Gene Healy on the Minimalist Presidency of Calvin Coolidge


Credit: Library of Congress

Shortly after taking office in 1923, President Calvin Coolidge informed the press that he did not intend "to surrender to every emotional movement" toward executive cures for whatever ails the body politic. In the midst of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which killed hundreds and left some 600,000 Americans homeless, Coolidge resisted calls for federal relief, even refusing a request by NBC that he broadcast a nationwide radio appeal for aid. In her new biography, Coolidge, Amity Shlaes, Bloomberg News columnist and author of The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, suggests that in our current era of fiscal and emotional incontinence, we have much to learn from this parsimonious president. And while the journey through Coolidge can be dull at times, writes Gene Healy, Shlaes demonstrates that there's something to be said for boring chief executives.