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A racism that is impossible to fight against because, in an Orwellian twist, it has coopted the terms of righteousness for the sake of its own survival. Dec 29, George rated it really liked it. This book covers American Social Policy from to Murray makes interesting arguments to argue against the social welfare programs in effect during that time.

He has many other publications which would be interesting to read. Because the end point of this book is over 38 years ago, I think its main discussion point is the exposition of the argument against government intervention in social welfare policy. I would need to read a lot more widely in this field before coming to a conclus This book covers American Social Policy from to I would need to read a lot more widely in this field before coming to a conclusion about Mr.

Murray's arguments. Nov 13, Cav rated it really liked it Shelves: sociology , history , culture. A stats-driven look at the genesis and years between and of American social policies. This book presented a lot of good information, but I found reading very monotonous, boring, and dry.

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To quote another review: "The book doesn't lend itself to the audio book format, which was how I tried to "read" it. Jan 07, Humphrey rated it liked it Shelves: politics. This book is a demonstration of libertarian view upon social issues such as welfare trap. If you agree with this book's gist is another matter.


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In the context of the "angry" working class in U. Although I would still rate it as moderately good, Losing Ground lacks the potential to become an all-time classic, such as road to serfdom. Three stars out of five in my view is really appropriate.

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Apr 12, Matt "The Bibliognost" Harrison rated it it was amazing. Have policymakers, social scientists, and elected officials read this book?? If so, why do their policies continue to fail us nearly 40 years after it was written? If not Jul 02, Ava rated it did not like it. Really lacks a holistic view of humanity, simplifies to the point of creating false messages and making it seem like human life is as simple as the systematic advantages some are given at the expensive of those less fortunate. May 08, Ian rated it really liked it. Extremely instructive study of poverty policy in the US.

May 06, Heather rated it really liked it. In a stunning turn of events, the federal government made things worse. The data behind this book is solid and cannot be refuted.


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Although the statistics and at the reader can definitely see how these systems still affect our society today more than ever. Mar 12, Sarah marked it as to-read. Referenced in Hillbilly Elegy. Nov 16, Audi Fuhr rated it liked it. I think he often confuses correlation with causation, and I thought a few of the stats were misused.

Otherwise, I would give it 4 stars. Overall though, he's a great writer and this book challenged some of my previously held beliefs. If you are liberal and want to get another take on issues associated with the welfare state, it's a great place to start. Dec 20, Mark Geise rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. In the United States, as social welfare programs have expanded, the most vulnerable groups among us have seen their lot in life get progressively worse. Though social welfare programs may sound good superficially, the data do not support that expansive social welfare programs are a net positive.

He also describes federal efforts to eradicate poverty, chronic unemployment, and other social ills and how the elite wisdom changed during this time period.

The U. As this happened, the state of poor blacks deteriorated. While poor blacks were worse off by all indications, middle- and upper-class blacks saw significant progress. Murray does a convincing job to discount other potential explanations for this phenomenon; the huge expansion of federal social welfare programs fits as the causing factor. Murray hypothesizes that federal social welfare programs incentivize joblessness, single motherhood, and other social ills.

These programs make it easier for people to remain unemployed when they lose a job. The larger the benefits, the less likely they will ever work. People are less likely to get married to foster a household to care for an unexpected child if there are government benefits out there to be had.


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  7. The data back all of these hypotheses up. As social welfare programs expanded, illegitimacy rates, joblessness rates, and violent crime rates skyrocketed among the black poor. Murray makes plenty of conclusions based on these phenomena; most important among them may be that the responsible black poor are the most hurt by these policies. At one time, individuals in poor areas that were able to hold down a job and build a household were afforded the respect they deserve.

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    However, as paternal governmental programs swooped in to support those who refuse to make the sacrifices that the responsible poor are willing to, the responsible poor lost much of this respect. To many, they now seemed to be fools when there was now an easier route to comfort. Also, the responsible poor are most affected by the increased violent crime and degradation of education. At the end of the book, Murray says something that is pretty eye-opening.

    He presents readers with this hypothetical: you know that you are going to die tomorrow, so you need to make a choice as to what home your child will grow up in. One choice is a household where money is scarce, your child may be hungry at times, and he or she will wear ratty clothes. However, this household values education, hard work, and independence and fosters those values in its children. Your other option is a household with plenty of food and quality clothes for your child.

    However, this household relies on handouts and does not value education, hard work, or independence. Which household would you choose for your child? The vast majority of us would choose the poorer household. Why would we then encourage a system in which, by birth, children are forced into households of the second type? Very relevant in todays sociopolitical climate!

    A must read for those who seek truth when it comes to entitlements, social transfers, and big government. Dec 22, Brad rated it really liked it. Most of it is a thorough, in depth analysis of welfare and the unintended consequences of social programs.

    Its thesis, backed by data, is that in trying help everyone, we only made problems worse and overall would have done more good by doing nothing at all. Murray did a great job of challenging things I believed and wrestling me towards the center with data.

    Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, 10th Anniversary Edition

    In particular, I appreciated the discussions about why someone in poverty would make decisions that seem illogical to someone outside of poverty--but are, actually, perfectly logical to them. The discussions on education hit a particularly truthful note with me as an educator in public schools--at what point does keeping a struggling, disruptive student in class hurt the education of everyone else? The idea of respect being a commodity for the poor and that the poor differentiate amongst themselves--this all felt very thoughtful, backed up, and rewarding to engage with.

    It's hard not to see that trying to help did exacerbate a lot of problems and that there aren't easy answers. However, the last two chapters really fell apart for me. Murray engages in "thought experiments" and offers "solutions" and--well, in a book that was all about unintended consequences, it's weird that Murray ignores the problems with his solutions and focuses on weirdly optimistic outcomes. He tries to show that social programs make things worse through an imaginary example of stopping smoking--the outcome is that it has no effect or it encourages people to smoke.

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    The way it's explained brings up reasonable and valid points, but it ignores the barriers to starting smoking--health, cost, and social pressure. Continuing his analogy, there are similar barriers to being on welfare. Also, his entire solutions chapter is a mess. Murray does a decent-ish job discussing race in other places, but that is missing at the end. It's rather bad.