Cover image for In pursuit : of happiness and good government
In pursuit : of happiness and good government
Murray, Charles A.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon and Schuster, [1988]

Physical Description:
341 pages ; 23 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Subject Term:
Format :

On Order



A modern classic--back in print and available again. Originally published in 1988, this book draws on advances in psychology and sociology to explore the fundamental questions of what is meant by "success". Rich in fascinating case studies. Line drawings, graphs and tables.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Already widely known for his controversial critique of the welfare state in Losing Ground (Basic, 1985), Murray here attempts a philosophical assault upon the pretensions of big government. Provocative and carefully reasoned, the analysis seeks to rehabilitate ``the pursuit of happiness'' as a fundamental purpose of government. Clearing away the trivial modern interpretations of happiness, Murray rediscovers the basis for a meaningful life in personal responsibility and community integrity-- not in bureaucratic efficiency. Indeed, federal programs that take the trouble out of life often end up weakening the local affiliations that provide personal satisfaction. Against liberal appeals to compassion, Murray offers hard evidence of the social harms that inevitably attend centralized government programs. He concludes that if the founders of American government assessed human nature correctly, then modern politicians must seriously rethink their social policy. It is a measure of how far political thinking has shifted that this book-- a strong defense of Jeffersonian ideals-- will surely be labeled ``conservative.'' Notes; to be indexed. BJC.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Murray, a senior research fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and the author of Losing Ground , launches a relentlessly unfocussed argument which includes the thesis that Jeffersonian democracy is perfectly applicable in the contemporary United States. Assuming that the pursuit of happiness should be a criterion in making public policy, he explores the enabling conditions of that pursuit (access to material resources, safety, self-respect prominent among them), then draws a fuzzy linkage between them and the concepts of challenge, competency and autonomy. His conclusion is that the pursuit of happiness is rooted in Edmund Burke's ``little platoons'' of work, family and community, and that the government, in order to encourage, nourish and protect these elemental functions, should keep interference to a minimum. He argues for ``a radically more decentralized and limited government.'' Alas, Murray does not say how this might be brought about. First serial to National Review; Conservative Book Club dual main selection. (October) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Murray's best seller, Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980, touted the virtues of small government. In this latest work, again sure to please conservatives and provoke liberals, he proposes that government not try to make people happy, but instead provide ``enabling conditions'' that ease their pursuit of happiness. These conditions notably include minimal welfare to provide merely the staples of life. Further attention to needy persons, he contends, should be provided by communities and local institutions. He acknowledges that his approach is especially difficult in poor inner cities with their alienation, impersonality, etc., but he nonetheless believes that typical governmental welfare only perpetuates poverty. A sophisticated treatment with potential broad appeal. David Steiniche, Missouri Western State Coll., St. Joseph (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.