An amusing news story yesterday caused some discussion. These seem to pop up every year or so and are generally used as a way for academics to bash their latest not-a-leftist target. Eight straight years of “see, Bush is horrible!” followed by eight straight years of “Obama is dreeeeamy!” sort of triggered my cynicism meter. Of course, the inclusion of presidents still in office is de rigeur for sending the desired signals, and putting Trump on the list after barely a year in office is reminiscent of Obama’s affirmative action Nobel Peace Prize, just before he started six new wars and began drone-killing Americans.
Likewise, historians love presidents who were incredibly active, preferably ones who killed a few hundred thousand people. The bias that “doing something” is better than “leaving us alone” is a powerful means of slanting the ratings. So given OUR biases as libertarians, how would you rank our presidents?
My own personal feeling is that there’s probably 5 or six great ones, five or six horrendous ones, and most of the rest form a blob in the middle and ranking them is useless.
My Top Five:
- Calvin Coolidge- did a wonderful job of leaving us alone, and look what happened. Economic boom time, which only ended when a more activist president and congress decided to start meddling.
- George Washington- for doing what every president ought to do: serve his time, then go home and shut up. I put him here in the top 5 because he wasn’t John Adams.
- Grover Cleveland- someone whose first instinct is to avoid federal action unless specifically demanded by the constitution ought to get more libertarian love. And he had a wonderful way of phrasing.
- Bill Clinton- wait, what? His arrival here wasn’t due to anything he deliberately did, but what he managed to do accidentally was totally tie the government into knots so that they were too busy with perjury and blowjobs to fuck things up. Economic boom, balanced budgets, only minor wars, who can complain?
- William Henry Harrison- for the obvious reason.
My Bottom Five:
45. Richard Nixon- the guy who came close to killing a million, brought us the War On Drugs, the EPA, wage-and-price controls, “Affirmative Action,” decoupling of currency from hard assets… he was a fucking disaster, top to bottom.
44. Lyndon Johnson- easily the most corrupt and murderous human to ever occupy the Oval Office. Besides killing millions, he halted the progress of black Americans and destroyed their next several generations.
43. Woodrow Wilson- it was hard to not rank him the worst, and I think a good argument could be made for that. Besides getting us into a world war and setting the conditions for an even bigger one, he was famous for his intense racism, his love of eugenics, his complete disregard for the constitution, and… well, I can think of absolutely nothing in the favor of that disgusting piece of shit.
42. James Buchanan- sometimes the historians are right.
41. John Adams- the Alien and Sedition Act and the Quasi War sent the US in the wrong direction from which we still haven’t fully recovered.
I have not towed the libertarian lion of putting Lincoln in that bottom five, mostly because (unlike the guys there) he was a mixed bag and besides the obvious evil, accomplished some great things as well (like Amendment XIII). And FDR came oh so close to the final cut, and I would not argue about his inclusion…
OK, my droogs, discuss.