Carter was not the worst president in history, not even close. Being a typical Democrat, he was just incompetent, and mere incompetence cannot get really bad things done. For real, competent evil, one must turn to the Republicans. The worst president in history is Richard Nixon.
I’m not referring to his most famous failure, Watergate, which was just your average political dirty trick blown out of proportion by the left. Watergate is significant only as the high water mark of the liberal media. The media destroyed a Republican president and for the last three decades aging liberal baby boomers have been desperately trying to repeat the great victory of their youth without success. It has not happened again and with the growth of alternative media, it will never happen again.
A comprehensive account of Nixon’s failings would require a book, not a blog post. Here are just a few of his worst moments.
What liberals count as Nixon’s best moment, his going to China, was a terrible sell-out of communism’s victims. Nixon spat on the tens of millions of Mao’s victims by treating Mao as morally worthy of meeting instead of as the monster he was.
At home Nixon imposed wage and price controls, a purely socialistic intervention in the economy that bumbling Jimmy Carter never could have attempted. He created the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Health and Safety Administration, two assaults on liberty that to this day create anti-capitalist regulations that violate rights and hamper the economy. He expanded the welfare state, creating Supplemental Security Income and indexing Social Security to inflation. He created the Drug Enforcement Agency, probably the biggest move in America’s idiotic war on drugs.
But none of these evils is Nixon’s worst moment. He is responsible for the single most destructive act in the history of the American presidency, an act that has destroyed more wealth and worsened more lives than anything before or since. In 1971, as Wikipedia puts it, he “eradicated the last remnants of the gold standard.” This created the inflation crises of the 1970’s and affects us with “moderate” inflation to this day. The high interest rates that Republicans blame Carter for are actually the result of Nixon’s policies.
Henry Hazlitt explained inflation thus:
…inflation is nothing but a great swindle…. This swindle erodes the purchasing power of everybody's income and the purchasing power of everybody's savings. It is a concealed tax, and the most vicious of all taxes. It taxes the incomes and savings of the poor by the same percentage as the incomes and savings of the rich. It falls with greatest force precisely on the thrifty, on the aged, on those who cannot protect themselves by speculation or by demanding and getting higher money incomes to compensate for the depreciation of the monetary unit.Watergate was a misdemeanor compared to this enormity. By taking the final step of detaching the dollar from gold, Richard Nixon made the great swindle possible. Government spending will continue to grow as long as politicians know they can get away with this hidden tax while at the same time lecturing petroleum companies and other corporations about rising prices -- and then using the high prices that the state caused with inflation to further expand the power of the state! Jimmy Carter is a street corner hoodlum compared to Nixon, the Al Capone of American presidents.
Why does this swindle go on? It goes on because governrnents wish to spend, partly for armaments and in most cases preponderantly for subsidies and handouts to various pressure groups, but lack the courage to tax as much as they spend. It goes on, in other words, because governments wish to buy the votes of some of us while concealing from the rest of us that those votes are being bought with our own money. It goes on because politicians (partly through the second- or third-hand influence of the theories of the late Lord Keynes) think that this is the way, and the only way, to maintain "full employment," the present-day fetish of the self-styled progressives. It goes on because the international gold standard has been abandoned, because the world's currencies are essentially paper currencies, adrift without an anchor, blown about by every political wind, and at the mercy of every bureaucratic caprice. And the very governments that are inflating profess solemnly to be "fighting" inflation. Through cheap-money policies, or the printing press, or both, they increase the supply of money and credit and affect to deplore the inevitable result.
UPDATE, September 16, 2011: This post is entirely wrong. I now believe that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the worst president ever. He brought Bismarck's welfare state to America. This is a fundamental change in the relationship between the individual and the state. Everything Nixon did is a detail compared to FDR's revolution.
Also, this post was written before the coming of Obama. I now rank the worst presidents as: 1) FDR, 2) Obama, 3) Nixon. #4 is a tough call, but candidates are McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, Harding, Hoover, Carter, Bush 41 and Bush 43. I'm leaning toward Roosevelt because he started the civil service, which should not exist. Being at the creation of our vast bureaucracy is a more fundamental sin than anything by the other bumblers, war mongers and crooks on that list.