Who is the Greatest Living American?

According to the mostly left-biased media here in the UK, Michael Moore's newly released Fahrenheit 9/11 is a must-see film, with hordes of people apparently flocking to British cinemas already to watch the Great Man in action.

I think I'll pass, but the same phenomenon spreads right across Europe, where many see Michael Moore as the Greatest Living American, easily surpassing any other film star you could happen to mention, or any other person of real lasting note, such as our very own Jonathan Wilde.

Even rational people, who you would otherwise consider right-thinking folk, consider Michael Moore as some kind of Living God. For instance, I was in Sweden recently, for my sins, and after intensive research in various bars and other ridiculously expensive watering holes, I discovered one or two Swedes expressing opinions I could easily agree with about the heavy-taxing, over-bearing, and nanny-stating Swedish ruling class in Stockholm. (Yes, these uncommunal anti-government Swedes do exist, if you dig down deep enough and spend enough in alcohol taxes to help prop up this self-same noxious ruling class.)

But when it comes to Michael Moore, in Britain and Europe, the fog descends, the trumpets ring out, and virtually everything the baseball-capped one says is taken up as silvery-tongued golden gospel by virtually everyone you meet outside of signed-up libertarian circles, and even then you're not sure. For instance, check out the number one author at this Swedish bookstore:

Michael Moore, Number One in Sweden

This got me wondering: if Michael Moore isn't the greatest living American, who is? Outside of Catallarchy.net contributors, which living American do you think is going to be best remembered in, say, a thousand years, as having made the most positive contribution to the future of humanity, in the same way that we now remember Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson? I'll toss in a couple of names for fun: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, and Hans-Hermann Hoppe, if Der HoppMeister holds a US passport.

To this list I suppose you could add Milton Friedman, David Friedman, Lew Rockwell, and maybe one or two others. But even within libertarian circles each of these has his detractors as well as his supporters. Is there anyone else? Can only prominent politicians, big film stars, and superhuman sports stars win this competition? Who is the greatest living American?

Personally speaking, I think I'll vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton. What a babe.

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I've read many media reviews

I've read many media reviews of this film, and -- after quietly and begrudgingly admitting that Moore plays loose with facts, stages scenes, and takes quotes out of context in order to paint his objects of derision in a biased light -- the remainder of the review will glow and rave about the great filmmaker Moore is. I wonder how well a "documentary" filmed by Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter, both truth-strechers as well, would be received at Cannes, by international media, and in art-houses?

I'm no fan of the Bush Administration and often cringe at the government's foreign policy (and domestic) blusters. But Michael Moore is the perfect embodiment of the European Intelligencia and American College Campus Left. The hero they've been waiting for: Hate corporations, love the welfare state, mock success, and ignore personal responsibility in individuals' decision-making. All the while, forget the man has two million-dollar homes, and has often squabled with people in the past over money. Just put a baseball cap and a I-can-smell-it-from-here flannel shirt on him, and he's ready to entertain the masses.

Possibly Ahnuld!? Movie

Possibly Ahnuld!? Movie star/ Super gov.
But Andy, Hilary? Now that's just sick.

Andy, I think you may be

Andy,

I think you may be taking this at the wrong angle. Firstly, Micheal Moore's anti-warfare-state views are right on track with libertarianism. On the other hand, his economics are a big steaming pile of shit. So, is it possible to praise him for his anti-warfare-state views, and chastise him for his economics? I would argue it is, and the folks at LewRockwell.com would tend to agree wholeheartedly. Moore has done more for the libertarians' anti-warfare-state position than any libertarian has done---at least, speaking in terms of national and international exposure.

Now, superimpose that point on Europe. What does Europe care more about: the economic policy of the United States, or the foreign policy of the United States? Well, judging from the largest worldwide protests in history, I'd say, the latter. So, it's natural for Europeans to praise Moore, because they identify and care about his position on our war(s). They disagree with Bush's actions, which means they would naturally praise Moore. I would also venture to say that not too many of them have actually read "Dude, Where's My Country", upon which F9/11 was based. If they had, they would have gotten an unhealthy dose of Moore's socialist-liberal economics, wherein every other sentence whines about how "the greatest country in the world should be able to provide national health care". But these economics are curiously (and fortunately) absent from the film. Columbine did not avoid them so well, and it was a detriment to it. But given that F9/11 DID, and given that it is possible to praise Moore for one position but criticise him for others, I don't feel that it is exactly hypocritical or ignorant for them to praise him.

