Lawrence M. Mead at Public Discourse offers another take on the legacy of James Q. Wilson, focusing on his unfashionable heterodoxy within in the academy:

much of Jim’s work was based on no direct data gathering at all. Rather, he interpreted the research of others. He integrated vast bodies of secondary literature—for example, on regulation, crime, or bureaucracy—and told us what they mean.  In this, he was typical of the great Harvard government professors of his time, including my teachers Samuel H. Beer and Samuel P. Huntington. These were great minds who reasoned widely based mostly on past research in their fields. Such methods count for a lot less today. Francis Fukuyama is one prominent political scientist who still uses them. Most academics today are narrow specialists who speak only to other specialists. Few even try to write for a wide audience, as Jim did.

[ . . . ]

Jim’s views of politics were unfashionable. At the local level, he defended old-fashioned machine politics against purer “reform” movements because it was more able to get things done. In national politics, he deprecated the rise of public interest lobbies, fearing that it would make compromise more difficult. Above all, he disapproved of recent trends toward polarization between the parties. Indeed, he reproved elites for dividing the public.


Read Mead’s entire reflection here .

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