News: CJ Exclusives

AEI president labels James Q. Wilson a giant, most influential social scientist in a century

Brooks praises mentor after speech at Raleigh conservative conference

The head of the American Enterprise Institute says James Q. Wilson was a “giant,” and was the most influential social scientist of the past hundred years. Wilson died today in Boston at age 80.

“James Q. Wilson was a giant in the field of social science,” AEI President Arthur C. Brooks told Carolina Journal today after delivering a speech in Raleigh. “As a political scientist, as an observer of human behavior, as a man who used the tools of social science for the good of our nation, there was nobody greater. He was the most influential social scientist of the past hundred years.”

Brooks said he considered Wilson a mentor. The two met when Wilson reviewed Brooks’ doctoral dissertation. “The most important book that he wrote, according to him, was a book called The Moral Sense,” Brooks told CJ. “It wasn’t his best-selling title and not his best-known work, but he felt it was really what he did that got closest to describing meaning in everyday life.

“It was his own favorite book,” Brooks continued. “When you read that book, it really encapsulates all the other stuff that he did. It talked about why we really should care about the American free enterprise system, why we should insist on the ideals of our Founders, and how those things are natural and in tune with what’s in our hearts about America. His lasting legacy is going to be that.

“He was a moralist intellectual,” Brooks said. “He was a patriot. He was a man with a servant’s heart, and he was both good and great.”