By James Q. Wilson
James Q. Wilson is considered one 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 points 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 school proposal of "character." Readers of each political persuasion will come clear of this quantity with a brand new figuring out of the way American politics and tradition have developed over the past half-century. those essays aren't "the grumpy phrases of a conservative who cannot be reconciled to the realities of up to date American life," Wilson writes. relatively, 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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38 AMERICAN POLITICS, THEN & NOW In 1979, however, Michael Rutter and his colleagues in England published a study that provided support for parental intuition by building on the neglected insights of the Coleman Report. In Fifteen Thousand Hours, the Rutter group reported what they had learned from following a large number of children from a working-class section of inner London as they moved through a dozen nonselective schools in their community. Like Coleman before him, Rutter found that the objective features of the schools made little difference; like almost every other scholar, he found that verbal intelligence at age ten was the best single predictor of educational attainment in the high school years.
About mass psychology we know next to nothing. The Influence of Intellectuals Contrary to what their critics often suppose, intellectuals are not usually the authors of particular policies. In no period, perhaps, did intellectuals have “POLICY INTELLECTUALS” AND PUBLIC POLICY 21 greater access to the wielders of political power than they did in the 1960s, and yet scarcely any of the programs enacted then came from their pens or even from their opinions. School administrators pressed for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; welfare bureaucrats, together with the AFLCIO, created Medicare and Medicaid; Justice Department lawyers fashioned the federal “war on crime”; congressional staff members and various publicists created many of the environmental and consumer protection laws; agency representatives together with the White House staff devised the War on Poverty; legislators, acting under the prod of an impatient judiciary and a justly aggrieved civil rights movement, wrote the major civil rights laws.
Abortion, gun control, gay rights, nuclear energy, affirmative action—all these issues and more make life miserable for the traditional, coalition-seeking politician. Weakened institutions, individualized politics, and the rise of an educated, idea-oriented public combine to make it highly advantageous for political entrepreneurs to identify and mobilize single-issue constituencies and to enlist them, not only into electoral and legislative politics, but into court suits, referendum campaigns, and even calls for constitutional conventions.