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Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty (Independent Studies in Political Economy) 0th Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1598130225
ISBN-10: 1598130226
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Editorial Reviews


"While conventional accounts glorify the flagrant misdeeds of the ‘Imperial Presidency,’ this insightful and crucial book provides an inspiring vision for both conservatives and liberals on the crucial need to reign in White House power and restore peace, prosperity and liberty."  —Ron Paul, U.S. Congressman

"According to American historians, the best presidents get us into the biggest wars, impose the most interventionist economic policies, and trample civil liberties by expanding executive power beyond what the Constitution permits. Eland makes a novel proposal: Why not rank presidents according to the traditional American values of peace, prosperity and liberty? Read this important new book and find out why John Tyler may be America's greatest president!"  —Thomas DiLorenzo, professor of economics, Loyola College, Maryland; author, The Real Lincoln, Lincoln Unmasked, and Hamilton's Curse: How Jefferson's Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution

"A much-needed corrective to the American history we are all taught in our schools. We are propagandized to adulate all American presidents regardless of what their record might have been. Dr. Eland has provided a far more accurate account of the actions of these men (and they are indeed men, not gods). Historians who are dedicated to the truth are indebted to him for his efforts.”
—Ronald Hamowy, professor emeritus of history, University of Alberta, Canada

"A 'very good' collection of concise assessments of each administration's domestic, defense and foreign policies. This book is 'better' in terms of the analysis of each administration's role in an evolving process of shaping the legacy of prior administrations for their successors.  And the book is 'best' in the ways it provides insights into how a libertarian perspective on these issues is meaningful for the broader policy debates. Hence this volume's focus concurrently warrants the praise: 'Very Good, Better, and Best.'"  —Edward A. Olsen, emeritus professor, National Security Affairs, Naval Postgraduate School

"Judging presidents by a deceptively simple metric—their impact on peace, prosperity and liberty—leads Eland to reach radical conclusions about the rankings of presidents. Whether you agree that Coolidge was a good president and FDR a bad one, you'll never again glibly think that it is obvious which presidents are good or bad. It isn't—and Eland shows us why."  —Richard Shenkman, editor, History News Network; author, Just How Stupid Are We: Facing the Truth About the American Voter, Presidential Ambition: Gaining Power At Any Cost, and Legends, Lies, and Cherished Myths of American History

"Colorful, entertaining, and profound. Ivan Eland shatters the grand illusion that great presidents are those who wage war or deprive people of their liberty, either here or abroad. This new 'gold standard' for measuring presidential performance will upend what we 'know' about 'great' presidents and will challenge your view of political history, one president at a time."  —Jonathan Bean, professor of history, Southern Illinois University

"By focusing on peace, prosperity, and liberty, Recarving Rushmore moves us miles closer to a proper evaluation of America's presidents—especially those of the 20th century—than the hallowed (but misleading) Schlesinger poll of prominent historians. Eland makes an eloquent and persuasive case, for example, that Harding and Coolidge were better presidents than were FDR and LBJ."  —Burton W. Folsom, Charles F. Kline Chair in History, Hillsdale College; author, New Deal or Raw Deal? How FDR's Economic Legacy Has Damaged America

"Well-written and fascinating, Recarving Rushmore provides a long-overdue reassessment of the actual record of all U.S. presidents. Thanks to Ivan Eland's efforts, the traditional classroom narrative of our 'great presidents' and their glorious deeds lies in well-deserved ruin."  —Thomas E. Woods, Jr., senior fellow, Ludwig von Mises Institute; author, The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and 33 Questions About American History You're Not Supposed to Ask

About the Author

Ivan Eland is a senior fellow and director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. A leading expert on defense issues, he is a frequent guest on ABC, NPR, CNN, Fox News and the BBC, and is the author of The Empire Has No Clothes. He lives in Washington, DC.


