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  • Remembering James Q. Wilson

    When President George W. Bush presented James Q. Wilson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian award, he said that whatever the subject, Professor Wilson “writes with intellectual rigor, with moral clarity, to the appreciation of a wide and growing audience.” Jim’s passing this morning at age 80 robs us of an intellectual giant, but we find solace in knowing that his legacy lives on.

    Jim was a great teacher, a good man, and a longtime friend. For many years he told the truth and taught the truth against the liberal tide at major American universities and venues around the world.

    He was best-known for his “broken windows” theory—that paying attention to little crimes like drug dealing on street corners, prostitutes on parade, petty vandalism, can have an enormous impact on big crimes as well.New York City’s police commissioner credited Jim with providing a key concept in the campaign to reduce crime in American cities.

    But Jim Wilson was far more than a criminologist or an esteemed political scientist. He was a political philosopher with a deep understanding of the forces that have madeAmericaa unique democracy.

    In accepting the Bradley Prize from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Jim explained that what makes the United States unique is the people’s commitment to limited government, free expression, and equal justice for all.

    The American character, he said, is rooted in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, which provide the philosophical and political structure for America’s  special contribution  to governance—the reconciliation of liberty and order.

    We will miss Jim Wilson deeply, but his profound insights into the American character and American governance remain with us.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    One Response to Remembering James Q. Wilson

    1. Frank Kessler says:

      Those of us who knew Jim realized that he was a political scientist who wanted to make a difference. It should be no surprise that though he is remembered by many in the field for his contributions in the areas of urban affairs and public policy, Though others will write about his "Broken Window" insights into urban crime, he considered his "greatest contribution" to be his monumental 1993 work titled The Moral Sense. He saw his work as a genuine calling but approached it nonetheless with an impish sense of humor. His research in his later years called this nation to live up to its founding creed. Few were more deserving of the Medal of Freedom he received. His legacy will live on in the students who revered him as a teacher and those of us in the field who, like me, have drawn on his insight into the human condition and his reminders in an age of relativism of that small voice that every human being is tempted to ignore, the human conscience impregnated with with an undeniable "moral sense." Well done James Q. Wilson, may you rest in peace.

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