On the Death of a Public Policy Giant

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Guest post by Mark A.R. Kleiman, public policy professor at UCLA. Professor Kleinman regularly blogs at The Reality Based Community

Jim Wilson, who died at a very young and vigorous 80 this March, left a huge imprint on American social science and public policy. He was also my friend, over a fairly yawning political divide. So I was delighted as well as honored when Zócalo Public Square asked me to moderate a panel discussion about his legacy.

The panelists were Angela Hawken of Pepperdine, Mark Peterson of UCLA, and Chief Charlie Beck of the LA Police Department. All of us admired him and learned from Jim, and all of us had critical things to say about some aspects of his thought, or the thought attributed to him. Charlie Beck's exposition of the difference between community policing based on the "broken windows" idea (often useful) and "zero tolerance" policing (always disastrous) is especially valuable, but Angela Hawken offers a wonder appreciation of Jim as a teacher and as someone willing to change his mind in the face of the facts, and Mark Peterson a clear explanation of how Jim, a conservative and a political scientist, differed from contemporary conservatism in politics and from the main conservative strain in political science: primarily in his belief in the positive role of government and the potential nobility of political action.

Full video (about 70 min.) here.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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