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by Peter Moskos

May 7, 2012

Police layoffs in New Jersey

What is the relationship between (A) number of cops, (B) number of arrests, and (C) crime. When "A" goes down, "B" goes down, and "C" goes up. Sometimes it really is that simple. Here's the more nuanced story by James Queally in the Newark Star Ledger.

[Tip of the cap to Epichorus.]


Anonymous said...


What do you make of of this critical look at James Q. Wilson's legacy written by Glenn Loury in the Boston Review?

Boston Review

PCM said...

Don't know. Very curious. I'll give it a look. And thanks for the link!

PCM said...

I think it's a fair critique of failed conservative policies.

I too (as you may know) wrote about Wilson after his death. And more favorably. But I don't think what I wrote contradicts anything Loury wrote, except for the part about Broken Windows. But I only know Wilson well through his police work, which I think is very good.

"Thinking About Crime" may not be in the pantheon of American social criticism, but I don't think that was every its intention. It's an amazing collection of essays on police work--something that hadn't been done before. Wilson took policing seriously. That's more than most academics can say.

But then I'm a believer in Broken Windows.

I also think it's unfair to criticize Wilson for the work of Charles Murray. But then I never had dinner with the group of them.

Wilson was much more conservative than I am. But I agree that culture is very important. I also believe (a la Orlando Patterson) that there is a problem in American culture that is a legacy of slavery.

I don't see this as a liberal or conservative position unless *any* talk about good and bad culture is inherently conservative and racist (which I do not believe).

I do see a conflict between economists and sociologists. Culture matters. Wilson knew that and was willing to argue so in a generation that was much less receptive to such a belief.

Anonymous said...

What do you think of Loury's criticism of Wilson's legacy as "A cloistered moral sanctimony..."? Loury then goes on to cite Wilson's well-known quote. "Tobacco shortens one's lfe; cocaine debases it." I can't help but wonder if there is some truth to that Wilson quote.

-From Canada

PCM said...

Well after I looked up "sanctimony," I'd say I'm mostly with Loury, at least for this quote. I'm not a big moralist. But that's not to say morals (like culture) don't matter. And I roll my eyes when people are too relativist and never want to judge. I don't fault Wilson for passing some moral judgement, even when I disagree with it. [I do fault him for seeing the moral harms of drug use as in any way equal or greater to the harms, moral and practical, of the war on drugs.]

And as a cop, working around a bunch of crackheads, those drugs certainly can debase life in a way that Newports never will. But Wilson uses too broad a brush. I've known lots of people use cocaine recreationally without debasing their lives.

Poverty can also debase life. Poverty and crack? It's a bad combo. Why blame just the cocaine?

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

Given the scope of this blog, I guess we have to identify Wilson with his work on policing. But he went far beyond that. His book on bureaucracy was astonishingly good and--as is typical for Wilson--impossible to place on the left-right axis.