Tomorrow morning, Amity Shlaes, author of Coolidge, will be joining me here at Stanford to record an episode of Uncommon Knowledge. Amity’s book represents a high achievement: an entirely successful attempt to combine portraiture with historical and economic analysis—and to demonstrate the relevance of the Coolidge agenda of some nine decades ago to the American predicament today. Completely engrossing—a serious lesson, but also a total delight.
To whet the appetite:
Coolidge served for sixty-seven months, finishing out Harding’s term after Harding died in early August 1923 [Coolidge had been elected vice president on the Harding ticket in 1920] and remaining until early March 1929.
Under Coolidge, the federal debt fell. Under Coolidge, the top income tax rate came down by half, to 25 percent. Under Coolidge, the federal budget was always in surplus. Under Coolidge, unemployment was 5 percent or even 3 percent….
When in 1929 the thirtieth president climbed onto a train a Union Station to head back home to Massachusetts after his sixty-seven months in office, the federal government was smaller than when he had become president in 1923 ….
Whereas other presidents made themselves omnipresent, Coolidge held back. At the time, and subsequently, many have deemed the Coolidge method laziness. Upon examination, however, the inaction reflects strength. In politics as in business, it is often harder, after all, not to do, to delegate, than to do. Coolidge is our great refrainer.