Amity Shlaes comes to Liberty Law Talk to discuss her new biography, Coolidge, that explores and analyzes the triumph of Calvin Coolidge. Much like the title of Shlaes’ previous bestseller, The Forgotten Man, Coolidge recovers for the reader a president that our country seems to have forgotten. For many, Coolidge had to be left behind. The successes of his fiscal and regulatory policies and the judgments these policies make on America’s New Deal and postwar open-ended spending and regulating tendencies are hard to reconcile. There is also the sober rectitude that Coolidge insisted should guide our lives in a modern commercial republic. The deep pre-commitments of a free society require diligent work, an effort that Coolidge profoundly, even spiritually understood, quite well. Unfortunately, it seems, we have kept at a distance the vital truths that Coolidge lived and governed by.
Coolidge’s life speaks to us in other ways. For the thirtieth president’s life was not an inevitable rise to prominence. It was marked by tragedy in the early deaths of his mother and sister, and also the death of his 16-year old son, Calvin, Jr. in the White House. As Shlaes observes, however, these personal losses did not equal defeat. His life was not “Yes, but.” It is a story of “But yes.”
The achievements of Coolidge’s presidential tenure are staggering. “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.” As Shlaes details even further, “When in 1929 the thirtieth president climbed onto a train at 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.” Why, you may ask, do we not know more of this man, this American leader?
Answering that question is Shlaes’ Coolidge. Listen to this podcast with the author. Then, buy the book.