have trivialized Calvin Coolidge as a do-nothing President na´ve
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.
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.
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
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.
for America, he did not. So why is there such a disconnect between
Coolidge's success and his reputation? In large part, it is because
he advocated individualism, as clearly spelled out in his speeches
(which he composed himself), and the newspaper column he wrote
after leaving the Presidency.
that seems appropriate for someone born on the Fourth of July,
it is so distant from the modern mindset that many now cannot
understand why someone who, as Senator, Governor, Vice-President,
and President viewed government intervention in broad areas of
life as a problem rather than a panacea.
people have attributed to Coolidge the origins of the Great Depression
under Herbert Hoover, his Vice-President. But they have not done
so because of any evidence that his policies were responsible.
monetary policy blunders, the Great Depression was triggered by
Hoover's abandonment of Coolidge's policies, in favor of disasters
ranging from erecting monumental trade barriers to sharply raising
this divide between the policies of the two made clearer than
when Coolidge said of Hoover: "That man has offered me unsolicited
advice for six years, all of it bad."
may have been called "Silent Cal," but his record brags for him,
if people would bother to look honestly. Further, he closely reflected
our founders' insight in what he wrote and said, which we would
truly profit from, given how far we have deviated from those ideas
in modern America.
On the Constitution
Defender of American Liberty
is no greater service we can render the oppressed of the earth
than to maintain inviolate the freedom of our own citizens.
is not collective, it is personal. All liberty is individual
is no substitute for a militant freedom. The only alternative
is submission and slavery.
is not only bought with a great price; it is maintained by unremitting
is no justification for public interference with purely private
- The individual
has rights...And the protection of rights is righteous.
property rights and personal rights are the same thing.
- When once
the right of the individual to liberty and equality is admitted,
there is no escape from the conclusion that he alone is entitled
to the rewards of his own industry. Any other conclusion would
necessarily imply either privilege or servitude.
- The property
of the people belongs to the people. To take it from them by
taxation cannot be justified except by urgent public necessity.
Unless this principle be recognized, our country is no longer
secure, our people no longer free.
- A government
which requires of the people the contribution of the bulk of
their substance and rewards cannot be classed as a free government...
- I want
the people of America to be able to work less for the Government
and more for themselves. I want them to have the rewards of
their own industry. That is the chief meaning of freedom. Until
we can re-establish a condition under which the earnings of
the people can be kept by the people, we are bound to suffer
a very distinct curtailment of our liberty.
- If ever
the citizen comes to feel that our government does not protect
him in the free and equal assertion of his rights... he will
withdraw his allegiance from that government...
- In its
main features the Declaration of Independence...is a declaration
not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty,
popular sovereignty, the rights of man...are ideals.
- Our doctrine
of equality and liberty and humanity comes from our belief in
the brotherhood of man...
- To live
under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege
that was ever accorded to the human race.
- The Constitution
is the sole source and guaranty of national freedom.
- Men do
not make laws. They do but discover them. Laws must be justified
by something more than the will of the majority. They must rest
on the eternal foundation of righteousness.
is scarcely a word in the constitution of any of our States
or of our nation that was not written there for the purpose
of protecting the liberties of the people from some servitude
which a despotic government had at some time imposed upon them.
the matchless wisdom that is enshrined in our Constitution...needs
constant effort and tireless vigilance for their protection
- We need
not concern ourselves much about the rights of property if we
will faithfully observe the rights of persons. Under our institutions
their rights are supreme. It is not property but the right to
hold property, both great and small, which our Constitution
the Federal Government has strayed far afield from its legitimate
business. It has trespassed upon fields where there should be
no trespass. If we could confine our Federal expenditures to
the legitimate obligations and functions of the Federal Government,
a material reduction would be apparent. But far more important
than this would be its effect upon the fabric of our constitutional
form of government, which tends to be gradually weakened and
undermined by this encroachment.
On Commerce Outgrowth
On a Government
Consistent With Liberty
commerce has flourished there civilization has increased. Today
it is not the battle fleet, but the mercantile fleet which in
the end will determine the destiny of nations.
and profits go hand in hand.
all, the chief business of the American people is business...
