James Q. Wilson (the “Q” stood for “Quinn”) is most famous for elaborating, along with George Kelling, the concept of “broken windows” policing. In a 1982 article in The Atlantic, the two academics (Wilson then taught at Harvard) argued that erasing markers of public disorder — graffiti, panhandling, broken windows — would discourage criminals and embolden the law-abiding, leading to a drop in the rates of serious crimes. Mayor Rudy Giuliani and top cops William Bratton and Jack Maple established “broken windows” policing in New York, pulling the city out of its Taxi Driver/Son of Sam funk. Over a long career Wilson turned his busy, analytical mind to numerous other topics, from bureaucracies to black politics to the moral sense. The social sciences were stimulated by his presence, and thousands are living today thanks to his work. Dead at 80. R.I.P.
The dilemma facing liberal Christians in the modern era is which parts of their faith to maintain, which to jettison. The Unitarian/deist strategy was to downplay Christ. “I have . . . some doubts” as to Jesus’s divinity, wrote Benjamin Franklin at the end of his life, though he added that he did not “busy” himself with them “now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.” Another tack is to shuck God. William Hamilton, a theologian in Rochester, N.Y., co-authored a book, Radical Theology and the Death of God, which became (in)famous when Time made it the subject of a 1966 cover story (headline: “Is God Dead?”). It was never clear whether Hamilton meant that Yahweh had succumbed or that we could no longer believe in Him; in any case, he wondered how to follow Christ’s teachings in God’s absence. Atheists of the Dawkins/Hitchens school punt the whole exercise. Dead now, at 87, Hamilton has, along with Franklin, the answer. R.I.P