Ranking the Presidents

From time to time different groups of historians get together and rank the various presidents of the United States. All too often, these rankings simply focus on personal charisma and “effectiveness” in getting their agenda passed, regardless of what that agenda actually entails.
Ivan Eland at the libertarian Independent Institute has his own thoughts on the issue and unlike these other rankings, Eland, in his new book “Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty,” he ranks each president through George W. Bush based on their performance in expanding or contracting Americans freedoms.
Some of the “great” presidents in US history defy expectations…John Tyler, Grover Cleveland, and Warren Harding appear towards the top of the list, but Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, and even Ronald Reagan perform poorly at preserving peace, prosperity, and liberty for Americans. To check it out for yourself, get the book here and look for Eland to appear on an upcoming “Speaking Freely” show on Saturday mornings on AM 1550 from 9am to 10am.

The Greatest Story Never Told

The national economy may be in bad shape and both gas and food prices may be rising at a rapid pace, but if you look at our current situation through the longer lens of history, things don’t look so bad at all. This is the perspective former Congressman Pat Toomey, the current President of the Club for Growth, brings to bear in a recent article, “The Greatest Story Never Told.”
Take a look at the article here. Undoubtedly, there is much we need to do both here in New Mexico and nationally, judged against history, there is no need to panic about the current state of affairs.

FDR and the modern state

Franklin Roosevelt is considered by the “mainstream” and many academics to be among the best presidents in our history. I have always felt otherwise and believe that he is actually among the 10 worst.
I was pleasantly surprised, then, that George Will will offered such a strong condemnation of the Roosevelt record on the pages of the liberal establishment Washington Post.
Among Roosevelt’s many sins was, “Furiously using legislation and regulations to multiply federally favored groups, and by rhetorically pitting those favored by government against the unfavored, he could create a permanent majority coalition.” This certainly sounds like the model used by the modern Democratic Party.
Roosevelt summed up his big-government philosophy in his second inaugural address by saying that he wanted “To enforce the ‘proper subordination’ of private power to public power.” That is nothing more or less than removing power from the individual and giving it to the government. It is the ultimate goal of the Rio Grande Foundation to reverse that troubling trend here in New Mexico.

Amazing Grace Review

On Friday, I recommended readers of this blog check out the movie Amazing Grace which is playing in theatres now. I enjoyed the movie, but as someone who has been involved in the political process for much of my adult life, I found the movie to be something more akin to a history/civics lesson than a movie for entertainment as many of the film’s reviewers have pointed out.
I still recommend the movie and believe that anyone who struggles daily against the establishment will gain from watching it, but I think that it is an even better choice for the average movie-goer who is less interested in politics than in the story itself. These are the people who may realize that the world around them is not a “given” and that they can change it for the better.

Amazing Grace

If your weekend plans are not already booked, may I suggest you check out a new movie coming out this weekend in most areas of the country called “Amazing Grace.” The story is of William Wilberforce’s efforts as a member of Parliament in 18th-century England to end slavery and the slave trade in the British empire.
I first heard the story of Wilberforce and his compatriot Thomas Clarkson from Larry Reed, President of our sister think tank in Michigan. Reed visited New Mexico in November of last year and those who attended the events also heard the story of Clarkson and Wilberforce.
Essentially, Clarkson started the world’s first think tank with the “libertarian” goal of ending the slave trade. He and Wilberforce acted as a team and over nearly 50 years accomplished their goals. The lessons are that ideas matter and you should never give up.
I can’t do the story justice here so see the movie. I’ll have my review posted over the weekend.

Split the Vote for Smaller Government?

Although the Rio Grande Foundation cannot and does not take a position on specific candidates and their races, Bruce Bartlett makes a compelling case as to the merits of splitting control over the legislative and executive branches of our federal government. It is hard to argue with some of the data he includes as far as the relative success of limiting spending and passing necessary reforms. We’ll just have to wait until November 8 when, hopefully, the votes will be tallied and America will know who controls Congress.

Social Security Promises Past

Thanks to Walter Williams:
“After the first three years — that is to say, beginning in 1940 — you will pay, and your employer will pay, 1.5 cents for each dollar you earn, up to $3,000 a year. … Beginning in 1943, you will pay 2 cents, and so will your employer, for every dollar you earn for the next 3 years. … And finally, beginning in 1949, 12 years from now, you and your employer will each pay 3 cents on each dollar you earn, up to $3,000 a year. … That is the most you will ever pay.”
– 1936 government pamphlet on Social Security


“I could think of no worse example for nations abroad, who for the first time were trying to put free electoral procedures into effect, than that of the United States wrangling over the results of our presidential election, and even suggesting that the presidency itself could be stolen by thievery at the ballot box.”
–Thomas Jefferson

Corruption and Virtue in New Mexico’s History

I’ve been reading Jim Powell’s FDR’s Folly. It is an economic history of the New Deal. First of all, I would highly recommend it to all interested in an economically and historically sound recounting of the New Deal. (If my word doesn’t carry enough weight, you may be interested to know that it comes recommended by two Nobel Laureates in Economics).
Anyway, I found a little tidbit about New Mexico rather interesting. There is a chapter which describes the way New Deal relief spending was hijacked by political interests, so that all too often aid went not to those in need but to those most likely to get the Roosevelt Administration reelected. Powell quotes historian James T. Patterson as writing, “Democrats in New Mexico, where politics were raw and open, were especially demanding. From the start Democratic Governor Arthur Seligman requested—and got—lists noting the political preference of all relief and [Civilian Conservation Core] workers in the state.”
Despite this obvious black mark, New Mexico did redeem itself. Disgusted with the way New Deal spending was being used for political purposes, the US Congress passed the Hatch Act in 1939. This prohibited federal employees and state and local employees administering federal programs from using their power to influence the outcome of a political campaign. It made it illegal for these employees to offer jobs to political campaign workers or to manage political campaigns. And the author of the Hatch Act? Why, Democratic Senator Carl Atwood Hatch of New Mexico, of course!

A Day of Deliverance

“The second of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty, solemnized with pomp and parade, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other from this time forward, forever more. You will think me transported with enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth all the means. And that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction even though we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.”
Such was the opinion of John Adams, expressed in a letter to his wife Abigail. No, John wasn’t wrong on his dates. The 2nd of July, 1776 was the day that Richard Henry Lee’s resolution declaring independence from Great Briton was actually adopted by the Second Continental Congress. Two days later, on the 4th, Congress adopted Jefferson’s draft of the actual document: “The Declaration of Independence.” Somewhat by historical accident, we have come to celebrate the later date and not the earlier one.
For more on America’s founding, including original documents, historical background, biographies and quotes, see some of the following:
The Founder’s Constitution (maintained by the University of Chicago Press and Liberty Fund)
From Revolution to Reconstruction (by the Department of Humanities Computing, University of Groningen, The Netherlands)
The Avalon Project (by the Yale Law School)
The Founder’s Almanac (by the Heritage Foundation)
Whenever you decide to celebrate, we at the Rio Grande Foundation wish you a very happy Independence Day!