Charles Murray: Abolish the Welfare State

Michael Barone, U.S. News & World Report, March 29, 2006.


Within a few years of the publication of Losing Ground, Gov. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin began his rounds of welfare reform, replacing by-right welfare payments with work requirements. Governors in other states, most of them Republicans but some of them Democrats, developed similar programs. In 1996, the Republican Congress passed, for the third time, a welfare reform proposal, and Bill Clinton, facing a re-election campaign, signed it. Murray reminded me many times during these years that those welfare overhaul programs weren’t anywhere near as thoroughgoing as his own. Correct.

But Losing Ground did show the way. It undermined the case that welfare was a moral obligation by showing that welfare created a moral disaster. It got people thinking that there must be another way. It inspired policy experimentation, which spawned political imitation. First in the states, and then nationally, welfare reform became one of the public policy successes of the 1990s.

US News & World Report