The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life

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The controversial book linking intelligence to class and race in modern society, and what public policy can do to mitigate socioeconomic differences in IQ, birth rate, crime, fertility, welfare, and poverty.
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About the author

Richard J. Herrnstein held the Edger Pierce Chair in Psychology at Harvard University until his death in 1994.

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17 total

Additional Information

Simon and Schuster
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Published on
May 11, 2010
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History / General
History / United States / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Together in one book, the two most important documents in United States history form the enduring legacy of America’s Founding Fathers including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton.

The Declaration of Independence was the promise of a representative government; the Constitution was the fulfillment of that promise.

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress issued a unanimous declaration: the thirteen North American colonies would be the thirteen United States of America, free and independent of Great Britain. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration set forth the terms of a new form of government with the following words: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Framed in 1787 and in effect since March 1789, the Constitution of the United States of America fulfilled the promise of the Declaration by establishing a republican form of government with separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, became part of the Constitution on December 15, 1791. Among the rights guaranteed by these amendments are freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the right to trial by jury. Written so that it could be adapted to endure for years to come, the Constitution has been amended only seventeen times since 1791 and has lasted longer than any other written form of government.

From the Paperback edition.
A sweeping cultural survey reminiscent of Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence.

"At irregular times and in scattered settings, human beings have achieved great things. Human Accomplishment is about those great things, falling in the domains known as the arts and sciences, and the people who did them.'

So begins Charles Murray's unique account of human excellence, from the age of Homer to our own time. Employing techniques that historians have developed over the last century but that have rarely been applied to books written for the general public, Murray compiles inventories of the people who have been essential to the stories of literature, music, art, philosophy, and the sciences—a total of 4,002 men and women from around the world, ranked according to their eminence.

The heart of Human Accomplishment is a series of enthralling descriptive chapters: on the giants in the arts and what sets them apart from the merely great; on the differences between great achievement in the arts and in the sciences; on the meta-inventions, 14 crucial leaps in human capacity to create great art and science; and on the patterns and trajectories of accomplishment across time and geography.

Straightforwardly and undogmatically, Charles Murray takes on some controversial questions. Why has accomplishment been so concentrated in Europe? Among men? Since 1400? He presents evidence that the rate of great accomplishment has been declining in the last century, asks what it means, and offers a rich framework for thinking about the conditions under which the human spirit has expressed itself most gloriously. Eye-opening and humbling, Human Accomplishment is a fascinating work that describes what humans at their best can achieve, provides tools for exploring its wellsprings, and celebrates the continuing common quest of humans everywhere to discover truths, create beauty, and apprehend the good.

The American way of life, built on individual liberty and limited government, is on life support.

American freedom is being gutted. Whether we are trying to run a business, practice a vocation, raise our families, cooperate with our neighbors, or follow our religious beliefs, we run afoul of the government—not because we are doing anything wrong but because the government has decided it knows better. When we object, that government can and does tell us, “Try to fight this, and we’ll ruin you.”

In this provocative book, acclaimed social scientist and bestselling author Charles Murray shows us why we can no longer hope to roll back the power of the federal government through the normal political process. The Constitution is broken in ways that cannot be fixed even by a sympathetic Supreme Court. Our legal system is increasingly lawless, unmoored from traditional ideas of “the rule of law.” The legislative process has become systemically corrupt no matter which party is in control.

But there’s good news beyond the Beltway. Technology is siphoning power from sclerotic government agencies and putting it in the hands of individuals and communities. The rediversification of American culture is making local freedom attractive to liberals as well as conservatives. People across the political spectrum are increasingly alienated from a regulatory state that nakedly serves its own interests rather than those of ordinary Americans.

The even better news is that federal government has a fatal weakness: It can get away with its thousands of laws and regulations only if the overwhelming majority of Americans voluntarily comply with them. Murray describes how civil disobedience backstopped by legal defense funds can make large portions of the 180,000-page Federal Code of Regulations unenforceable, through a targeted program that identifies regulations that arbitrarily and capriciously tell us what to do. Americans have it within their power to make the federal government an insurable hazard like hurricanes and floods, leaving us once again free to live our lives as we see fit.

By the People’s hopeful message is that rebuilding our traditional freedoms does not require electing a right-thinking Congress or president, nor does it require five right-thinking justices on the Supreme Court. It can be done by we the people, using America’s unique civil society to put government back in its proper box. 

From the Hardcover edition.
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