Thinking About Crime Again
James Q. Wilson has been regarded as a leader of American criminology—we have more criminologists (and more crime) than most countries—at least since he collected his work in Thinking About Crime eight years ago. Deservedly so: his essays continue to throw a bright beam of light on the current tangle of obscure and sometimes obscurantist theories and statistics. The publication of a revised and greatly enriched edition of Thinking About Crime,1 coinciding, as it does, with the appearance of Crime and Public Policy,2 a compendious volume he edited, confirms Wilson’s status, and is cause for both celebration and critical evaluation of some of his policy proposals. For Wilson is policy-oriented above all.
Thus, he strenuously argues that it is possible to influence events without knowing their causes. This is a point that should be obvious: one can extinguish a fire without knowing what caused it. Indeed, we often learn about causes from cures: if ingesting a chemical cures a disease, we may learn that the disease was caused by a lack of that chemical.
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