Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

James Q. Wilson

American Academic Political Scientist

"To say that people have a moral sense is not the same thing as saying that they are innately good. A moral sense must compete with other senses that are natural to humans - the desire to survive, acquire possessions, indulge in sex, or accumulate power - in short, with self-interest narrowly defined. How that struggle is resolved will differ depending on our character, our circumstances, and the cultural and political tendencies of the day. But saying that a moral sense exists is the same thing as saying that humans, by their nature, are potentially good."

"Crime is the price society pays for abandoning character. "

"Many, if not most, of the difficulties we experience in dealing with government agencies arise from the agencies being part of a fragmented and open political system…The central feature of the American constitutional system—the separation of powers—exacerbates many of these problems. The governments of the US were not designed to be efficient or powerful, but to be tolerable and malleable. Those who designed these arrangements always assumed that the federal government would exercise few and limited powers"

"In the long run, the public interest depends on private virtue. "

"If a radical devolution of powers was possible, it would have been done before. The assumption of states' rights is gone. There's no support for it in the Supreme Court and there's no support for it in public opinion. "