Saturday, March 3, 2012

James Q. Wilson, 1931 – 2012

He was one of the great old-school political scientists.

The Los Angeles Times has an obituary, "James Q. Wilson dies at 80; pioneer in 'broken windows' approach to improve policing." Born in Denver and raised in Long Beach, Wilson spent 25 years at Harvard but moved in 1986 to UCLA's Anderson School of Business mostly to be back home on the West Coast. More on that from the Times:

In 1961, he joined the faculty at Harvard University, where his scholarship on policing drew the attention of President Johnson's administration. He was invited to join a presidential commission on crime, which sparked an inquiry that eventually became the focus of his professional work.

"The standard question was why did people commit crimes. I wanted to ask why people don't commit them," he told the New York Times in 1998.

Many of his books tackled thorny questions of crime and race, such as "Crime and Human Nature," co-written with Richard J. Herrnstein and published in 1988.

"Even to allude to the possibility that races may differ in the distribution of those constitutional factors that are associated with criminality will strike some people as factually, ethically or prudentially wrong," they wrote. "We disagree."

Wilson's views won favor among neoconservatives, not a popular faction at a liberal bastion like Harvard.

In 1986, after more than 25 years at Harvard, he moved to UCLA's Anderson School of Management, where, some colleagues suggested, the more conservative atmosphere was a welcome change.

But Wilson, referring to his early years in Southern California, said he just wanted to come home. He later taught at Pepperdine.
VIDEO: "Annual Lecture with 'Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy' James Q. Wilson at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California" (parts 2-4 at the link).