James Q. Wilson, RIP
March 03, 2012, 05:31 PM
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Political scientist James Q. Wilson has died at age 80. 

He was the rare social scientist who gave the impression that the social sciences are a blast. And why shouldn`t they be? Lots of guys study statistics to be better sports fans. Dr. Wilson studied statistics to fight crime. He was like Batman with a reverse Polish notation HP calculator on his utility belt. 

He`s getting praised for coming up with the "broken windows" metaphor of crime-fighting in a 1982 magazine article, but probably his even more important idea was "incapacitation" in his 1975 book Thinking About Crime. This was the simple observation that criminals can`t prey upon civilians if they are in prison. Therefore, lock more criminals up for longer sentences. That this was considered a revolutionary insight in 1975 says a lot about the academic atmosphere that helped get us into an era of high crime.