Which public figures have integrity?

by on September 14, 2010 at 7:53 am in Current Affairs, Education, History | Permalink

UWC pleads:

I'm having a hard time coming up with many independently and oddly Google is failing to find a list.

Nelson Mandela
Garry Kasparov
Oprah Winfrey
Ellen DeGeneres
David Letterman
Simon Cowell

Help!

How did David Letterman get on that list?  Does Simon Cowell make the cut?  Is it about who has integrity or who is perceived as having integrity?

It also depends who you count as a public figure and whether they still must be living or only recently deceased.  For a few, how about Margaret Thatcher, Hans Blix, Anna Politkovskaya, Ben Goldacre, Lech Walesa, Christopher Reeve, Neil Armstrong, the passengers who downed the flight hijacked by al-Qaeda, leading members of the Iranian opposition, and any number of political dissidents, starting with Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi.  Lee Kuan Yew is a more controversial option; he has been a non-corrupt leader who led his country to a very good place, and more or less eliminated corruption, but he has not always respected civil liberties.  Nonetheless integrity is not the only value and I don't wish to use the word as a stand-in for all other values of import.

Who am I forgetting?  What would Robin Hanson say about this list?

Andrew September 14, 2010 at 8:02 am

THAT list needs Lady Gaga

Daran September 14, 2010 at 8:20 am

No Obama? Times have changed.

RLC September 14, 2010 at 8:35 am

Jon Stewart, Jane Mayer, James Hansen.

Nate September 14, 2010 at 8:43 am

I have very little faith in politicians, so this is hard. Prior to when he began posturing for his second presidential run, I would have said John McCain. Too many about faces thereafter.

I agree with much of Tyler’s list, although I must admit that I remain highly suspicious that Flight 93 was actually shot down over Pennsylvania. Whether or not this would/should change one’s perception of the integrity/heroism of the passengers’ attempt to regain control of the plane if true is an open question, of course. (To preempt a response I expect, no, I am not a ‘truther’ — I do not believe the government had any involvement in the 9/11 attacks.)

AF September 14, 2010 at 8:49 am

Lech Walesa and other anti-communist organizers who often stood on long odds against a thoroughly corrupt adversary and with little support from supposedly cultural and ideological allies in the “west.” Pope John Paul?

Jim September 14, 2010 at 9:05 am

>I remain highly suspicious that Flight 93 was actually shot down over Pennsylvania.

God help us all.

I”m going with Brian Davis, or any of the other PGA golfers who have surrendered big money ($400K in Davis’ case) by calling a penalty on themselves.

McCain certainly used to have it. Declining to leave a Vietnamese torture camp until others are set free first is as good as it gets. But after entering politics… not so much.

And that’s all I got.

Frank September 14, 2010 at 9:22 am

C. Everett Koop

John September 14, 2010 at 9:26 am

I feel like this is some sort of test of how your cynicism combines with your ideology. Maybe it’s just naïvité, but I actually always thought Carter, Reagan, and Obama all had considerable integrity, even if I’ve disagreed with much of what they did. I can’t quite say the same for George II or Lyndon Johnson. I’m on the fence about Newt.

maresuke September 14, 2010 at 9:33 am

glenn greenwald
alan grayson
jerrold nadler
noam chomsky
russ feingold
pj meyers
richard posner

Heartily second anna politkovskaya-it’s important to remember and honor people like her.

Formerly I would’ve seconded Ron Paul, but lately I’ve come to see he’s shown a fair amount of equivocation on race issues.

Luis Enrique September 14, 2010 at 9:45 am

Do we judge people by their own lights, or by our evaluations of them?

I’m thinking of people who are mistaken about the consistency of their own positions. Some may think that, say, Noam Chomsky is inconsistent and that he dissembles and obfuscates when challenged, but from Noam’s point of view believes what he says and is acting truthfully and consistently (i.e. with integrity).

zbicyclist September 14, 2010 at 9:56 am

Is Steve Sailer public enough?

mspencernc September 14, 2010 at 10:22 am

Whose moral and ethical principles are in play – the observer or the observed? Do we magically agree on some assessment of honesty?

Integrity is not the only value, but perhaps it’s the only value that maps onto the rest so robustly. If I made my own list, should I be thinking – “who is popular with me”?

