July 4, 2013


Silent Cal Had a Lot To Say (Gary Galles, Lew Rockwell)

Historians have trivialized Calvin Coolidge as a do-nothing President naïve enough to believe that "the business of America is business," and many have rated him as one of the worst of all time. However, he produced remarkable results without sacrificing our freedoms. And given that he was born on the 4th of July, there is no better time than our Independence Day to remember him.

Under Coolidge, the top income tax rate of 65% under Wilson was eventually cut to 20%. The stock market began its unprecedented "roaring 20s" climb as it became clear through 1924 that Coolidge's tax reduction bill would pass.

In both his first and last year in office, federal receipts were $3.8 billion and expenditures were $3.1 billion, and in between, he cut the national debt from $22.3 billion to $16.9 billion.

His policies took more than a million people off the income tax rolls, and 98% of Americans paid no income tax at the end of his term. As a result, America prospered under Coolidge. Real economic growth averaged 7% per year while he was in office (the highest growth on record), while inflation averaged only 0.4%. Investment, manufacturing output, and disposable income rose dramatically, and unemployment averaged 3.3%.

That remarkable record explains why, after Coolidge outpolled his Democratic opponent by nearly 2 to 1 in 1924, he would have won in another landslide if he had run again in 1928.

But unfortunately for America, he did not.

For the most part we only consider presidents truly great if they helped the nation weather an existential crisis: Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, Bush. But of the presidents who governed during peacetime, Coolidge is the very model of what an American president should be--unobtrusive, reverent and humble--while his policies--rather minimalist--are archetypal.

-BOOKNOTES: Coolidge: An America Enigma by Robert Sobel (C-SPAN, August 30, 1998)

[T]he difference between Coolidge and the
presidents we have today is that you had a different kind of a
presidency back then. Franklin Roosevelt revolutionizes the
presidency, as he did so much other things in American life. After
Roosevelt, a person becomes president because he wants to do
something. He wants to change things. Calvin Coolidge did not want
to change things. He wanted to carry out the pledges that Harding had
made, and then he made a few of his own in the next election, and he
wanted to cut the taxes, which he did. The national debt was
two-thirds of what it was when--after he left office, when he came in.
You had peace, prosperity, low inflation, low unemployment. He never
took credit for this, by the way. He--this--the economy did that.

And he wanted to maximize freedom for the American people, and freedom
for the American people meant taking the 10th Amendment to the
Constitution very seriously: `Those powers not given to the federal
government are retained by the states.' And so when Coolidge was
governor of Massachusetts, he was a very strong governor, had a large
legislative operation. When he becomes president, he says, `That's
not my job. It's the governor's job. And I'll take care of the other

[originally posted: 2004-07-04]

Posted by at July 4, 2013 12:00 AM

He presided over the collapse of American agriculture, the emasculation of the military and sponsoring nitwit dream factories as a substitute of a meaningful foreign policy.

Oh, yeah, he let the Germans off the hook for war reparations but not the British.

He was not as bad as Wilson, who was the worst we've ever had, but he was next worst.

And his bad policies had more dire long term effects.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 7, 2004 1:37 AM

Nixon was much worse than Wilson and Coolidge our best peacetime president (after Washington)

We shouldn't maintain a military in peacetime. It's a waste of money.

Posted by: oj at July 7, 2004 8:49 AM

And young men's lives.

If Coolidge (or you) believed that, he (and you) had an obligation to get the GIs out of the Philippines.

I don't say he didn't have the courage of his convictions. He was just an idiot and didn't understand consequences of ideas.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 7, 2004 11:03 PM

What consequences? They're one of our closest allies and we didn't "need" a military until fourteen years after he left office.

Posted by: oj at July 7, 2004 11:11 PM

Coolidge's experience as governor made him a great peacetime president. McCain's experience's as a preening senator will make him...what, exactly?

Posted by: Palmcroft at July 4, 2006 11:04 AM

The sort of top of the ticket that gets the GOP over the 60 seat hump.

Coolidge would have been even better in wartime--he'd have kept us out of Europe.

Posted by: oj at July 4, 2006 12:24 PM

OJ posting Rockwell?!

Magnanimous today, aren't we?

Posted by: Bruno at July 5, 2006 12:29 PM
blog comments powered by Disqus