IN PURSUIT: Of Happiness and Good Government by Charles Murray

IN PURSUIT: Of Happiness and Good Government

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A searching revision of the operative assumptions that underlie the formulation of American social policies and that shape, direct, and assess their implementation. Murray, senior research fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and author of Losing Ground (1984), questions the success of government's role as provider of first recourse and pervasive social engineer. His argument, buttressed with case studies, statistical analyses, and cogent thought-experiments, derives from an Aristotelian definition of happiness as filtered through the major British philosophers of the Enlightenment and employed by the Founding Fathers, Jefferson in particular. Murray's specific contribution is to modify vision of man, citizen, and government in terms of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs: food, water, and shelter; safety; intimacy; esteem; self-actualization. Murray centers his discussion on the guarantee of the right to the pursuit of happiness. Good government, he says, must see to it that basic physiological needs and the need for safety are met, but must not--indeed cannot--guarantee equality of conditions or results. It must remove needless barriers to that pursuit, and policy must be designed so as not to create new ones. Policy must also be designed to encourage and assist the individual to achieve happiness on his own. Not surprisingly, Murray calls for extensive return of social problem-solving to individuals and associations of those having similar needs and interests, with government providing for basic needs and monitoring a lair shake for everyone. Well-written and well-argued, Murray's is a forceful plea for less governmental involvement in our lives.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1988
Publisher: Simon & Schuster