Two Americas, Growing Apart

Jonathan Rauch, Reason, June 2012.


Unless you live in a cave, you know the controversial work and reputation of Charles Murray. Losing Ground, published in 1984, proposed eliminating welfare as we knew it and became the template for conservative welfare reform. The Bell Curve (1994) proposed that America is sorting itself relentlessly by IQ, and that race is an intractable part of the picture. The unjustly neglected In Our Hands (2006) proposed cashing out most federal subsidies and programs and focusing on making government less intrusive rather than just less expensive (a better plan than conservatives’ current one of wishing the New Deal out of existence). In between Murray found time for a libertarian manifesto, a history of the Apollo space program, and a survey of human creativity. Like him or not, he has written many original books.

Coming Apart, his latest, is not one of them. There is almost nothing original or new in it. And I mean that as a high compliment, because what is new is rarely true.