Upcoming Conference to be Dedicated to the Late James Q. Wilson, Board Chairman of CMC’s Salvatori Center

CMC’s oldest research institute, the Salvatori Center, will dedicate its May 24-26 conference, Regulation and the Administrative State, to the memory of James Q. Wilson, who died in March at the age of 80, of complications from leukemia. Wilson, the Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University and a former chairman of the White House Task Force on Crime, served as Chairman of the Salvatori Center Board of Governors.

Mark Blitz, the Fletcher Jones Professor of Political Philosophy and director of the Salvatori Center, said that it is appropriate the May conference be dedicated to Wilson, as the theme was a prime topic of Wilson’s scholarship as a social and political scientist.

Blitz summed up how much Wilson’s exceptional leadership meant to the Center. “Jim helped us immensely as chairman of the Salvatori Board,” he said. “Several of our seminarsone on the work of Ed Banfield, the gifted political scientist who was Jim’s own teacher, and one on bioethical issuesresulted from his suggestions. He gave excellent talks for Salvatori Fellows and CGU graduate students on what makes the United States an exceptional nation, moral character, and political organization.”

In 1982, Wilson and colleague George L. Kelling irrevocably changed the face of American policing with a revolutionary article published in the Atlantic titled, Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety. In the face of fast-rising crime rates across the United States, Wilson and Kelling theorized that instead of focusing largely on major crimes such as robbery and murder, police should pay more attention to smaller problems (public drunkenness, graffiti, etc.) that were eroding the quality of life in people’s communities and weakening their defenses to major crime.

The landmark theory led to Wilson often being called “the father of community policing.” And the Broken Windows theory would become the cornerstone of the “quality of life” crime-reduction program in the 1990s of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York, and his first police commissioner, William J. Bratton, The New York Times noted in its March 2 obituary on Wilson.

The man who former Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York once called “the smartest man in the United States” was born May 27, 1931, in Denver and grew up in Long Beach. Wilson graduated from the University of Redlands in 1952 and served three years in the Navy before entering the University of Chicago, where he earned a doctorate in political science in 1959. He taught government at Harvard for more than 20 years, and would ultimately write more than two-dozen books on American government, criminal justice and moral issues. In 2003, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

As one of many examples of his writing on moral issues, Wilson in 1995 wrote an essay on Calvin and Hobbes’ and the Moral Sense for The Weekly Standard, paying tribute to the wildly popular comic strip, at the time creator Bill Watterson announced he was ending the beloved cartoon. Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, who will be the new chairman of the Salvatori Board, describes the piece as a peek into the “sense of the man [Wilson], opposed to the scholar.”

Writes Wilson of the comic strip’s precocious, 6-year-old star:

There is one part of his life that is beyond mere self-interest or quick calculation: Hobbes. Though the tiger greets Calvin with ferocious leaps that nearly bury the boy in the lawn, though Calvin and Hobbes fight over the silliest disagreements, Hobbes has a nature that compels Calvin’s affection. The presocial Calvin learns something from the nonhuman Hobbes because Hobbes is warm, furry, loyal, understanding. The tiger is everything six-year-olds are not. Calvin’s essential humanity is aroused by being with his tiger.

As Blitz says, “Everyone who is devoted to understanding and improving social and political life will miss Jim Wilson’s clear thinking, humane understanding, and intellectual courage.”

(Read the full Calvin & Hobbes essay.)

For more information about the May 24 conference that will be dedicated to Wilson’s memory, please call 909-621-8201, or e-mail salvatori@cmc.edu.

The Salvatori Center, CMC’s oldest research institute and the first of its kind in the world, strives to develop close relationships between students and scholars and to engage in the study of political philosophy and freedom as it relates to American Constitutionalism and the American Founding. The Center seeks to understand, and, if possible, to hearten, the moral, political and intellectual underpinnings of democracy in America.