Again, you'll see the same praise from the more anti-warfare-state edge of libertarians, like Lew Rockwell. No true conservative or libertarian could even think about agreeing with Moore on his socialist, protectionist, union-loving economic views...but, he HAS done much for us with his anti-warfare-state views.

I propose Ludwig von Mises.

I propose Ludwig von Mises. Eventually Keynesianism will disprove itself and from the ashes of the collapsed world economy the world will finally understand what the great man was saying.

Often, the longest-lived geniuses are not recognized until decades after their death. So too, I say, with LVM.

Of the names you mention,

Of the names you mention, Schwarzenegger and Milton Friedman are clearly the most likely to be remembered for their contributions in 1000 years. But they wouldn't be anywhere near the top of my likely-remembrance list (much as I admire both Friedmans). What about Burt Rutan or Bill Gates? And for that matter, isn't Neil Armstrong still alive?

Moore is an isolationist

Moore is an isolationist 'blood-and-soil' totalitarian socialist.

Liberals/libertarians would tend to say that the last half of that descriptor is the root of all 20th century evil, and they'd be right.

Some, though, think that isolationism as a virture trumps all the manifest evil of totalitarian socialism; so that its OK to praise Moore, who's method and personal politics come straight from the totalitarian '30s, because he says bad things about the military in general and foreign military interventionism in specific.

Pardon my acronym, but WTF? As far as bad things go, advocacy and the specific attempted imposition of totalitarian domestic politics easily trumps the general "warfare state" in terms of 'what is bad for liberals'.

I call 'priorities' on this one.

I've seen the movie and I

I've seen the movie and I still can't tell you how it makes me feel. I no longer support the war in Iraq so that part didn't bother me. Lingering on one mother who lost her son there did. The scenes about the military-industrial-NGO complex eagerly talking about the "government paying for everything" were ugly. The continuous cheap shots at Bush were tiring. Then there are the deceits that I worry will convince people of the wrong thing.

Me. Or foadi. Possibly

Me. Or foadi. Possibly shonk, or George Potter.

We'll see.

Bill Gates?!?!? Heaven

Bill Gates?!?!? Heaven forfend!!! The only solace I take from microsoft is owning a meager bit of stock, so that every time Windows screws up -- at least I know I am collecting a portion of any profit that sadistic bastard makes.

I'm not sure who the greatest living American would be, it certainly isn't Michael Moore, or any living politician that I can think of.

I'd have to go with Reagan.

I'd have to go with Reagan. Being quotable is a major influence, and Reagan was quotable.

Oh, wait, LIVING. I thought

Oh, wait, LIVING. I thought we were thinking our generation. Hmm. Condi Rice, if she decides to run for office later. Arnold, if he decides to go for the Senate.

I'm tempted to say Phil

I'm tempted to say Phil Zimmerman, or perhaps a 50-50 combination of Burt Rutan and Paul Allen. David Friedman is a contender.

Of course, the greatest human being--living or otherwise--is William Shatner.

Ooh, Phil Zimmerman, good

Ooh, Phil Zimmerman, good pick, Randall. I nominate Linus Torvalds.

Benedict writes: But Andy,

Benedict writes:

But Andy, Hilary? Now that?s just sick.

Sorry Benedict. Couldn't resist it! :-)

Evan Williams writes:

I think you may be taking this at the wrong angle. Firstly, Micheal Moore?s anti-warfare-state views are right on track with libertarianism?

Yes, I think you're right, hence the throwaway line about not being sure of even signed-up libertarian views on Michael Moore. Maybe I really ought to see the film myself, as purely a research project you understand, to follow through your thoughts. The idea of my box office money paying for one of his drinks on the Lear Jet doesn't thrill me, but hopefully he won't notice it's my money, in amongst all the other filthy lucre.

The trouble is of course, even if we agree with Moore on state-fostered war, we can hopefully resist following his other blandishments. But very few of my fellow countrymen, and Europeans, who I meet, are quite so disciplined in their thinking. If they agree with Moore on US foreign policy, this leads them, as you say, all too easily into agreeing with his US domestic policies.

I must say, going on the reaction over here in Blighty, I think even Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels would have admired Moore's talents as a propagandist.

mike writes:

I propose Ludwig von Mises?

