History Rewards Warmaking


by Maisie Allison

Fabio Rojas explains

David Henderson and Zachary Gouchenour have a paper on the topic of presidential ratings. The finding is simple. American war casualties, as a fraction of the population, positively correlate with how historians rate U.S. presidents. More death = better presidents. The regression model includes some controls, like economic growth. 

Gene Healy recently discussed the paper: 

Presidents have long recognized the "wartime bonus" doled out by historians. Henderson and Gouchenour quote Teddy Roosevelt: "if Lincoln had lived in times of peace, no one would know his name now." … It's also worth reminding presidents that, as Wilson, Truman, and George W. Bush discovered, unnecessary wars make presidents unpopular. While historians may eventually award extra credit for spending American blood and treasure, ordinary Americans generally don't. 

More on war and the executive here.