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Ranking of 20th Century U.S. Presidents by Ludwig’s Political Geatness Scale

As promised in Sunday’s (April 11) Book Salon, with Prof. Arnold M. Ludwig’s King of the Mountain—The Nature of Political Leadership, here is the ranking of U.S. presidents on Ludwig’s Political Greatness Scale (PGS). These measures characterize the lives of the immortal greats, like Caesar, Napoleon, Darius, Alexander the Great, Washington, Lincoln and others of their historic status. Do not confuse the term ‘great leader’ with a leader considered to be good for his country. Eleven scalable (usually 0 to 3) factors are included (pp. 276-77): Something from Nothing; More Than Before; Staying Power; Military Prowess; Social Engineering; Economics; Statesmanship; Ideology; Moral Exemplar; Political Legacy; Population of Country.

1 Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933-1945 30 top
2 Woodrow Wilson, 1913-1921 24 top
3 Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-1909 23 top
4 Harry S. Truman, 1945-1953 23 top
5 Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1981-1989 22 top
6 William McKinley, 1897-1901 20 top
7 Dwight David Eisenhower 1953-1961 18 top
8 Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1963-1969 18 top
9 John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1961-1963 15 top
10 George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989-1993 15 top
11 William Jefferson Clinton, 1993-2001 15 top
12 Calvin Coolidge, 1923-1929 14 top
13 James Earl Carter, Jr., 1977-1981 14 top
14 William Howard Taft, 1909-1913 12 middle
15 Richard Milhous Nixon, 1969-1974 11 middle
16 Gerald Rudolph Ford, 1974-1977 11 middle
17 Herbert Clark Hoover, 1929-1933 10 middle
18 Warren Gamaliel Harding, 1921-1923 9 bottom

The column of numbers is the numeric PGS. By way of comparison, of all leaders of all countries in the 21st century, FDR is surpassed only by Atatürk, 31, and is tied for second with Mao, as shown in the original post. The third column is the place of the president in the top, middle, or bottom third of all leaders in the world, or at least that robust subset of 377 leaders for whom there were enough autobiographical data to be included in this ranking.

It is to U.S. credit that 13 of the 18 rank in the top third, I suppose. Living through half of them, it doesn’t seem that they are so respectable. But perhaps they look good in comparison to scores of incompetents and fools in other countries. YMMV.

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