are falling; welfare rolls are plunging; unemployment is at rock bottom; teenage births are down. Name an indicator, economic or social, and chances are it has taken a turn in the right direction. This happy story… More

The Perils of GOP Activism

Wall Street Journal, February 20, 1998.
Excerpt: At the beginning of 1964, the country was at peace, the economy was humming, and vast tax revenues were burning a hole in Congress’s pocket. Sound familiar? The rhetoric of that time sounds oddly familiar too, as a growing number of Republican… More

What Government Must Do

American Enterprise, January/February 1998.
Excerpt: Years ago I worked for a research company that evaluated social programs for the federal government. One time I was heading a team assessing a program for troubled inner-city teenagers. As the evaluation approached its end, no quantitative measure… More

Three Broken Compacts

Wall Street Journal, December 23, 1997.
Excerpt: The received Republican wisdom now proclaims that Americans don’t hate the federal government after all. Most Americans like the federal government. Republicans must let the American people know that they too believe in government’s affirmative… More

IQ and Economic Success

The Public Interest, Summer 1997.
Excerpt: IN The Bell Curve, the late Richard J. Herrnstein and I described an emerging class society in which the intellectually blessed become ever more rich and powerful and the intellectually deficient find it harder and harder to cope. We proposed that… More

Bad News About Illegitimacy

The Weekly Standard, August 5, 1996.
Excerpt: I’m no newspaperman, but the following sure looks like a front-page, above-the-fold story to me: ILLEGITIMACY RECORDS BIGGEST JUMP EVER WASHINGTON, June 24 — Figures released today by the National Center for Health Statistics reveal that… More

Keeping Priorities Straight on Welfare Reform

Society, August 1996.
Excerpt: In April 1995 I was asked to testify before the Senate Finance Committee on the welfare reform bill then under discussion. As I write (mid-November 1995), the Senate and House conferees are trying to reach a compromise between the bills passed by the… More

A Stroll Through the Income Spectrum

American Enterprise, July/August 1996.
Excerpt: The link between income and standard of living used to be simple: People who made more money lived better. They drove a Buick, not a Chevy. They moved from an upstairs flat to a four-bedroom split-level. They fished for muskies in Canada instead of… More

The Next British Revolution

The Public Interest, Winter 1995.
Excerpt: IN 1989, the London Sunday Times asked me to explore whether England was developing an American-style underclass. I reported then that England seemed to be replaying the American scenario but with some imponderables that were peculiarly English.* In… More

Welfare Hysteria

New York Times, November 14, 1995.
Excerpt: Catastrophe looms. A million children pushed into poverty. Children sleeping on grates. Calcutta on the Hudson. All caused by the Republican welfare bill. This is the message of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, liberal advocacy groups and editorial… More

The Partial Restoration of Traditional Society

The Public Interest, Fall 1995.
Excerpt: DURING work on The Bell Curve, Richard Herrnstein and I were struck by the way in which the 1950s saw portentous developments that no one noticed at the time. We were focusing especially on the transformation in the top universities, which converted… More

The Bell Curve and Its Critics

Commentary, May 1995.
Excerpt: In November 1989, Richard Herrnstein and I agreed to collaborate on a book that, five years later, became The Bell Curve. It is a book about events at the two ends of the distribution of intelligence that are profoundly affecting American life. At… More

What to Do about Welfare

Commentary, December 1994.
Excerpt: In the 1992 campaign, Bill Clinton’s television ad promising to “end welfare as we know it” was one of his best vote-getters, so effective that it was the first choice for a heavy media buy in closely contested states at the end of the… More

The Real ‘Bell Curve’

Wall Street Journal, December 2, 1994.
Excerpt: In the past few weeks, I have found myself occasionally leafing through “The Bell Curve” to reassure myself. Richard Hernnstein and I didn’t really write the book people are saying we wrote, did we? We didn’t. “The Bell… More

Genes, Race, and IQ—An Apologia

The New Republic, October 31, 1994 (with Richard Herrnstein.)
Excerpt: As of 1994, then, we can say nothing for certain about the relative roles that genetics and environment play in the formation of the black-white difference in I.Q. All the evidence remains indirect. The heritability of individual differences in I.Q.… More

The Aristocracy of Intelligence

Wall Street Journal, October 10, 1994.
Excerpt: A perusal of the Harvard’s Freshman Register for 1952 shows a class looking very much as Harvard freshman classes had always looked. Under the portraits of the well-scrubbed, mostly U.S. East Coast, overwhelmingly white and Christian young men were… More

Does Welfare Bring More Babies?

