Charles Murray’s failure by design

It is not at all clear what problem Charles Murray is trying to solve in his New York Times piece Narrowing the New Class Divide. But it can’t possibly be the economic inequality that has been growing for the last 30 years. While it is important to equalize the opportunity to internships, no one serious about addressing economic inequality would put this as one of their top four policy recommendations. The same can be said about Murray’s other three ideas.

My colleague, Josh Bivens, presents real policies to address America’s economic inequality in his book Failure by Design. Any one of Biven’s policies listed below would have a larger impact on reducing inequality than all four of Murray’s “solutions.”

  • A higher and indexed minimum wage
  • Strengthening workers’ right to organize
  • Guaranteed retirement and health security
  • A national and more democratic response to globalization
  • Restricting the excesses of the financial sector
  • Managing international capital flows
  • Investments in infrastructure, including educational infrastructure
  • A national commitment to achieving full employment
  • A national commitment to addressing racial inequality

These are the proposals of someone seriously concerned about economic inequality. Murray, on the other hand, selects policies which he admits at the outset “would not do much good.”

Murray’s last book, The Bell Curve, argued that nothing could be done about inequality because it was all genetic. That argument did not go over too well. He has repackaged his thesis, but he is still arguing that nothing can be done to address inequality. But we know better.