Product Details

  • Series: Independent Studies in Political Economy
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Independent Institute (January 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1598130226
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598130225
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,111,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. M. VINE VOICE on January 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wikipedia's article "Historical Rankings of United States Presidents" ([...]) features a spreadsheet of twelve scholarly surveys. In general, the presidents were judged on "achievements, leadership qualities, failures and faults (such as corruption)." Consistently topping the lists were Lincoln, Washington, FDR, and Jefferson, with conservative and liberals disagreeing only on the placements of our 1st and 32nd presidents.
Ivan Eland questions the criteria used in these conventional rankings. In his RECARVING RUSHMORE, his Introduction states that undesirable biases shape surveys conducted by such as the Siena Research Institute. There is the "effectiveness bias" which supposedly focuses on a president's ability to get his programs enacted while not weighing the value of the programs. In other words, action trumps judgment. Then Eland mentions biases for "charisma," "service during a crisis" (i.e., war or depression), and "activism."

Eland wants to evaluate presidents on other criteria, namely, how well they procured or perpetuated peace, prosperity, and liberty. His rankings "reflect the degree to which presidents upheld the founders' original vision of a limited federal government with an appropriately constrained executive" although Eland concedes that "each president has to be evaluated at his point in time" and "cannot be blamed for the size of government he inherited or the power he was expected to wield at the time he took office." Still, the idea is to assess the presidents on whether they avoided "wars of choice;" whether their economic policies contributed to prosperity; and whether they respected the constitution, checks and balances on their office, and individual freedoms.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an important and thought provoking book. The author clearly has a detailed understanding of US Presidential history as well as a sound understanding of economics, and uses that knowledge to rank the Presidents by the degree to which they tried to advance peace, prosperity, liberty, and their adherance to the Constitution. The result is enlightening; but also sure to create debate over the resulting ranking. He is careful to explain that his ranking is based upon the actions and results of the Presidents while in office, not before or after. He also doesn't demand that later day Presidents strictly uphold the Constitution, only that they try to move in the right direction within their abilities to do so. This results in, for instance, Jefferson being ranked in the bottom 20, while Ford, Carter, and Clinton are in the top 20. This, despite the fact that Jefferson was fully concious of the original meaning of the Constitution and understood full well his limitations under it. He agonized over the unconstitionality of the Louisiana Purchase and sucessfully reduced the size and scope of government to adhere to its Constitional limits. Yes, he abused his power in regards to the embargo and Native Americans; but should his Presidency be judjed more harshly than the modern Presidents who seem so utterly ignorant of and disinterested in Constitutional government? Jefferson's America was flawed by his inconsistancies; but it was a society in which government was all but non-existant in the daily lives of most people. The government of the modern Presidents is all intrusive. Each reader will need to wrestle with these issues. It is to Mr. Eland's credit that he kindled this debate.
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Format: Hardcover
This book presents a refreshing evaluation of the presidents. As someone who has studied presidents for quite some time, I found myself agreeing with most of the book's assessments, as if I had written the book myself. I always thought John Tyler, Grover Cleveland, Martin Van Buren, and Warren G. Harding were criminally underrated and that the so-called greats -- Lincoln, Wilson, Reagan, FDR -- were merely cold-blooded, excellent politicians who were blessed with the mantle of greatness not because of their dubious leadership but because they knew how to sell themselves. This book illustrates how the so-called greats were great only in the extent that they harmed the country's prosperity and liberty.
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"Redcarving Rushmore" is worth the read simply for it's perspective. It shifts the lighting on its subject,American presidents,bringing out different features, different shadows. Eland credits presidents for their restraint in expanding the role of the office and, especially, in taking the country to war. Most historians take a different view,rewarding aggressive presidents,especially in undertaking progressive goals, and assuming that war is one of the essentail tests in order to achieve greatness. One does not have to agree with the premise to enjoy the results; the list is nearly reversed in order from the one we are all familiar with. It's hard to surpress a smile at seeing Tyler, Cleveland, Van Buren and Hayes at the top and Polk, McKinley, Truman and Wilson at the bottom. Eland may be a libertarian, but his approach is not partisan. Carter and Clinton rank quite high and Reagan and both W and HW Bush are ranked low. Eland knows his subject well, certainly well enough to make his argument. The scholarship quibbles made in some of the other reviews, even if they are right, are far less important than the benefit of the exercise of using different and, at least, perfectly legitimate standards in measuring presidents. I do not agree with all the assumptions and certainlhy disagree with many of the conclusions, but I find myself thinking differently about the evaluation process. Only a few of the books I read every year change my mode of thinking. This is one of them.
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