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James Q. Wilson, perhaps “the best political scientist of the past half-century,” has passed away. Though most coverage will inevitably mention his “broken windows” theory of crime reduction (a seminal argument in public policy which has largely triumphed in the three decades since its publication), what’s perhaps most striking at this moment in our political culture was Wilson’s ability to merge his serious arguments with a likable personality and a broad range of interests.

Wilson served on President Bush’s well-regarded Council on Bioethics, wrote prolifically, and exhibited “an almost unique combination of empirical social science, deep common sense, and wide-ranging historical and philosophical erudition” that is becoming rarer and rarer. Wilson was a man with distinct and deeply-held convictions who would never have been mistaken for an ideologue or angry partisan hack. He was a public intellectual in the best sense of the term—someone who not only addressed a general audience but whose thought became a part of the furniture of the public square itself.

Yuval Levin reflects at National Review , and William Kristol offers a longer essay at the Weekly Standard .

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