The Public Interest

The independent mind of Edward Banfield

James Q. Wilson

Winter 2003

THOSE of us who were privileged to know Edward Banfield can only with some difficulty convey to others his true greatness. If you neither knew nor read him, he is unknown to you, for he had no interest in fame or publicity. On one occasion, the publishers of Who’s Who announced that he would be included in their next edition.  He wrote back to say that he did not want to be ineluded; if they printed a sketch of him despite his objections, he would sue them. Had he thought that his writings would bring him fame, he would no doubt have molded his bold arguments to fit the temper of the times, and so never would have suggested that political machines are useful, that most urban problems are spurious and the few that exist cannot be solved by any popular remedy, and that art museums should display perfect copies of their paintings and sell the originals to people foolish enough to think they can tell the difference.

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