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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Follow the money: Charles Murray and the Manhattan Institute

Here is Charles Murray tweeting a response to an article about race science. He apparently has plans to
promote the same in his new book.

Wait - new book? But isn't Murray supposed to be retired? Does retirement mean anything when you're a plutocrat-funded public intellectual?

The answer is, apparently, not really. According to the January 2018 NPR piece by Michel Martin:
Mr. Murray recently announced that he'll be retiring as the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, moving into an emeritus role. He's giving a major address tomorrow to mark this transition, so we thought we'd take this moment to talk about his career. And I started by asking him about "The Bell Curve."
Is there any substantial difference in activities between being a W. H. Brady Scholar and an American Enterprise Institute emeritus? Considering Murray is still writing books, I don't see any difference. 

Murray has a career as a public intellectual thanks to the Manhattan Institute funding his book. According to the February 1994 article (so before The Bell Curve which was published in September 1994) in the New Yorker entitled Intellectual Stock Picking:

...(William H.) Hammett's special gift was his nose for the Zeitgeist. The institute's current chairman, Richard Gilder (no relation of George's), refers to Hammett as "the greatest intellectual stock picker of our time." And his first act of selection was his decision to fund the research of Charles Murray, a formerly liberal social scientist who had recently written a short study for the Heritage Foundation which attacked the welfare system. Murray argued that the principal cause of the preexistence of the black underclass was not racism or Republican policy or structural changes in the economy but welfare itself. Welfare was more appealing than work; and recipients, once on it, became dependent. At the time Hammett met Murray, in 1982, he was unemployed and virtually unknown. Hammett was so taken with Murray's frontal attack on sacred liberal principles that he immediately signed him up to write a book on the subject. The usual rightwing foundations declined to subsidize Murray's work, so Hammett agreed to victual the scholar for a year or so, even though the institute's treasury was almost empty.
When Murray's book on welfare, "Losing Ground," appeared, in 1984, Hammett secured a grant from the Liberty Fund to hold a two-day conference in New York on "the Murray thesis," and he invited not only fellow-travelers and academics but also liberal journalists and card-carrying members of the intelligentsia. He mailed out a thousand copies of the book, and sent early favorable reviews to other potential reviewers, counting on the herd instinct. And he spent every available penny in the institute's budget to send Murray barnstorming around the country...  
"...Losing Ground," which has sold an amazing eighty thousand copies so far, put both Charles Murray and the Manhattan Institute on the map. "Wealth and Poverty" had given conservatives a rallying cry: Murray's book was a conversion document, and it arrived, as Hammett intuitively understood, at a propitious moment. Many nonconservative were already becoming more sympathetic toward Daniel Patrick Moynihan's theory that family breakdown was largely responsible for the problems of the black underclass. But while Moynihan had stated that welfare contributed to these problems and that it needed to be reformed, Murray insisted that the War on Poverty was their chief cause and that welfare needed to be abolished altogether. His single-mindedness lost him any libera readers, and critics charged that the book contained significant fatal errors, but there's no question that "Losing Ground" achieved the Hayekian goal of shifting the debate from liberal to conservative terrain. Experiments in "workfare" and President Clinton's call for a "two years and out" welfare system at least indirectly reflect Murray's influence.
Steven Pinker promoted the Moynihan claim that the real problem with black families wasn't lack of money, it was "family breakdown." As if the first isn't causally related to the second. In case anybody still wants to argue that Steven Pinker is a liberal.

And Charles Murray has been the recipient of wingnut welfare ever since the Manhattan Institute staked him in 1984. As Krugman pointed out, wingnut welfare is an important disincentive to doing rigorous work - no matter whether it's good, bad or indifferent, as long as you say what the plutocrats want you to say, they'll keep cutting those checks.

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