By James Q. Wilson

ISBN-10: 0844743194

ISBN-13: 9780844743196

James Q. Wilson is one in every of America's preeminent public coverage students. for many years, he has analyzed the altering political and cultural panorama with readability and honesty, bringing his knowledge to undergo on all aspects of yank executive and society. it is a number of fifteen of Wilson's such a lot insightful essays-drawing on thirty years of his observations on faith, crime, the media, terrorism and extremism, and the old fashioned proposal of "character." Readers of each political persuasion will come clear of this quantity with a brand new realizing of the way American politics and tradition have advanced during the last half-century. those essays are usually not "the grumpy phrases of a conservative who cannot be reconciled to the realities of up to date American life," Wilson writes. really, they're directly speak from a painstaking empiricist and consummate social scientist who believes in American exceptionalism. American Politics, Then & now's a compelling portrait of a cherished country.

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But over the last two decades, this nation has come face to face with problems that do not seem to respond, or to respond enough, to changes in incentives. They do not respond, it seems, because the people whose behavior we wish to change do not have the right “tastes” or discount the future too heavily. To put it plainly, they lack character. I illustrate this point by considering four areas of public policy: schooling, welfare, public finance, and crime. Schooling Nothing better illustrates the changes in how we think about policy than the problem of poor educational attainment and student conduct.

Moreover, for scholars to know anything at all about what works, it is often necessary for the government to try a new policy under circumstances that permit independent observers to find out what happens. This does not often happen, but it happens occasionally, as when the government tried to find out the consequences of providing persons with a guaranteed annual income. But even when it happens, it is risky to assume that a small-scale experiment among persons who know they are the objects of an experiment (and who know that someday soon the experiment will end) will produce the same results as a permanent national program.

In John Fischer’s day, scholars studied big business, labor unions, medical societies, and farm groups. When I first studied politics in the 1950s, I learned that there were only six important interest groups: the AFL, the CIO, the American Medical Association, the American Legion, the Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Manufacturers. Today, no student could pass a political science exam by giving an answer such as that. Groups have multiplied astronomically; what counts now are ideas more than interests.

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American politics, then and now and other essays by James Q. Wilson


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