James Q Wilson died today

Jim Wilson was a friend and a strong supporter of mine. He made it possible for me to get More Guns, Less Crime published originally with the University of Chicago Press. Here is a statement about Wilson by Charles Murray from January.

When Jim Wilson began his career in the early 1960s, it's hard to remember, but in fact, this thing we called policy analysis -- the analysis of data and trends and the rest in ways that bear on how the country ought to be governed -- was in its infancy. We were just beginning to develop the quantitative tools that have since become so common. Nobody knew how to do this at that time.

Jim himself was not a participant. Forgive me, Jim, if I don't do you justice in this. I don't think that Jim Wilson has ever committed a regression equation in his entire life on his own. He will correct me if I'm wrong. But that is not what he focused on.

It was not the development of the tools. It was the task of taking the welter of information that was being produced by those tools and drawing from that a mosaic which presented some things that were both useful and true about what was going on. It was made especially hard because these articles that were being produced, as any of you who have ever tried to read them know, are often torturously arcane. They are written by scholars who often have tunnel vision about their own findings.

It was Jim who was in the vanguard of understanding how you weave that mosaic together. Thinking About Crime, his book in 1975, was a seminal work as an example of how to do that. It was followed by books, like Crime and Human Nature and The Moral Sense, all of which said, this is how you take a complex set of findings and balance them, digest them, present them in ways that can be used.

He, at the same time, was writing books in a more traditional genre including the most widely used book on American government and American colleges. But it was this contribution -- understanding how to do policy analysis -- that was to me his signal contribution. He did it with dismayingly little apparent sweat. Our mutual and beloved friend Dick Herrnstein once told me that Jim wrote on legal pads and that he hardly ever crossed anything out. I choose not to believe that story. For those of us who don't have anything readable until the fifth draft, it's just simply too painful.

In short, James Q. Wilson taught us how to do policy analysis that is true and useful. I -- and, I suspect, many of my AEI colleagues here tonight -- do not think first of Jim Wilson as the Medal of Freedom winner, and we don't think of him primarily as the adviser to presidents. He is the prototype and the exemplar for what we do.



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