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Libertarian party blog book review: ‘Recarving Rushmore’

Posted by Austin Petersen on Feb 23, 2009 at LP blog. Reposted to IPR by Paulie.


Abraham Lincoln, Bad President. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Bad President. Andrew Jackson: Bad President. Bill Clinton, Average President. John Tyler: Good President?!

What’s going on here?

If there’s one thing that really annoys me about libertarianism in general; it’s that every time I think I will find a president I can really like, someone has to come along and utterly destroy them. I really wanted to like most of these men, I did. I was taught in school to think that Lincoln was the great emancipator of the slaves, and champion of civil rights. Looking back on school now, I remember that almost all of our presidents were lauded as great heroes and saviors of their people. But darn it all if “facts are stubborn things.” I thought I was fairly safe as a Libertarian with Thomas Jefferson as my favorite president. Then I opened up “Recarving Rushmore,” to see him at number 26 with a ranking of “bad president.” Ouch.

In “Recarving Rushmore,” Ivan Eland ranks the presidents, not in order of how they instituted Great Societies, or embarked on large-scale social engineering like the New Deal, but in order of how they ensured peace, prosperity, and liberty (P, P & L scale).

Eland’s book doesn’t read as if it’s biased or opinionated. On the contrary, this is a scholarly piece of work that offers a ranking system from number one down to forty-three. You’ll be surprised at who comes up first and last. Hint: It’s not Abe or George W.

The only criticism that I had is a mild one that the book is more of a guide for presidential policy relating to liberty than an exciting polemic to fire up the limited government types. Eland writes in a style that is direct and fair, but sometimes stodgy. It’s not a quick read that will have you burning the midnight oil. If you have a passion for this subject though you will want to finish it.

Libertarians who seek easy access to information can easily reference this text for what they need and therein lays the books usefulness.

The ranking system applied is credible, as is the author, who holds an MBA in Economics and is a senior fellow at the esteemed Independent Institute. A graduate of Iowa State, Mr. Eland spent fifteen years working for congress on foreign affairs and national security issues.

Some of the information you’ll find in this book will surprise you even if you’re the type who prides themselves on knowledge of Presidential history. For instance, I wasn’t aware that George Washington’s precedent of leaving office after two terms wasn’t an established law, until Roosevelt abused the privilege during World War II. Afterwards a constitutional amendment codified it. Tidbits like this make the book well worth a read, and a good reference guide for any freedom lover who would draw on it as a resource.

“Recarving Rushmore,” by Ivan Eland is available for sale through The Independent Institute by visiting www.independent.org.

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paulie

27 Comments

  1. paulie cannoli paulie cannoli Post author | March 4, 2009

    I’m fond of dimwit protagonists, like Beavis and Butthead.

    Brawndo is my favorite.

    http://brawndo.com/

    Check out the videos.

  2. Melty Melty March 2, 2009

    I think it’s awesome that he comes out and admits it… knows more than the average yank just on finding that out now. Maybe he even pretended to just find that out in an attempt to appeal to the average yank. .. probably not. The average yank doesn’t read.

    I’m fond of dimwit protagonists, like Beavis and Butthead.

  3. G.E. G.E. March 2, 2009

    It’s cute how the LP blogger admits his blatant Constitutional illiteracy

    Pretty pathetic. I think I learned that in, what, the 4th grade?

  4. sunshinebatman sunshinebatman March 2, 2009

    It’s cute how the LP blogger admits his blatant Constitutional illiteracy:

    For instance, I wasn’t aware that George Washington’s precedent of leaving office after two terms wasn’t an established law, until Roosevelt abused the privilege during World War II. Afterwards a constitutional amendment codified it. Tidbits like this

  5. Steven R Linnabary Steven R Linnabary February 26, 2009

    Over 500,000 Iraqis were murdered under Bill Clinton.

    Defending the “Carter Doctrine”. ‘nuf said.

    PEACE

  6. Mik Robertson Mik Robertson February 26, 2009

    So where is the whole list? And where does “The Little Magician” Martin van Buren rank?

  7. paulie cannoli paulie cannoli Post author | February 26, 2009

    My contention

    We are talking about a book review. You haven’t read the book. I haven’t either. Enough said.

  8. paulie cannoli paulie cannoli Post author | February 26, 2009

    Bill Clinton lead a campaign of genocide against the people of Iraq. Over 500,000 Iraqis were murdered under Bill Clinton. Not to mention bombings/missle attacks in Kosovo and Somalia. The drug war continued under Bill Clinton and drug arrests increased. The Waco massacre happened under Bill Clinton. These are just a few of his offenses.

    Nah. He was far away from all those. Probably never saw a bullet fired in anger his whole life.

  9. Andy Andy February 26, 2009

    “And certainly a lot worse than Bill Clinton who ranks with Carter, Coolidge, Harding, and Taft as one of the least destructive presidents of the 20th century (not that that’s saying much).”

    I think that some of this depends on the criteria that you are using. I think that the death of over 500,000 Iraqis due to a US enforced embargo and periodic bombings is enough to put Bill Clinton pretty high on the list of worst Presidents.

    Also, Clinton attempted to further socialize the US healthcare system. No, this did not pass but the fact that he tried to do it should count against him.

  10. G.E. G.E. February 26, 2009

    The toxicity of the precedents Jackson set, RE: the power of the executive, the nullification of states’ rights, and the false religion of “democracy” easily outweigh — by 1000 miles — the good of destroying a bank that came back in short run anyway.

