Copious Deaths, and the Greatness of Presidents

Large numbers of deaths may be good for an American president’s reputation, suggests this new study:

War and Presidential Greatness,” David R. Henderson (Naval Postgraduate School) and Zachary Gochenour [pictured here] (George Mason University), SSRN working paper #2029774, March 27, 2012. The authors explain:

“Historians and journalists commonly survey other historians on the relative ‘greatness’ of American presidents, and these rankings show remarkable consistency between surveys. In this paper we consider commonalities between highly ranked presidents and compare plausible determinants of greatness according to historians. We find that a strong predictor of greatness is the fraction of American lives lost in war during a president’s tenure…. We find a strong positive correlation between the number of Americans killed during a presidents time in office and the president`s rating….

“They get little credit for avoiding war. Martin Van Buren [pictured here], for example, effectively avoided a war on the northern border of the United States. How many people know that today? Indeed, how many people have even heard of Martin Van Buren?”

Here’s a chart from the study (details are explained in the text of the study):

(Thanks to investigator Andy Pervis for bringing this to our attention.)