Steve G.

Talk Amongst Yourselves

In Libertarian on August 1, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Here’s a discussion-stoker for this first weekend of August: Here’s my ranking of the libertarian-ness, or lack thereof, of the U.S. presidents of the past 100 years (starting with 1909), from most to least. What’s yours?

Calvin Coolidge
Warren Harding
William Howard Taft
Gerald Ford
Ronald Reagan
Jimmy Carter
John Kennedy
Dwight Eisenhower
Herbert Hoover
George H.W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Harry Truman
Woodrow Wilson
George W. Bush
Richard Nixon
Lyndon Johnson
Franklin Roosevelt

  1. Peter Orvetti, WTF? After all I have written about my conclusion that Teddy Roosevelt was what we would now call a left libertarian, why the cut off at 1909? Precisely to eliminate him? Taft was Roosevelt’s chosen successor in 1908. By 1912 they had a falling out, TR saying Taft was too reactionary. That would be a good basis to conclude that Taft was what we would now call a right libertarian. The discussion should go back to at least 1900 to include McKinley & TR. In fact the progressive era goes farther back than that. Dammit.

  2. As I said, it’s a discussion-stoker. Feel free to go back as far as you like. Personally, I’d put both TR and McKinley down near the bottom.

  3. WTF? Teddy Roosevelt a “left-libertarian, and Taft a “right-libertarian”?

    TR was a statist mostly, and Taft, well, let’s just say that Robert Taft had more libertarian leanings than William Howard!

    The major difference I would have with Mr. Orvetti list is that I would put Carter higher than Reagan. Reagan had better rhetoric, i.e. more in line with libertarianism, but Carter though quite ignorant of economics acted more libertarian. Mind you, both fell well short of ideal. Gerald Ford was no prize either, but he at least is credited with vetoing more spending bills in less than 3 years than every other president, except Grover Cleveland who was in office for a total of 8 years.

  4. I actually considered putting Carter higher, since he gets points for non-interventionism.

  5. I also might order these bottom 4 –

    Woodrow Wilson
    George W. Bush
    Richard Nixon
    Lyndon Johnson
    Franklin Roosevelt

    differently, as Dubya is fresh in my mind as a horrible warmongering, stubborn buffoon. But . . . . I agree that these 4 belong at the bottom for the last 100 years. TR, though president more than 100 years ago would be in this bottom group as well, if included.

  6. that should be 5 at the bottom . . . I’ll learn to add someday soon!

  7. Carter? Draft registration Carter? I don’t think he particularly qualifies as a non-interventionist, either. But I’m not quarreling with your ranking; it’s hard to judge between a crap sandwich and a turd burger.

    But this seems like a good time to sneak in a recording from a local ‘beach music’ guy around here. This is from ’66. The song is called “Lyndon’s Great Society”. Some lyrics:

    I don’t have to work, I don’t have to worry;
    I know because Lyndon’s gonna look after me.

    Party all night, and I sleep all day;
    and in rolls my check from Social Security.

    We taxpayers holler, we taxpayers yell;
    and as we pay our taxes we get real mad;
    we can’t fight the system of good Fountain Pen Johnson;
    might as well get ready, ’cause we’re gonna be had.

    Audio is here; sorry, no patience to convert to MP3:

    [audio src="http://lpradicals.org/docs/11%20Lyndon%27s%20Great%20Society.m4a" /]

  8. you must be tripping. No wonder you are a bunch of losers.

  9. How about some really advanced theory? The intersection of revolutionary left and radical right seems to be left libertarianism. We know it can be reached from the right. republican>progressive>left libertarian e.g. TR. Question: can it be reached from the other direction? democrat>progressive>left libertarian. Carter? Gravel?…Milnes?

  10. you must be tripping. No wonder you are a bunch of losers.

    Pot.kettle.black.

  11. Years ago I read “Radical Man” by Charles Hampden-Turner. It was his doctoral thesis basically. Extremely complex but I think it is germane.