In all experience, the accumulation of wealth means the multiplication
of schools, the encouragement of science, the increase of knowledge,
the dissemination of intelligence, the broadening of outlook,
the expansion of liberties, the widening of culture. Of course
the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief
end of existence. But we are compelled to recognize it as a
means to well-nigh every desirable achievement. So long as wealth
is made the means and not the end, we need not greatly fear
- We cannot
improve the condition of the people or reform human nature by
intruding the Nation into the affairs of the States or despoiling
the people of their business.
- I would
like it if the country could think as little as possible about
the Government and give their time and attention more undividedly
about the conduct of the private business of the country.
- Our country
is an exceedingly good example of the fact that if production
be encouraged and increased, then distribution fairly well takes
care of itself... no other country ever approached ours in the
equal and general distribution of prosperity.
- We have
had many attempts at regulation of industrial activity by law.
Some of it has proceeded on the theory that if those who enjoyed
material prosperity used it for wrong purposes, such prosperity
should be limited or abolished. That is as sound as it would
be to abolish writing to prevent forgery.
- An expanding
prosperity requires that the largest possible amount of surplus
income should be invested in productive enterprise under the
direction of the best personal ability. This will not be done
if the rewards of such action are largely taken away by taxation.
- That tax
is theoretically best which interferes least with business.
- The wise
and correct course to follow in taxation and all other economic
legislation is not to destroy those who have already secured
success but to create conditions under which every one will
have a better chance to be successful.
- No matter
what any one may say about making the rich and the corporations
pay the taxes, in the end they come out of the people who toil.
It is your fellow workers who are ordered to work for the Government
every time an appropriation bill is passed.
- No complicated
scheme of relief, no plan for Government fixing of prices, no
resort to the public Treasury will be of any permanent value...
price fixing, once started, has alike no justice and no end.
It is an economic folly from which this country has every right
to be spared.
the people cannot do their government cannot do.
order and liberty, economy is one of the highest essentials
of a free government.
- I favor
the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but
because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country
who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government. Every
dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be
so much the more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save
means that their life will be so much the more abundant. Economy
is idealism in its most practical form.
- The success
of the Government does not lie in wringing all the revenue it
can from the people, but in making their burden as light and
fairly distributed as possible, consistent with the proper maintenance
of the necessary public functions.
one of the most important accomplishments of my administration
has been minding my own business.
- The people
cannot look to legislation generally for success.
can be no perfect control of personal conduct by national legislation.
- [I will
not] surrender to every emotional movement seeking remedies
for economic conditions by legislation.
- You can
display no greater wisdom than by resisting proposals for needless
legislation. It is much more important to kill bad bills than
to pass good ones.
- We have
got so many regulatory laws already that in general I feel that
we would be just as well off if we didn't have any more.
- We do
not need more law...
- If all
the folks in the United States would do the few simple things
they ought to do, most of our big problems would take care of
- We cannot
improve the condition of the people or reform human nature by...despoiling
the people of their business.
- When depression
in business comes we begin to be very conservative in our financial
affairs. We save our money and take no chances in its investment.
Yet in our political actions we go in the opposite direction.
We begin to support radical measures and cast our votes for
those who advance the most reckless proposals. This is a curious
and illogical reaction.
- The appropriation
of public money always is perfectly lovely until some one is
asked to pay the bill...the people will have to furnish more
revenue by paying more taxes.
- I can
lay down the broad principle that I am not in favor of imposing
any new kinds of taxes.
the state of the Treasury can permit, I believe in a reduction
of taxes. But I am not advocating tax reduction merely for the
benefit of the taxpayer; I am advocating it for the benefit
of the country.
looks at Calvin Coolidge's record and his words, particularly
his close adherence to the long-since eroded principles on which
America was based, it is easy to see why, despite all the historical
mud-slinging that he has been the victim of, he would likely have
been our founding fathers' favorite 20th century President. It
is time we looked under the blanket of obscurity and calumny that
has been thrown over his record and his ideas, so that we can
rediscover that wisdom.