Who are the worst Americans?

From Stephen Bainbridge via Tyler Cowen comes a list of the worst Americans:

John Hawkins asked a bunch of right of center bloggers to list the “20 Worst Americans of all time,” from which he compiled the following list. The comments are mine. Personally, I find the collated list pretty much of a joke. It reflects the partisan passions of the moment, not anything resembling a serious verdict of history.

It goes on to list the usual suspects from the modern political right’s perspective: the Clintons, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, various spies and assassins, FDR, Ted Kennedy and so on.  I agree with Bainbridge that several selections are historically dubious; leftist loudmouths such as Moore and Al Sharpton seem inconsequential next to true monsters like FDR and Lyndon Baines Johnson.

I doubt Bainbridge would agree with a libertarian’s list, however, although some overlap would exist.  But we libertarians enjoy the benefit of an anti-state, pro-liberty perspective, which neither the right nor left will entertain.  Thus while Bainbridge puts John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of “our greatest President”, at # 3 of his own list, Booth’s target would top mine.  Yes, Abraham Lincoln: the worst American ever.

And certainly no other assassin or spy or anyone else who has undermined the state would go on my list of worst Americans.  The worst Americans are the ones who have used the state to murder, rob and terrorize innocent people.  Lincoln prosecuted a war to prevent secession and caused the deaths of 600,000 Americans and virtually unmeasurable economic destruction.  Timothy McVeigh isn’t our worst domestic terrorist: the United States government is.

FDR, who ushered in the modern welfare state and deliberately goaded the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor, thus providing an excuse to push the U. S. into WWII, surely is in the top five.  As is his successor, Harry Truman, for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians with atomic weapons.

Then there’s Alexander Hamilton, a strong centralist whose ideas of protectionism and fiat currency plague American economic policy to this day.

Here are some of my choices, not in a meaningful order after the top five or so:

  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. Woodrow Wilson (World War I tyrant, established the Fed and the first progressive income tax, allowed segregationist government policies)
  3. FDR
  4. Harry Truman
  5. Alexander Hamilton
  6. LBJ (expanded involvement in Vietnam, biggest spender on social programs since FDR)
  7. George W. Bush (two wars, unprecedented expansion of Federal government)
  8. Ted Kennedy (worst recent example of our ruling political class)
  9. Alan Greenspan (architect of the Fed’s disastrous monetary expansion)
  10. Paul Krugman (apologist for neo-Keynesian economic policy)
  11. John Marshall (4th Chief Justice of SCOTUS who greatly expanded Federal power)
  12. Janet Reno (murderess of 76 Branch Davidians in Waco)
  13. J. Edgar Hoover (the FBI’s first and still most evil dictator director)

I’m sure readers can think of many others, but this is a good start.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • McKinley really set the trend for modern American imperialism. I’d toss his ass on the list.

    • True. Or what about Monroe? He pretty much set the stage for American interventionism.

  • Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”

    • Albright is a very good suggestion, Paul. I admit I overlooked the Secretary of State in thinking up my list — there are plenty of choices to be sure!

  • I’m torn on the Lincolin thing. I can see where you are coming from, but I have studied the Civil War from top to bottom and for several reasons I think his biggest mistake was not recognizing secession as legitimate and not asking congress to declare war on the Confederacy after what happened at Fort Sumter and Norfolk. It would have been much easier then to delay reconstruction and keep captured land as Federal territories for so long as it took to accomplish sharing the tree of liberty with freed slaves. As it was, he viewed them as rebels engaged in insurrection and was mired in all sorts of things (of debateable necessity) that are inconsistent with the constitution, and after the fact, freed slaves were really not much better off than they were prior to the war. It’s one of those things where he won militarily, but the Union ultimately lost the war of ideas at such a horrendous cost.