  11. G.E. G.E. February 26, 2009

    Andy – WTF, man. “Libertarian purity”? Jackson’s actions in the White House had long-term repercussions. He was Lincoln before Lincoln. In fact, I take back my earlier comments. Your position has forced me to weigh the evidence, and DESPITE his defeat of the bank (the best thing any president ever did), he rightfully ranks among the 10-15 WORST presidents ever. And certainly a lot worse than Bill Clinton who ranks with Carter, Coolidge, Harding, and Taft as one of the least destructive presidents of the 20th century (not that that’s saying much).

  12. Andy Andy February 25, 2009

    “Jackson’s good and bad cannot be reconciled. He’s the one president who served at least two years that cannot be ranked, at least not from a libertarian perspective.”

    There have not been any Presidents that would live up to a libertarian purity test. My contention was that Jackson should be ranked higher (from a libertarian perspective) than Clinton. This doesn’t make him a saint. When ranking Presidents from a libertarian perspective the list is actually least toxic to most toxic.

  13. Andy Andy February 25, 2009

    “That’s painting with quite a wide brush there. Jackson personally led a campaign of genocide and war crimes as a General. This was not true of most other presidents then.”

    Bill Clinton lead a campaign of genocide against the people of Iraq. Over 500,000 Iraqis were murdered under Bill Clinton. Not to mention bombings/missle attacks in Kosovo and Somalia. The drug war continued under Bill Clinton and drug arrests increased. The Waco massacre happened under Bill Clinton. These are just a few of his offenses.

    I think that it is clearly apparent that Bill Clinton was worse than Andrew Jackson.

  14. Melty Melty February 25, 2009

    Good work on the ten-worst list, G. E.

  15. paulie cannoli paulie cannoli Post author | February 25, 2009

    Oh come on, Andrew Jackson was better than Bill Clinton. Yeah, he wasn’t exactly great to the Native Americans (but who was back then?)

    That’s painting with quite a wide brush there. Jackson personally led a campaign of genocide and war crimes as a General. This was not true of most other presidents then.


    but he destroyed the National Bank (the equivalent to a modern day President shutting down the Federal Reserve). This should put him near the top of the list, certainly hire than slime like Bill Clinton.

    I don’t think you should dismiss an author’s reasoning out of hand without reading his case.

  16. paulie cannoli paulie cannoli Post author | February 25, 2009

    I haven’t read the Independent Institute’s book but _Reassessing the Presidency_ (edited by John Denson) is an excellent book along similar lines.

    I agree.

  17. G.E. G.E. February 25, 2009

    On a similar note, Citizen-Economists recently published two articles I wrote ranking the 10 worst presidents:

    http://citizeneconomists.com/blogs/2009/01/21/the-10-worst-presidents-from-a-free-market-perspective-part-1/

    http://citizeneconomists.com/blogs/2009/01/26/the-10-worst-presidents-from-a-free-market-perspective-part-2/

    1. Abraham Lincoln
    2. Woodrow Wilson
    3. FDR
    4. Harry Truman
    5. LBJ
    6. Richard Nixon
    7. George Washington
    8. George W. Bush
    9. Ronald Reagan
    10. Theodore Roosevelt

  18. G.E. G.E. February 25, 2009

    By the way, this is an awesome title for a book, too.

  19. G.E. G.E. February 25, 2009

    Sounds like a good book.

    Thomas Jefferson was the best man to ever be president. He was not a good president. The presidency corrupted him.

    Andy – You’re wrong about Jackson. Even sidestepping his genocidal tendencies, he still does not deserve to be anything other than “unranked.” Destroying the bank was the best thing any president has ever done. BUT what of the following: 1. Aggrandizing the exceutive branch and setting the stage for further aggrandizing by later presidents; 2. threatening to invade the South if states didn’t pay the tariff; 3. Exalting and expanding “democracy;” furthering the idea that the president was the “man of the people” and the government was “the people’s government.”

    Jackson’s good and bad cannot be reconciled. He’s the one president who served at least two years that cannot be ranked, at least not from a libertarian perspective.

  20. Andy Andy February 25, 2009

    “Abraham Lincoln, Bad President. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Bad President. Andrew Jackson: Bad President. Bill Clinton, Average President. John Tyler: Good President?!”

    Oh come on, Andrew Jackson was better than Bill Clinton. Yeah, he wasn’t exactly great to the Native Americans (but who was back then?) but he destroyed the National Bank (the equivalent to a modern day President shutting down the Federal Reserve). This should put him near the top of the list, certainly hire than slime like Bill Clinton.

  21. HumbleTravis HumbleTravis February 25, 2009

    I haven’t read the Independent Institute’s book but _Reassessing the Presidency_ (edited by John Denson) is an excellent book along similar lines.

  22. paulie cannoli paulie cannoli Post author | February 25, 2009

    curious who else was rated ‘good’ besides John Tyler…

    I guess you’ll have to look for other reviews. Or, you know, buy the book. Or wait until someone else buys it and borrow it, or until it is at the library.

    Otherwise, you might never know

    😛

  23. Melty Melty February 25, 2009

    curious who else was rated ‘good’ besides John Tyler…

    I agree. The LP would be far better off with “peace, prosperity, liberty” for a slogan.

  24. paulie cannoli paulie cannoli Post author | February 25, 2009

    peace, prosperity, and liberty

    Good slogan. I’ll need to keep that in mind. I like it better than the current LP tag (“smaller government, lower taxes, more freedom”) .

    I also like it better than LewRockwell.com’s “anti-state, anti-war, pro-market” which – while covering all the bases – is negative (anti-) on two scales, positive (pro-) only on one.

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