The Incorruptible's
April 3, 2012 9:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a list who are either currently known as being Incorruptible, or were known during their time, or even we now to have been so.

I'm sure there are a lot of religious figures who might fit this bill, so I'm not really interested in those people. Rather, secular figures, particularly those who were put into positions capable of being corrupted, i.e., some sort of governmental position.

The two I have in mind are, obviously, Maximilien Robespierre, and, lesser known, Felix Dzerzhinsky. Robespierre is popular enough, but it was fascinating to read about Dzerzhinsky.

"... the characters of Pilsudski and Dzerzhinsky had some differences. Pilsudski had many women in his life. “At one time, he was married to two women,” Juozaitis said. The religious beliefs of Pilsudski were unclear until his death: Christians of various denominations still discuss it in Poland. Dzerzhinsky, in his youth, was a very devout Catholic. He planned to study in a seminary for future Catholic priests. He avoided women in his youth. Later, Dzerzhinsky kept to only one woman, his wife Sofia, whom he loved madly and was faithful to her till the end of his days."

"The Party endeavoured to head it with incorruptible men like the former convict Dzerzhinsky, a sincere idealist, ruthless but chivalrous, with the emaciated profile of an Inquisitor: tall forehead, bony nose, untidy goatee, and an expression of weariness and austerity. But the Party had few men of this stamp and many Chekas."
posted by SollosQ to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Eliot Ness?
posted by box at 9:25 AM on April 3, 2012

Mister Rogers?
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:31 AM on April 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

Ralph Nader
posted by Feel the beat of the rhythm of the night at 9:34 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not exactly the political leaning I think you're looking for, but on a commercial scale, I'd say Bill Watterson.
posted by fearnothing at 9:43 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Tzipi Livni?
posted by notsnot at 9:47 AM on April 3, 2012

Best answer: Cato (the younger and the elder) were both renowned in Roman times for their virtue and incorruptibility.
posted by nolnacs at 9:47 AM on April 3, 2012

Jimmy Carter
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:54 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Incorruptible in the "unbowed" sense: Nelson Mandela. In UK politics perhaps Dennis Skinner?
posted by epo at 9:55 AM on April 3, 2012

Russ Feingold is probably the best current example in politics.

Examples from the online world: Richard Stallman. Larry Lessig.

In entertainment: Siskel & Ebert. George Carlin.

And of course, Frank Serpico and Edward R. Murrow.
posted by eschatfische at 9:58 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thomas More, though the politics at his time also involved a lot of religion, and he ended up sainted.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:22 AM on April 3, 2012

Best answer: Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus
When his son was convicted and condemned to death, Cincinnatus was forced to live in humble circumstances, working on his own small farm, until an invasion caused him to be called to serve Rome as dictator, an office which he immediately resigned after completing his task of defeating the rivaling tribes of the Aequians, Sabines, and Volscians. He lived approximately around the time that Lucius Junius Brutus did.

His immediate resignation of his absolute authority with the end of the crisis has often been cited as an example of outstanding leadership, service to the greater good, civic virtue, lack of personal ambition and modesty.
posted by wcfields at 10:30 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: George Washington:

The 1st United States Congress voted to pay Washington a salary of $25,000 a year—a large sum in 1789. Washington, already wealthy, declined the salary, since he valued his image as a selfless public servant. At the urging of Congress, however, he ultimately accepted the payment, to avoid setting a precedent whereby the presidency would be perceived as limited only to independently wealthy individuals who could serve without any salary. The president, aware that everything he did set a precedent, attended carefully to the pomp and ceremony of office, making sure that the titles and trappings were suitably republican and never emulated European royal courts. To that end, he preferred the title "Mr. President" to the more majestic names suggested. ... Washington reluctantly served a second term. He refused to run for a third, establishing the customary policy of a maximum of two terms for a president.
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:33 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your average Singaporean civil servant.

"The Incorruptible", Manila, The Philippines
posted by infini at 11:12 AM on April 3, 2012

Nikolai Tesla was a celibate man who nursed injured animals and (despite designing a "death ray" -- really sought to put an end to all wars with his inventions. All of his "mad scientist" stuff makes him out to be extrodinarily virtuous -- and he must have been in a position of extreme, relative wealth at the time. Famous Kate Beaton comic here.
posted by sweltering at 12:11 PM on April 3, 2012

Some of the examples below probably do not exactly match what you're looking for but each lived such a strong principled life that I believe deserve mention. The accounts however have been blurried by time and legend that we'll probably never know if they are true or not.

In terms of loyalty to each other - Oath of the Peach Garden Brothers
One of the brothers, Guan Yu, developed his own cult and he is now known as the God of War due to his virtue and prowess in battle.

Philosopher king - Marcus Aurelius. "Alone of the emperors," wrote the historian Herodian, "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."

Philosopher who shunned materialism - Diogenes of Sinope. In a story of encounter of Diogenes and Alexander: The accounts of Plutarch and Diogenes Laërtius recount that they exchanged only a few words: while Diogenes was relaxing in the sunlight in the morning, Alexander, thrilled to meet the famous philosopher, asked if there was any favour he might do for him. Diogenes replied, "Yes, stand out of my sunlight".

The way of the warrior - Miyamoto Musashi. "Concerned only with perfecting his skill, he lived as men need not live, wandering over Japan soaked by the cold winds of winter, not dressing his hair, nor taking a wife, nor following any profession save his study. It is said he never entered a bathtub lest he was caught unawares without and weapon, and that his appearance is uncouth and wretched." - translator's introduction of "A book of five rings".
posted by 7life at 2:32 PM on April 3, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi
posted by spasm at 3:13 PM on April 3, 2012

Connecting two of the above there was a biography of Washington with the sub-title American Cincinnatus.
posted by bukvich at 4:37 PM on April 3, 2012

« Older Help me improve my ironing technique   |   Happy birthday, dear Queen Beatrix! Happy... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.