James Q. Wilson was one of the leading contemporary criminologists in the United States. Wilson, who has taught at several major universities during his academic career, has also written on economics and politics during his lengthy career. During the 1960s and 1970s, Wilson voiced concerns about trying to address the social causes of crime. He argued instead that public policy is most effective when it focuses on objective matters like the costs and benefits of crime. Wilson views criminals as rational human beings who will not commit crimes when the costs associated with crime become impractical.

James Q. Wilson most recently taught at Boston College and Pepperdine University. He was Professor Emeritus of Management and Public Administration at UCLA and was previously Shattuck Professor of Government at Harvard University. He wrote more than a dozen books on the subjects of public policy, bureaucracy, and political philosophy. He was president of the American Political Science Association, and he is the only political scientist to win three of the four lifetime achievement awards presented by the APSA. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, in 2003.

Professor Wilson passed away in March of 2012 after battling cancer. His work helped shape the field of political science in the United States. His many years of service to his American Government book remain evident on every page and will continue for many editions to come.