File:Cincinato abandona el arado para dictar leyes a Roma, c.1806 de Juan Antonio Ribera.jpg
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Template:Quote box This is a list of politicians renowned for their honesty, integrity and probity.

Within political science, honesty in politicians is an example of a valence issue - something on which all voters agree that "more is better than less".[2] This is not to say that all voters want their politicians to be honest all the time. As an extreme example, few criticize Churchill or Roosevelt for intentionally misleading the Axis powers during World War II.[3] According to political scientist John Mearsheimer, it is widely believed that honest politicians are rare. Mearsheimer has however argued that evidence shows political lying is much less common than is generally assumed, especially in international politics, where it is very rarely effective. He concedes it is relatively common for politicians to lie to their own domestic publics.[3] Former House Representative Bob Edgar has argued that folk who enter politics are typically motivated by a desire to do good, and start out just as honest as regular folk, but that they can be corrupted by money in politics.[4]


  • Aristeides — the Athenian leader praised by Socrates and Herodotus as "the best and most honourable man that Athens ever produced".[5] Plutarch relates that, when Aristeides became unpopular, an illiterate boor asked him to mark his ballot for the ostracism. Aristeides asked what harm the accused had ever done to him and the reply was, "I don't even know the man. But I do know that I'm sick and tired of hearing him called 'The Just!'". Aristeides silently marked his name upon the token and was exiled.[6]
  • Marcus Aurelius — last of the Five Good Emperors, "he gave proof of his learning not by mere words or knowledge of philosophical doctrines but by his blameless character and temperate way of life."[9]
  • Rómulo Betancourt — the first Venezuelan leader to hand over power to a constitutional, democratic successor. "If moral authority and high principles counted, Rómulo Betancourt loomed as a titan in the history of Venezuela."[10]
  • Cincinnatus — the Roman senator who accepted life as a farmer after his family fortune was lost. He was twice summoned to become dictator of Rome and defeated its enemies but relinquished the office immediately once his duty was done. He was seen as a model for politicians of the United States and the city of Cincinnati is named after him.[11]
  • Václav Havel — last president of Czechoslovakia and the first of its successor, the Czech Republic. He was renowned for his moral principle of "living in truth".[10]
  • Abraham Lincoln — The 16th President of the United States, Lincoln was sometimes referred to as "Honest Abe."[14]
  • Ernest Vandiver — reforming Governor of Georgia from 1959 to 1963. Justice Joseph Quillian praised his integrity and fairness, "He is a person who has never learned to lie."[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Anne Isba (2006), Gladstone and Women, Continuum, pp. XIII-XIV, ISBN 9781852854713,, "...a belief in the integrity of the 'People's William' clearly continued to live on in the popular consciousness." 
  2. Dennis Mueller (2003). Public Choice III. Cambridge University Press. p. 240. ISBN 0521894751. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 John Mearsheimer (2011). Why Leaders Lie. Oxford University Press. pp. passim, see esp p40, 82. ISBN 0199975450. 
  4. Bob Edgar (2013-10-11). "Why Do Politicians Lie?". Huffingtonpost. Retrieved 2013-03-03. 
  5. Herodotus translated by Aubrey De Sélincourt (1954), The Histories, Penguin Books 
  6. Plutarch translated by David Whitehead (1983), "Aristeides the Just", Archaic and Classical Greece, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521296380, 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Alanson Minkler (2008), Integrity and Agreement: Economics When Principles Also Matter, University of Michigan Press, p. 133, ISBN 9780472024223, "Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Aung San Suu Kyi are obvious exemplars of inspirational moral leadership." 
  9. Herodian translated by Edward Echols, Ab Excessu Divi Marci 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Thomas M. Magstadt (2008), "Politics by Civil Means", Understanding Politics: Ideas, Institutions, and Issues, Cengage Learning, pp. 391-472, ISBN 9780495503309 
  11. W. Burlie Brown (1957), "The Cincinnatus Image in Presidential Politics", Agricultural History 31 (1): 23-29, 
  12. Judith M. Brown (1974), Gandhi's Rise to Power: Indian Politics 1915-1922, CUP Archive, pp. 82-83, ISBN 9780521098731,, "Gandhi's personal honesty and idealism ... a man of personal probity and high ideals ... a reputation of extreme moral rectitude." 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Karin Klenke (2011), "Impression Management", Women in Leadership, Emerald, p. 57, ISBN 9780857245625, "Because the attributes of integrity, honesty and moral worthiness represent ideals that are almost universally valued, ... Jones and Pittman (1982) identified Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi as prototypical exemplifiers." 
  14. Thornton, Brian (2011). Honest Abe: 101 Little-Known Truths about Abraham Lincoln. Adams Media. p. 8, 231. ISBN 1440512310. Retrieved February 2013. 
  15. James F. Cook (2005), The Governors Of Georgia: 1754-2004, Mercer University Press, pp. 279-286, ISBN 9780865549548 
  16. Thomas Nelson Winter (1975), "Cincinnatus and the Disbanding of Washington's Army", The Classical Bulletin 51 (6), 
  17. Albert Marrin (2003), George Washington & the Founding of a Nation, Penguin Group USA, p. 244, ISBN 9780525470687 

Further readingEdit

  • Rocío Albert, Francisco Cabrillo (2006), "Gresham's law in politics: Why are politicians not the most remarkable men for probity and punctuality?", European Journal of Law and Economics 21 (2): 99-112 
  • Ian Greene, David P. Shugarman (1997), Honest Politics, J. Lorimer, ISBN 9781550285352 
  • editors Ellen Frankel Paul, Fred Dycus Miller, Jeffrey Paul (2004), Morality and Politics, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521542210 
  • Niklas Luhmann (1994), "Politicians, honesty and the higher amorality of politics", Theory, Culture & Society 11 (2): 25-36, doi:10.1177/026327694011002002