James Q. Wilson on neoconservatism, etc.

The famed co-author of the “broken windows theory” which inspired a generation of community-policing advocates, passed away on Friday. The Wall Street Journal ran a collection of short snippets from articles he had written over the years. I thought this one was interesting, because I had not seen it put quite this way:

The view that we know less than we thought we knew about how to change the human condition came, in time, to be called neoconservatism. Many of the writers [for The Public Interest], myself included, disliked the term because we did not think we were conservative, neo or paleo. (I voted for John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey and worked in the latter’s presidential campaign.) It would have been better if we had been called policy skeptics; that is, people who thought it was hard, though not impossible, to make useful and important changes in public policy.

That hardly seems consistent with neocons’ Wilsonian faith in our power to affect the world in Iraq and other places, but perhaps it works in the domestic sphere. It just goes to show how slippery any political designations can be, which is why I avoid them. The main narrative I had seen in the past was that neocons were liberals who became disenchanted. I suppose Wilson’s explanation for why that disaffection occurred is as good as any.

Wilson was a very smart man, but of course he could also spout nonsense, such as here:

Men like to complain about what bad drivers women are, but the evidence about highway fatalities suggests that testosterone causes twice as many deaths (per 100 million miles driven) as female driving does. And women can help men drive better…

I mean, who’s going to believe that? Huh, guys?

4 thoughts on “James Q. Wilson on neoconservatism, etc.

  1. bud

    I don’t know whether he was making a joke or not about crash statistics but of course he’s on the right track. Not sure the wording here is technically correct:

    “testosterone causes twice as many deaths (per 100 million miles driven) as female driving does.”

    What IS accurate is something like this:

    Male drivers are involved in twice as many fatal crashes as female drivers per 100 million miles driven.

    The testosterone may or may not be a factor. Of course he’s just using that verbiage to make a point, a point that is quite accurate. Still we don’t really know why males are involved in so many more fatal crashes than females.

  2. Brad

    There was a joke on Prairie Home Companion over the weekend that may be relevant. It went something like this:

    A woman’s brain cell gets trapped in a man’s head. The cell floats about in a void, unable to find any other cells to connect to. So it starts calling out: “Anybody there? Hello!…”

    Finally, some faint voices from far, far away respond: “We’re down HERE…”

  3. `Kathryn Fenner

    One reason males may be the driver in far more fatal crashes is that men are still far more likely to drive during and after a “night on the town” than women are….

    Men are also more likely to suffer from some attention deficit disorders.

  4. bud

    Just to clarify Kathryn’s comment. It is a well established fact that males are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. The ADD could be a factor. Many women are out on the town driving around drunk today but that could also be a factor. Perhaps men just have a tendancy to be greater risk-takers.


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