World leaders admirable and loathesome

unknownLibertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson was embarrassed the other day being unable to name a foreign leader he admired. At first I winced – it seemed ignorant. But then I pondered how I’d answer the question myself. It’s actually quite hard!

images-1Unfortunately, it’s far easier to name foreign leaders I revile: Putin, Mugabe, Maduro, Zuma, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-il, Castro, Al-Sisi, Al-Khalifa, Al-Bashir, Al-Assad (pretty much all the Als), Ortega, Lukashenko, Kaczynski, Orban, Erdogan, Obiang, Bongo, Prayuth, Nkurunziza, Tsipras, Museveni, Afwerki, Kiir, Salman, dos Santos, Kabila, Hun Sen, Mswati, Razak, Khamenei, Aliyev, Hasina (my wife would scold me if I failed to include a woman). That’s just a quick list off the top of my head.

Naming ones I admire is much tougher. Political life being what it is, even the better ones tend to be compromised in one way or another. Take India’s Modi. I had high hopes. And he has done much right. But not nearly enough. And he has blood on his hands. Our own President Obama has some admirable personal qualities, but I don’t admire his record in office.

images3But okay, after much thought, here’s my answer. I most admire the Dalai Lama. Maybe that’s cheating because he isn’t actually a head of state.*

unknown-1I also admire Aung San Suu Kyi – who hasn’t had time enough yet to disappoint. The same is true of Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, Argentina’s Mauricio Macri, and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen. Possible candidates are Italy’s Renzi and Colombia’s Santos. And Canada’s Trudeau seems surprisingly admirable for a man from the left side of the political spectrum.

Not much of a list, for such a big world. And it’s sad that no American makes the cut – nobody on today’s political stage do I really admire.** Certainly not the two main presidential candidates. I’ll vote for Johnson, despite his Aleppo moments, for reasons of principle (the only candidate making economic sense), without admiration.

* And a strange choice for an atheist like me? No, he doesn’t believe in any gods either!

** Chris Gibson alas is leaving that stage. John McCain is disqualified for endorsing Trump. Charlie Baker did not, and seems an excellent man, but I don’t know enough about him.

8 Responses to “World leaders admirable and loathesome”

  1. Joseph Sermarini Says:

    I believe Libertarian ideals are far too close to anarchy. The social freedoms sound great, but the economic deregulation is a potential disaster. Libertarians fail to recognize the greedy, the power hungry, and costs external to producers, such as pollution. Communists fail to recognize the lazy, the abusers, and the inefficiency of centralized control compared to the invisible hand. Both ends of the spectrum are idealized fantasies that ignore human nature with very bad results. The middle ground we have is imperfect but, I think, better.

  2. rationaloptimist Says:

    It’s a common straw man to paint libertarians as believing in no laws or regulations. Government was invented to deploy a system of law to protect us from each other. I believe in that system.
    True, unregulated business entails some abuses and bad things. This has actually been tried, in China, where private business has been essentially unregulated since 1979. And there have been some very bad things. Yet, on the other hand, China’s average per-capita income has increased, since 1979, THIRTY-FOLD!!! That gigantic human betterment surely more than compensates for the abuses.

  3. Ed S Says:

    Obama is not a *foreign* leader no matter what Donald Trump says. I would have failed this test badly. “What about … wait, he’s dead. And … no, he’s dead too. What about that pretty lady in Burma? Or what about that island nation guy who held an underwater cabinet meeting. He seemed cool. Oh, I forgot, the junta ousted him. What about … no, she’s dead. Does The Pope count?”

  4. rationaloptimist Says:

    I agree that Aung San Suu Kyi is a hot babe.

  5. Joseph Sermarini Says:

    In this case I am specifically referring to what this Libertarian, Gary Johnson, believes and wants to do. He says, “In a healthy economy that allows the market to function unimpeded, consumers, innovators and personal choices will ultimately bring about the environmental restoration and protection society desires.” Apparently he believes in magic because that is not science.

  6. Dennis Says:

    My serious doubts about the newly elected Justin Trudeau (another Trudeau ? and SO inexperienced) were abated when I heard that he wanted to borrow expansively to invest in Canada’s infrastructure…makes some sense with interest rates so low. How Keynesian! Yet I see the logic. I wonder how many of his Liberal supporters will feel when they consider that a key infrastructure project will lay oil pipelines from Alberta to the coasts of British Columbia across ‘native peoples’ land. Consider it also a rebuff to our refusal to allow construction of the Keystone pipeline. If they can’t move oil through our country then sell it to Asia.

  7. rationaloptimist Says:

    Trudeau has also been very good about taking large numbers of Syrian refugees.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Gary Johnson should have been able to deftly deflect the Aleppo and world leader questions to issues he wanted to talk about without revealing his lack of knowledge. This is very telling about Mr. Johnson’s political acumen. They key word is deftly, meaning skillfully, not clumsily ham handed.

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