The Public Interest, Spring 1994.
Excerpt: LAST OCTOBER, I published a long piece on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Coming White Underclass.” Its thesis was that white illegitimacy—22 percent of all live births as of the latest (1991) figures—is now moving… More

Regaining Lost Ground

City Journal, Spring 1994.
Excerpt: In 1968, as Lyndon Johnson left office, 13 percent of Americans were poor, using the official definition. Over the next 12 years, our expenditures on social welfare quadrupled. And, in 1980, the percentage of poor Americans was—13 percent.… More

Upon This Rock: The Miracle of a Black Church

City Journal, Winter 1993.
Excerpt: Upon This Rock (HarperCollins, $22.50) is a sourcebook for thinking about the black inner city. Not for understanding it, nor for solving its problems—this is more than one may reasonably ask of any book—but for thinking about what is going on,… More

The Coming White Underclass

Wall Street Journal, October 29, 1993.
Excerpt: Every once in a while the sky really is falling, and this seems to be the case with the latest national figures on illegitimacy. The unadorned statistic is that, in 1991, 1.2 million children were born to unmarried mothers, within a hair of 30% of… More

The Local Angle: Giving Meaning to Freedom

Reason, October 1993.
Excerpt: Twenty-five years ago, in May of 1968, where were you? Some days, I was in Northeast Thailand, along the banks of the Mekong River, where in the evenings I would sit on the porch of the little house where I stayed, drinking a beer and watching the… More

Stop Favoring Unwed Mothers

New York Times, January 16, 1993.
Excerpt: The New Jersey Legislature took the plunge this week and passed a welfare package that, if signed by Gov. Jim Florio, would limit the benefits for women on welfare if they have additional children. Opponents and advocates alike have called the plan… More

Bad Lessons

New York Times, January 8, 1993.
Excerpt: President-elect Bill Clinton is right to make education a top priority. He is wrong in his understanding of what needs fixing. Not one of his main educational policies — increased loan assistance for college students, national educational… More

What’s Really Behind the SAT Score Decline?

The Public Interest, Winter 1992 (with Richard J. Herrnstein).
Excerpt: AUTUMN 1991 saw renewed controversy about SAT scores and American education. First it was revealed that the national average on the verbal portion of the Scholastic Aptitude Test had dropped by two points for the 1990-1991 school year and that the… More

A Question of Intelligence, by Daniel Seligman

Commentary, December 1, 1992.
Excerpt: In the tight and sometimes nervous world of people who write about IQ, this book has been a topic of conversation for a long time. It was originally commissioned as one of the Whittle books, a series of short works popularizing a scholarly topic for… More

The Legacy of the Sixties

Commentary, July 1992.
Excerpt: “Is President Bush hinting that the Peace Corps destroyed the moral fiber of poor people?” asked Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, responding to the claim by the White House spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater, that… More

After L.A.—Causes, Root Causes, and Cures

National Review, June 8, 1992.
Excerpt: The Rodney King verdict seemed as outrageous to me as it did to most Americans. But if it was outrageous, it was also laden with meaning. It opens a new and explosively dangerous period in American race relations. There is every reason to be… More

Thomas Jefferson Goes East

National Review, March 30, 1992.
Excerpt: I first arrived in Thailand in September 1965, a skinny 22-year-old, and stayed for six years. I married there. My first child was born there. In many of the most important ways, i grew up there. I went to Thailand from Harvard as I had gone to… More

But We’re Ignoring Gifted Kids

Washington Post, Feb. 2, 1992 (with Richard J. Herrnstein).
Excerpt: MOST OF the hand-wringing over American education has been misdirected. While the special problems of the disadvantaged have still not been adequately addressed, a thorough look at the performance of college-bound students over the last few decades… More

The Pursuit of Happiness Under Socialism and Capitalism

Cato Journal, Fall 1991.
Excerpt: There are many practical problems that the Soviet Union must address concretely in the months to come: questions about how to organize a political system so that the people’s interests are represented effectively, how to organize an economic system… More

Can Neighborhoods Save the City?

City Journal, Spring 1991.
Excerpt: CHAIRMAN NATHAN GLAZER: Today’s session is part of an effort to figure out how city neighborhoods and communities work and how they fail; what we gain when they work well, and what we lose when they do not. Most of us here are New Yorkers,… More

How to Win the War on Drugs

The New Republic, May 21, 1990.
Excerpt: Drugs should not be legalized, because many other social policy changes would be needed for legalization to be effective. In addition, making law enforcement an effective deterrent to drug use would be prohibitively expensive. A more promising… More

The British Underclass

The Public Interest, Spring 1990.
Excerpt: IS THE UNDERCLASS an American phenomenon? It often seems so. Reports about Western Europe’s social democracies typically portray societies in which the low-income class is hardworking and responsible. Only the United States of America, these… More

Here’s the Bad News on the Underclass

Wall Street Journal, March 8, 1990.
Excerpt: The call from my friend was cheery — he’d been reading a spate of newspaper and magazine articles proclaiming that the underclass is getting smaller. Crime in the inner city is down. Black teen-age births are down. Black youth… More


Sunday Times Magazine (London),  November 26, 1989.