Is there a scientific method for measuring integrity?

yZrs September 14, 2010 at 10:37 am

Václav_Havel

Pete September 14, 2010 at 10:51 am

@AF I agree on Pope John Paul.

I see Jon Stewart mentioned a few times. How about Matt Stone and Trey Parker? They’ve shown willingness to make fun of everyone and reacted strongly whenever there have been attempts to censor them from making fun of a specific group.

Steve September 14, 2010 at 11:00 am

Ted Leonsis
Fred Rogers (deceased)

anonymous September 14, 2010 at 11:52 am

You have to go back to medieval times to find the heyday of “integrity”, when martyrs serenely accepted vicious persecution, hardships and burnings at the stake, though a mere lip-service verbal renunciation of the meme in question would have spared them.

Since the Renaissance, it’s all been downhill for integrity. Oddly enough, the world has become a much better place.

Michael Tinkler September 14, 2010 at 12:15 pm

And according to Wikipedia Mandela divorced Winnie for unfaithfulness – not for being an awful person.

RP September 14, 2010 at 12:57 pm

“Each self inhabits its own subjective realm, and its mental life has an integrity prior to and independent of its interaction with other people.” ~ Descartes

nate September 14, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Omar Little

vanya September 14, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Jimmy Carter has more integrity than any American politician of the past 50 years, and probably more than any private person I’ve ever met. Just goes to show that integrity may not be the best virtue in a politician – it’s certainly not respected by the press.

Ryan Vann September 14, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Kurt Angle, also intensity and intelligence.

justsomeguy September 14, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Has no one mentioned Ralph Nader ?
Also, the Dalai Lama.

lxm September 14, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Robin Hanson would point out that integrity is a difficult path to increased status.

David Wright September 14, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Principled and consistency are not factors of integrity.

Huh? Bing “definition: integrity”. Definition one is “the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards”, i.e. consistently principled.

Vaclav Havel is a good example. So is C. Everett Koop.

Ellen DeGeneres and flight the flight 93 passengers? Admirable people, perhaps, but I didn’t know they had publicly enunciated a principal and then been put in a position where it would have been easier to act contrary to that principal.

It should be pointed out that integrity is not inconsistent with evil. Adolf Hitler is a good example of principled consistency when inconsistency would have been easier.

Florens September 14, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Peter Singer would be my choice: everything I read from him shows his deep conviction. That’s what integrity is about, right? Living in accordance with your beliefs?

Nick September 14, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Charlie Munger.

From UK politics (all retired, one from each main party):
Tony Benn
Shirley Williams
Michael Heseltine

From Germany, Joschka Fischer

David L September 14, 2010 at 4:48 pm

This has become a forum for readers to simply parade the names of those they agree with. If you want a better experiement, Tyler, you should ask people to name someone with integrity with whom they vehemently disagree.

Lisa September 14, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Pat Tillman. I can’t believe he hasn’t been mentioned yet.

Andrei Sakharov

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (even if some of his ideas were wacko in his later years). I think in particular of his essay during the Soviet period, “Live Not By Lies” denouncing the culture of forced deception that was life in Soviet Russia.

zz September 14, 2010 at 10:30 pm

adam carolla

ED September 15, 2010 at 4:54 am

Not so sure I’d go so far as to say Lee Kuan Yew was “non-corrupt.” He just legitimized his form of getting money from power. Remember the Lee family still owns (in one form or another) a huge chunk of Singapore – the two major telco’s in Singapore (SingTel and Starhub), Singapore Airlines, Temasek, GIC, etc.

The worst anyone can say about the Lee’s is that they’re a benevolent dictatorship, but I feel that’s too harsh. They’re much more enlightened about making Singapore, and the Singaporeans, prosper than almost any other government. They genuinely care about the people, and act as a paternal government. That being said, they definitely get their piece of the economic prosperity and consistently abuse the courts to silence dissidents and hold onto power.

Jonathan September 15, 2010 at 8:40 am
Daniel September 15, 2010 at 9:32 am

No Ralph Nader???

Lindy September 16, 2010 at 11:56 am

What about Dr. David Suzuki?

Debts November 12, 2010 at 10:15 am

I have very little trust in politicians, so this is difficult. Before he began his second run to put the presidential election, I would have said John McCain. Too many faces around then.

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