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In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  246 ratings  ·  39 reviews
America's population is wealthier than any in history. Every year, the American government redistributes more than a trillion dollars of that wealth to provide for retirement, health care, and the alleviation of poverty. We still have millions of people without comfortable retirements, without adequate health care, and living in poverty. Only a government can spend so much ...more
Hardcover, 214 pages
Published March 1st 2006 by AEI Press (first published 2006)
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Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
I published a book review on this in the NY Sun:

In a random sample of 1,000 Americans, the number living in or near poverty is 216, according to the latest Census estimates. Thirty years ago, the number was also 216. The near-poverty rate dips and surges during every business cycle, but the uncomfortable fact is that poverty persists, despite a slathering of government dollars on the problem.

What Mr. Murray calls the Plan "converts all transfer payments t
Bojan Tunguz
May 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Charles Murray is well known author of popular yet controversial social science books (see for instance Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, 10th Anniversary Edition, Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (A Free Press Paperbacks Book), Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 ). He is an engaging writer and all of his books are replete with hard data and precise quantitative analysis. A large deal of what mak ...more
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Well, what do you know, proof that my mind can indeed be changed.

When I started reading this book and figured out it was about a Universal Basic Income (UBI) a la Andrew Yang (maybe he even got it from here, who knows) I rolled my eyes but kept on reading.

Before reading this book, I basically thought a UBI was a bad idea and that, similar to the minimum wage, it would have the effect of rising inflation and making it more difficult for unskilled workers to get employment. While the author didn't
Tobias Wolfram
It is by no means bad but the author lacks a certain rigor. We don't get very much information on empirical experiments based on comparable concepts and in general the amount of literature discussed was at least to me disappointing. Furthermore the financial aspects of the policy were not that useful and could be even called lazy as Murray just assumes that not much would change from the current fiscal situation once the basic income grant is implemented whilst ignoring the consequences this cou ...more
Jan 14, 2009 rated it did not like it
A simplistic, white, middle-class, heterosexual plan to replace welfare. Reinforces the myths of the causes of poverty. Does not take into account real world issues and cost of living.
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am more and more inclined to favor a UBI system. I'd love to see our politicians explore this seriously. Our current system of government control of wealth redistribution is obviously not working. Our government was never set up to allocate resources and it does it very, very poorly. Give the people a chunk of money and let them use it as they see fit. ...more
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is my third Charles Murray book that I've read, and the first that could be categorized as an "easy read" for a political/economics book. The plan is simple, stops encouraging poor behavior choices (as so many social programs currently do). The only hiccup for me was his call for an insurance mandate, but considering that this can be bought with the government lump sum and can include as much coverage as a person wants or as little as basic catastrophic care, it's something that I can live ...more
John Dickinson
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
Extremely wishful thinking and poorly constructed arguments. Full of misrepresentations of Milton Friedman well, selectively choosing specific quotes by Friedman to support the author's premise that île at the same time ignoring the rest of Friedman's statement which rebuts the authors premise. Milton and Thomas Sowell both have written a wide plethora debunking this second-rate economist. ...more
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: completed
Although interesting & provocative--if not original--"In Our Hands" relies on unrealistic assumptions.
For one detailed review see:
Some thoughts are worth pursuing if not the grandiose conclusion.

Ted Ryan
I disagree at a foundational level on the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) but I was still interested in hearing the argument for it. Murray presents his case fairly well and I am glad to have read it. As a rating it is 1 star for the horrible idea of UBI and 5 stars for the presentation.
Otto Lehto
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Murray's proposal - "The Plan", or as he more familiarly calls it in the 2nd edition, the "UBI" - represents a conservative and libertarian version of the argument for a Universal Basic Income. It is conservative, because it emphasizes the importance of family values, local communities and even religion, but it is libertarian, because it emphasizes the free choice of individuals, including the poor. It is an updated version of Friedman's Negative Income Tax (NIT) plan - which Murray seems to mis ...more
Jul 28, 2017 rated it liked it
In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State (2006) by Charles Murray describes an actual, costed out Universal Basic Income (UBI).Murray is a controversial scholar but this book does actually have figures and describes how a UBI could work.

UBI has currently had a resurgence of popularity due mainly to the fear the robots and automation are believed by some to be about to dramatically reduce employment. It has supporters on both the left and right. However, people appear to be talking about
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The world's economic systems now face unprecedented changes. We're producing more and more efficiently, we're automating work, and producing enormous wealth. But that wealth is getting more and more concentrated, while the various government welfare programs try to keep up. Of course economies have changed before, but new products and services have always brought with them the need for human capital.

What if this time it's different? What if we can produce everything we want without putting every
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics-history
This book succinctly advances a conservative argument for universal basic income, and it makes such a thing seem plausible. At times the author's language regarding social issues (regarding, for example, gender roles and sexuality) feels dated, but his Libertarian insistence that we would all be better off if we let people make their own choices with their own money shows that his heart is in the right place. For most of the book he asks the reader not to worry about how politically impossible t ...more
Calum Best
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Murray’s work is beautiful — not solely because of the author’s technical capability, but because of his fluency in the languages of different political groups.