The Coming of Custodial Democracy

Commentary, September 1988.
Excerpt: It is by now taken for granted that the nation is about to turn to the Left in domestic policy. “Reaganism is finished, bankrupt, used up, over,” wrote Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in the Washington Post this past May. At the time he foresaw a… More

Crime in America

National Review, June 10, 1988.
Summary: An excerpt from In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government in which Murray reflects on how different “the crime problem” looks when we ask just what constitutes “enough safety” to go about our daily lives. Excerpt: Crime… More

Don’t Give Up: Poverty Programs That Work

The Washington Monthly, June, 1988.
Excerpt: What you have generously offered me is a  chance to say that while I think most of the programs failed, I’m not a fanatic, and to prove it, here are some successes. And I can’t do it, because I cannot think of a single large program, state or… More

To Ourselves and Our Posterity

Free Minds and Free Markets, May 1988.
Excerpt: A false premise prevails in the latter half of this century, one that will seem as naive to our grandchildren as the Victorians’ confidence in the permanency of empire now seems to us: that democracy is a stable form of government. It is as if… More

In Search of the Working Poor

The Public Interest, Fall 1987.
Excerpt: The American debate about poverty and public policy has always been grounded in the prevailing answer to the question, “Can any American who is willing to work hard make a decent living?” From the founding of the nation until the 1960s, the… More

No, Welfare Isn’t Really the Problem

The Public Interest, Summer 1986.
Excerpt: Ellwood and Lawrence Summers’s article “Is Welfare Really the Problem?” (Spring 1986) exemplifies a continuing problem that clouds debate about the underclass. On one side are scholars like myself who have advanced over the last decade… More

Losing Ground Two Years Later

Cato Journal, Spring/Summer 1986.
Excerpt: Losing Ground appeared in the fall of 1984. It was an election year, and the two presidential candidates held a debate on domestic policy. The word “black” was hardly mentioned. The “poor” were a topic, but only because of the “fairness”… More

White Welfare, White Families, ‘White Trash’

National Review, March 28, 1986.
Excerpt: How many dozens of article, Op-Ed columns, cover stories, talk shows, and features on the six o’clock news have by now used Bill Moyer’s documentary on the vanishing black family as their justification. It is as if censorship had been… More

How to Lie with Statistics

National Review, February 28, 1986.
Excerpt: Charles Murray “has never publicly responded, however, to one of the most widely publicized “refutations” of his thesis, based on a paper by David Elwood and Robert Summers of Harvard. Their data were applied in an… More

The Constraints on Helping

The Freeman, February 1986.
Excerpt: Let me pose a problem in the form that Einstein used to call a “thought experiment.” Whereas Einstein used the device to imagine such things as the view from the head of a column of light, we will use it for the more pedestrian purpose of… More

Cruel and Usual: Pretrial Punishment in Jail

The Washington Monthly, December 1985.
Excerpt: John Irwin’s thesis is that American society uses jails to control and segregate the “rabble,” a subset of the poor and disadvantaged. Besides being destitute, the rabble are detached from the conventional social networks and behave in ways… More

Are the Poor ‘Losing Ground’?

Political Science Quarterly, Fall 1985.
Excerpt: In the year since it was published, Losing Ground has become a political football in the debate about social policy toward the poor, and many of the substantive issues it raises have gotten lost in the melee. What follows recapitulates some of the… More

Prepared Statement to the Joint Economic Committee

– Prepared Statement, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Monetary and Fiscal Policy of the Joint Economic Committee, US Congress, June 20, 1985.
Excerpt: I thank the Subcommittee for the opportunity to appear before it today, but the assignment is daunting. The last time I tried to answer the question, “Did we win or lose the War on Poverty?” it took me a book to do so. And properly so.… More

Helping the Poor: A Few Modest Proposals

Commentary, May 1985.
Excerpt: Last fall I published a book entitled Losing Ground. It called attention to the fact that on several of the dimensions we ordinarily use to measure quality of life—unemployment, education, crime, family structure, economic dependence—things have… More

Saving the Poor from Welfare

Reason, December 1984.
Excerpt: There is a lesson to be learned from our national experience with the Great Society programs of the 1960s and their successors in the years since. The lesson is that the kinds of help we as a nation want to provide are more limited than we commonly… More

The Domino that Didn’t Fall

Atlantic Monthly, November 1984.
Excerpt: This is the story of an insurgency that disappeared. It begins in the mid-1960s, when the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) initiated an active and violent rebellion in Thailand’s poorest and most isolated region–the Northeast. By the… More

The War on Poverty 1965–1980

Wilson Quarterly, Autumn 1984.
Excerpt: No one disputes that poverty exists in America. But how serious is the problem? Who are the poor? Why are they poor? Are there more poor people than there used to be? On such questions there is little agreement. Budget director David Stockman… More

The Fairness Delusion

American Spectator, October 1984.
Excerpt: Democrats have been bludgeoning the Reagan Administration with “the fairness issue” since 1981. The fairness issue covers a variety of sins, generally falling under the headings of rewarding the rich and cutting programs for the poor. For… More

The Two Wars Against Poverty

The Public Interest, Fall 1982.
Excerpt: Most people, including most scholars, think the War on Poverty began with a formal declaration by Lyndon Johnson in 1964. In a sense this is true, for there was in fact no formal governmental decree before that time. Academic researchers have chosen… More