Charles Murray believes that America's founders had it right--strict limits on the power of the central government and strict protection of the individual are the keys to a genuinely free society. In What It Means to Be a Libertarian, he proposes a government reduced to the barest essentials: an executive branch consisting only of the White House and trimmed-down departments of state, defense, justice, and environment protection; a Congress so limited in power that it meets only a few months each year; and a federal code stripped of all but a handful of regulations.
Combining the tenets of classical Libertarian philosophy with his own highly-original, always provocative thinking, Murray shows why less government advances individual happiness and promotes more vital communities and a richer culture. By applying the truths our founders held to be self-evident to today's most urgent social and political problems, he creates a clear, workable vision for the future.
Murray (coauthor of The Bell Curve) is a skilled polemicist, and his manifesto for a radically downsized government should both gather adherents and challenge opponents. He argues from two basic points: freedom (associated with responsibility) is our birthright; and in most cases, government intervention has been ineffectual. While Murray allows for some level of state and local government, he recommends scrapping most federal agencies that deal with domestic policies. Arguing that civil rights laws have actually retarded progress against racism, he cites evidence that discrimination against Jews and the Irish declined without legislation; but this ignores the special stigma of race. Murray advocates a $3000 education voucher for each child and suggests optimistically that medical patients paying full fees will subsidize the costs of the indigent; but this says nothing about those in between--the majority of the population. Welfare and Social Security payments should end, to be replaced by individual saving and community support from voluntary associations. Murray's proposals posit a more responsible populace--a worthy goal--yet they also assume a neighborly concern that may be lacking in our increasingly fragmented society. Moreover, his schema fails to address international comparisons (Canadian health care) and does not acknowledge how government has shaped an unequal status quo (e.g., mortgage interest deductions but little money for public housing). $100,000 ad/promo; author tour.