In my mind, he succeeds at “extending a hand across the aisle between libertarians and social democrats.”

Other reviewers have expressed disappointment at the lack of an extensive literature review. I’m somewhat less sophisticated than they and didn’t find myself wanting more studies, but Murray himself owned up to this — he said that the
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Murray's idea for a Universal Basic Income fascinates me. This book is compelling. There are some brilliant people whom I really respect (Thomas Sowell for one)that utterly disagree with Murray's ideas here. I would love to find an extensive debate on this issue between Sowell and Murray. I am not sure my brain could stand the presence of that much intellectual dynamite. ...more
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Since the idea of Universal Basic Income is a topic in the news recently I thought I would read this 2006 book, which lays out a UBI plan. It's a short easy read with extensive data tables in the appendices. Murray discusses different possible social outcomes of UBI, which are certainly thought-provoking. ...more
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Into to Universal Basic Income

My libertarian brain is still holding on to the concept that taxation is theft but UBI seems to offer a viable alternative to the mess we currently use to exploit the poor.
Pat Mckay
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Good explanation of universal basic income concept, and pitfall avoidance.
Nov 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: public-policy
Murray makes the case for the Plan, which is known as the Universal Basic Income (UBI). He explains the Plan in detail and goes through a number of potential issues with it. In general, the Plan would give everyone a certain amount of money per year (possibly $10,000) that would increase annually based on the cost of living. This would replace all other government transfer (welfare) programs.

Although the book provides a brief overview that hits on multiple key topics, I'm not sold on the idea.
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I borrowed this book from my local library after watching a C-Span segment in which the author discussed the contents of this book as well as the ideas and reasons behind a Universal Basic Income (UBI). The concept of the UBI is to offer $13,000 to every U.S. citizen age 21 or over for the rest of their living lives. This includes a $3,000 catastrophic health insurance payment which is automatically deducted and a $10,000 a year income deposited into a bank account every month. The author argues ...more
Jan Notzon
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating suggestion for how to completely reorganize the welfare state. I found the most interesting part to be Chapter 11, that deals with social theory. The limits, and actually the perils, of non-voluntary (i.e. governmental) charity are very cogently explained. The system Murray would replace it with makes consummate sense to me and he covers almost all my questions. I wonder how much of a UBI (universal basic income) would go up someone's nose or in someone's arm is one. Of course, tha ...more
Jan 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: current-issues
The central premise of this book is that the US could, and should, replace all current government programs that redistribute wealth (Medicare, Social Security, crop subsidies, etc.) with lump sum payments of $10,000 to every adult citizen (excluding prisoners if I remember correctly). As this is a radically new and intriguing idea for the country, I feel this is an important book to read. I am sure the ideas are not original to Murray, but this book provides a concise introduction that is a good ...more
I am a big fan of Murray's work. This fits in the progression of his thinking and analysis.

In previous works he examined what is going wrong with the federal social welfare programs (including welfare, food stamps, unemployment, social security, medicare, medicaid, etc) and what is necessary to provide an environment where people can pursue happiness.

Here he lays out a plan to completely reform all of those programs, replacing them with a simple plan that eliminates the negative motivators in
Feb 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This was well worth the read. The plan that Murray clearly and concisely lays out is for every man and woman to receive a $10,000 grant each year from the government. Where did these funds come from? The government of course, taken from the frivolous, wasteful social programs that have had ample time to prove their worth but have only proven that government is inefficient. So the $10,000 is for each individual to spend as he or she wishes to. This is common sense, fiscal sanity, but the welfare ...more
Dragan Pecanac
Apr 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Very interesting topic for virtually any reader to take some time and learn about. Being against a welfare state, I never once even considered what the U.S. could transition to instead of the current systems such as Medicaid/Medicare/Obamacare, Social Security, E.B.T., and many other similar programs which usually provide individuals and families items they are not really in any serious need of. The idea of "The Plan" in this book is somewhat unrealistic, considering the major changes to the gov ...more
Corbin Brown
Nov 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Charles Murray improves on the idea of a negative income tax (NIT) by offering a 10k dollar a year grant to every individual age 21 and over, regardless of marital status or income. At a certain income level (25k/yr.) a surcharge tax goes into effect to replenish the pool of funds. While his data are somewhat dated and some of his cultural assumptions somewhat antiquated, his central claim-that the Plan or Plan B should be implemented- does not suffer as a result. Murray offers an incisive and a ...more
Nolan Gray
Dec 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Parts one and two are mostly a back-of-the-envelope calculations of how "the Plan" (how Murrary frequently refers to his plan for a Universal Basic Income, or UBI) would work, how costs would be offset by corresponding cuts in other social services, and the immediate results. Part three largely speaks to how the UBI would embolden conservative social/political goals. The four appendices go into details about the UBI that policy wonks - and nobody else - will enjoy. It's simple, accessible, and f ...more
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Charles Alan Murray is an American libertarian conservative political scientist, author, and columnist. His book Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950–1980 (1984), which discussed the American welfare system, was widely read and discussed, and influenced subsequent government policy. He became well-known for his controversial book The Bell Curve (1994), written with Richard Herrnstein, in whi ...more

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