Reviews

A More Perfect Union

In Pursuit is a philosophical exegesis on what is wrong with contemporary social policy analysis. In some ways it is a sequel to Murray's Losing Ground, having much in common with Part IV (Rethinking Social Policy) of that influential book. Though this is a more enterprising work, it is also a less successful one, leaving the reader with a sense that Murray's real goal is to provide a somewhat novel argument for a libertarian conception of the common good.

Murray concludes In Pursuit by stating that "much of what central government must do first of all is to leave people alone, and then make sure that they are left alone by others—that people are restrained from the use of force against each other." What else should government do? That's about it. It is no wonder that three pages later Murray approvingly cites the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick. But whereas Nozick was content to argue against big government on the principle of individual liberty, Murray seeks to up the ante by arguing that the pursuit of happiness is best fulfilled by having the government do next to nothing. Now it is one thing to show why government programs usually fail, quite another to maintain that the minimal state is man's best hope for attaining human happiness.

"The purpose of government," Murray says, "is to facilitate the pursuit of happiness of its citizens."...

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