  12. no denial the kettle is black?

  13. Carl, Tom, any comment on “Radical Man”?

  14. Is hating Taft still cool? I get so confused with the kids these days…😀

  15. My only question:

    What puts Coolidge above Harding. Harding practically did nothing. He even dismantled some of our ships, and eased down interventionism. Do the scandals put Coolidge above him?

  16. There should be question marks in there…
    somewhere….

    hmmm….

  17. Bob,

    I haven’t read Radical Man, but I probably should. Right now I’m bogged down in Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution.

    I’ve never understood how you arrived at your classification of TR as a libertarian, “left” or otherwise. Every time you say it, I wonder if you have any understanding whatsoever of what the terms “libertarian” and “left” imply, separately or conjoined.

  18. Hoover should go far, far lower… between LBJ and FDR.

  19. Least injurious is how I’d put it. Here’s my rework:

    Calvin Coolidge
    Warren Harding
    William Howard Taft
    Dwight Eisenhower (UP. Did little damage on golf course)
    Gerald Ford
    Bill Clinton (UP net effects not so bad. Cut military spending. Once called himself libertarian)
    Ronald Reagan
    Jimmy Carter
    John Kennedy
    George H.W. Bush (Over Hoover. Could go back down for fathering W)
    Herbert Hoover
    Woodrow Wilson
    George W. Bush (jury’s out. If WWIII ensues, he falls)
    Richard Nixon
    Lyndon Johnson
    Franklin Roosevelt
    Harry Truman (Down for Nagasaki. Single most heinous act in human history)

  20. Mr. Capozzi makes a good point about Truman . . . ordering the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki . . . truly two acts which bring him way down.

    Aw hell, just put them all tied at the bottom, with the exception of Coolidge and Harding!

  21. amending:

    George H.W. Bush
    Jimmy Carter
    John Kennedy

    Bush I moves up only because Carter did the single stupidest move in the group, capping interest rates and then being suprised that lending dried up. And draft registration. Of course, Carter had his good points, like some deregulation initiatives.

    Kennedy moves with Carter for Vietnam.

    Maybe I’m being soft of Bush I, as the Dana Carvey impressions are still a source of enjoyment. While he did many dysfunctional things, none spring to mind other tax increases, but they all pretty much do that, and his weren’t esp. pronounced.

  22. OK, on further reflection, Bush I did Iraq I. At least he got in and out quickly, though. So, hmm, maybe he and Carter are tied.

  23. Can we talk about criteria?

    If we take an objective criterion, like the number of American military personnel killed in war during the president’s time in office, the worst by far is Lincoln. If we substitute “total casualties” he still gets the record. (Go ahead, Yanks, make friends down South and say that the Confederate casualties don’t count.)

    If we take up the number of foreign military personnel and foreign civilians killed in wars involving USA combat forces in any theater, then the worst by far is FDR. Same for overall casualties, foreign and domestic. FDR also gets low by being involved in numerous scandals and unconstitutional acts. Possibly the worst of these is his knowledge of the extermination camps of the Japanese and Germans and his inaction regarding them. Packing the Supreme Court would look mild in comparison to some.

    In terms of completely screwing up the economy with socialist policies, I think it is a toss-up between Hoover, who started most of the bad policies, and FDR who continued and expanded them. Susan’s metaphor of comparing turds to crap seems apt here, as well.

    In my book on the ten worst American presidents, I put FDR at the bottom, then Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Wilson, Truman, McKinley, Nixon, LBJ, GW Bush, and Polk. In my criteria, I include American and foreign military and civilian casualties in wars prosecuted by the USA during the president’s term (not necessarily declared, since that went out of fashion) with casualties being reported killed, wounded, or exterminated; scandals and unconstitutional acts (some of which were not regarded as scandalous at the time); and economic difficulties caused by presidential policies.

    I have less enthusiasm for the companion book on the ten best presidents. I’m thinking “least bad” might be a better term than “best.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: