Friday, November 29, 2013

"Coolidge:" a brief review

I just finished reading Amity Shlaes' biography of Calvin Coolidge. Having previously enjoyed Ms. Shlaes work on the Great Depression, "The Forgotten Man," I was initially disappointed that this book seemed a bit of a slog. However, the pace picked up as Coolidge entered politics, beginning locally in Northampton, Massachusetts. I ultimately found it an enjoyable read.

Mr. Coolidge, an introvert known for speaking sparingly, differed markedly from any national political figure since his time in that he made a virtue of inactivity. Taking the presidency following the death of President Harding in the midst of scandal, President Coolidge restored credibility to the executive branch while also focusing on reducing both the debt and uncertainty generated during the progressive era of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. A hater of debt -- the Coolidges never owned their own home because of their unwillingness to take on personal debt -- Mr. Coolidge managed, despite congressional opposition to his spending reduction plans, to pay down more than a third of the federal deficit while also reducing taxes and seeing strong national economic growth. At the end of his presidency, he was aware that the stock market was overheated and that a correction was coming, and he feared that Herbert Hoover's activist approach would make the downturn longer and more severe, a prediction that turned out to be true. Mr. Coolidge died before Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated and doubled down on Hoover's activism.

This was a good read about a President most of us know little about.


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