By Charles Murray.
Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society
ISBN 1 903 386 10 1
In 1990, the American Charles Murray asserted that a multiplying
underclass of unemployed men and single mothers would undermine
Ten years later he claims, in a thin pamphlet, that he was
right. Murray’s scholarship is such that he states: “Britain used
to have hardly any crime at all.”
His experience is such that he does not appreciate that places
such as Easterhouse – which he regards as underclass territory –
now have more people in work and greatly improved housing.
Moreover, as a resident, I can inform Murray that I have still not
been murdered. Where is his criminal, emerging underclass?
The pamphlet includes a commentary by Melanie Phillips, who
dismisses the term underclass while agreeing with Murray that the
decline of marriage has harmed family life.
Unlike Murray, she blames the decline on intellectuals and
officials who have led the way in divorce, co-habiting and
step-parenting while hypocritically lamenting the failures of poor
I respect Phillips’ passionate desire for stable marriages but,
at times, separation from abusing partners is in the best interests
of women and children.
Both Murray and Phillips would benefit by a closer look at
deprived areas. The latter writes negatively about “whole
communities where committed fathers are unknown… [with] primary
school children who have no idea how to make social
I know of no place where there is a complete absence of
committed fathers and relating kids. I do know deprived areas where
residents, including unemployed men and single mothers, join
together in community projects in order to improve family life and
Their values and collectivity should be copied by the rest of
society. And Charles Murray would do well to take on something of
their compassion and generosity of spirit.
Bob Holman is the author of George Lansbury.
Labour’s Neglected Leader (Christian Socialist Movement