Washington at Work; An Architect of the Reagan Vision Plunges Into Inquiry on Race and I.Q.

Jason DeParle, New York Times, November 30, 1990.


One thing Charles Murray knows how to do is generate controversy. In 1984, his book “Losing Ground” argued that social programs did more harm than good and proposed, as “a thought experiment,” that the country simply abolish them.

A visitor to White House offices recalls a Reagan aide brandishing the book aloft as a sort of Exhibit A when advocating program cuts. The President himself cited it in attacks on the welfare system. Liberal academics combed through census tapes seeking to discredit his thesis.

That may not be Mr. Murray’s last uproar. Now at the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy research center here, he sits at an important crossroads of ideas and politics. Collaborating with Richard Herrnstein, a Harvard psychologist who has in the past been in the center of disputes about heredity and intelligence, he is asking one of the most explosive questions a social scientist can pose: whether there are differences in intelligence between blacks and whites that help explain differences in their economic and social standing.

New York Times