In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government, first published by Simon & Schuster in 1988 and now released in a new edition by the Liberty Fund, is Charles Murray’s classic application of the Founders’ thinking to postindustrial America. Murray proposes a radically different way of thinking about success in modern social policy: success is not to be measured by economics or equality of outcomes. Rather, social policy succeeds when it provides the best possible framework for individuals to pursue happiness.
Murray takes the reader on a rich intellectual journey that begins with the concept of happiness itself, drawing on the Aristotelian tradition of happiness as “lasting and justified satisfaction with life as a whole.” He then uses Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs to lay out the enabling conditions for the pursuit of happiness. Murray then turns to the ways human nature inevitably dictates what government can and cannot do, invoking the work of the Scottish enlightenment and American Founders. Finally, through a series of fascinating thought experiments about contemporary policy issues, Murray illustrates how this new criterion of success for assessing any specific policy—does it foster the individual’s pursuit of happiness?—changes the calculus for choosing among options.
Praise for In Pursuit:
“It has slowly begun to dawn on people that Charles Murray is a contemporary rarity. Lots of us write on public issues. When he writes, the terms of debate change. And invariably for the better. In Pursuit shows why.”
--George F. Will
“Mr. Murray may have launched a new era with this magnificent book.”
“The most important book on political philosophy in decades.”
Charles Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar at AEI. His books include Losing Ground (Basic Books, 1984), The Bell Curve (with Richard J. Herrnstein. Free Press, 1994), Human Accomplishment (HarperCollins, 2003), and Coming Apart (Crown Forum, 2012). Of all his books, In Pursuit is his favorite.