Ok, so he's in heaven looking down upon us, rather than actually being alive, but yes I agree his spirit is still with us. So maybe we can grant special dispensation for the man whom I will agree with you, I think history, or at least some decent historians, will one day call the greatest man of the twentieth century, with his diagnosis and prediction of the end of communism, his escape from Nazism, and his eventual life-long successful fight to counter Keynesianism. We truly are not worthy.

Nicholas Weininger writes:

What about Burt Rutan or Bill Gates?

Excellent suggestions, especially the second one if you're not a Unix head! :-)

Combining Messrs Rutan and Gates, how about we also nominate Paul Allen for sponsoring SpaceShipOne?

Randall McElroy writes:

Of course, the greatest human being?living or otherwise?is William Shatner.

Ok, can I second this one, too? As yes, Mr Shatner is perhaps the greatest living human being. But isn't he Canadian and therefore like me a citizen of the Queen? But hell, if we can let Herr Mises through, I'm sure we can bend the rules for the Captain, the One True Kirk.

BTW it quite horrified me recently to find out that Patrick Stewart is a major supporter of the UK's Labour Party, most of whose members would be right behind Michael Moore in everything he says, domestically as well as in foreign affairs.

But then, New Generation never was as good as the original. Now we know why.

Qiwi writes:

Randall. I nominate Linus Torvalds.

Ah, I take it your second vote won't be going to Mr Gates then? :-)

[g]http://gentoo.org [m]http:

[g]http://gentoo.org
[m]http://www.mozilla.org/
[gn]http://www.gnome.org
[a]http://apache.org
[gimp]http://www.gimp.org
[gnu]http://www.gnu.org
[py]http://python.org

I don't have anything against Bill Gates personally, just the excrement his company calls software, and the huge stress its security holes put on the internet, and his desire to remotely control my property. Okay, maybe I do have something against him. But it's quite easy for me to vote with my dollars on this issue--instead of spending $200 on Windows XP, I donated $50 to "Gentoo.org":g, who've done a million times more to improve my life than Bill Gates ever could, and I still have $150 left over to support "other":m "software":gnu "that":a "improves":gn "my":gimp "life":py.

or any other person of real

or any other person of real lasting note, such as our very own Jonathan Wilde.

Andy - didn't we have a chat about using drugs? ;)

Speaking of which, I think

Speaking of which, I think it's gin and tonic time. Cheers! ;-)

For the record, I'm no fan

For the record, I'm no fan of Windows either-- I'm a longtime, dedicated Linux-head. But

1. true greatness, whatever that is, is not necessarily what gets you remembered for contributions to humanity in 1000 years,

2. Gates, Allen, and co. have amassed a store of private wealth that they are starting to use on a Rockefeller-like scale-- I'm thinking not just of SS1 but of the Gates Foundation's humanitarian projects-- and I think their use of that wealth has a pretty good shot at getting them a prominent place in history.

Dr. Norman

Dr. Norman Borlaug

http://agprogram.tamu.edu/publications/lifescapes/fall02/father.htm

He is personally responsible for saving billions of people from premature starvation deaths.

Condi Rice? Arnold? Are you people fucking serious?

- Josh

I am inclined to pick a

I am inclined to pick a businessman who greatly increased the standard of living for the everyday person. However, no single person sticks out above the rest.

For something inexact, I'd say the greatest living American is the one who is skeptical of concentrated power and is eternally vigilant. Millions of these "tempermental" libertarians exist in middle America even without having read Rand, Rothbard, Friedman, and the like.

For a more concrete answer, I think that most lasting contributions are made by the masters of the written word. In the end, it is the poet who rules the world, even he is dead by the time he does. A case can be made for Neal Stephenson. He writes of radical libertarian themes - market anarchism, data havens, prevention of holocausts, hard money, cryptography, the Enlightenment, individual empowerment, freedom via technology - without being preachy but by making it cool.

Everyone knows the greatest

Everyone knows the greatest living American is Stewie Griffin from the Family Guy. Soon he'll come of age and you'll be sorry for overlooking him.

Ron Paul, baby. History

Ron Paul, baby. History will remember him as the only politician with any cojones. It's too bad one man can't make a difference when it comes to the direction of congress.

I would also vote for Jesse Ventura, pending a run for President in '08 (which he still is making his mind up about). However, he's already come out in favor of abolishing the income tax.

bq. Dr. Norman

bq. Dr. Norman Borlaug

(smacks forehead)

I change my vote.