Time Magazine: Man of the Millennium

David Brower dbrower at us.oracle.com
Wed Sep 23 13:20:32 EST 1998

Craig Burley <burley at tweedledumb.cygnus.com> writes:

>mawarkus at t-online.de (Matthias Warkus) writes:

>> Andy Ylikoski schrieb:
>> > 
>> > My suggestion is the head of the American Revolution, George
>> > Washington.  He is the man who did the most for the benefit of the
>> > human race.
>> Or are you implying that George Washington's leading of the American
>> Revolution had some other benefit than just creating the first "modern"
>> (this can be argued) democracy in the world?
>> If yes, are you suggesting that the American hegemony has done us any
>> good?

I'd be hard pressed to say there was any 'American hegemony' until
about 1945.  On the other hand, the existence of the American
democracy before and since then has been tremendously important as a
world example, and *has done the world good*

>Well, thinking in terms of what he actually *said*, "benefit of the
>human race", I think it's fair to at least consider that it might have
>been the unique contribution of George Washington that he laid down
>the foundations of a government, based not on powerful personal rule
>but the rule of the individual citizen (via democratic republic)...

I'll ignore the slavery point entirely, and just leave it to here.

It's widely thought the GW could have become "king" by near
acclamation, had he had the desire.  That he did not was an important
point in world history.

A point can also be made that GW had significant historical influence
in his role as General.  Leading the first successful revolution
against a monarchy and colonial power is a fairly significant piece of
work, independent of his later politics.  The tactics used were novel
and important.  He arguably won the war and the independence by *not*
fighting, and running away from confrontations against superior forces
he could not defeat in the field.  This made it a long, drawn out,
inconclusive sort of suppression that even a monarchy couldn't afford
forever.  The "stay alive" strategy has been the model for
innumberable independence movements since.  (Some might wonder what
would have happened if Robert E. Lee had digested the import of this
approach and not sought offensive action.)

Personally, I'm not all that swayed by individual contributions.
Those who cite giants, even Newton, need to consider how delayed
discoveries would be in the absence of such people -- Galileo was
inching on discovering gravity, so other may have done it within 50
years of Newton, and Euler did independantly discover the techniques
of the calculus.


"It's hard to find a black cat in a dark room.	| David Brower
 Especially if the cat's not there.		| dbrower at oracle.com
 But we will!"					| daveb at acm.org

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