When people think of their favorite presidents/the top presidents in U.S. History, most think of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Most people on the right think of Ronald Reagan, most people on the left think of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
My answer to the question “Who’s your favorite president” is far less common than most answers. As you can probably guess by the title, it’s Calvin Coolidge, the president of the majority of the 1920s who when asked what his top accomplishment as president was answered this: “Minding my own business.” Although many Americans demand their president to do and accomplish more, which usually leads to the increase in government, Coolidge is historically noted for “doing less” and being effective with that ideological mindset, nicknamed “Silent Cal” and “The Great Refrainer”.
In the past 5 years, or so, there has been an attempt by Old School Conservatives to reinvigorate the legacy of Calvin Coolidge, which makes sense, because Coolidge is arguably the last president that I can say confidently the U.S. Federal Government shrunk under. Limited government is a philosophy many Americans (especially conservatives and libertarians) hold near and dear and it is a philosophy President Coolidge championed.
In his first presidential film, Coolidge stated: “Taxes take from everyone a part of his earnings and force everyone to work for a certain part for the government”. That’s right, a U.S. President unapologetically declaring federal income taxes to be theft.
His desire to leave everybody alone and mind his own business should intrigue everybody at first look. But when looking deeper in Calvin, it gets better. He had a cool, calm demeanor and enacted policies that advanced liberty in our country. He reduced the federal budget from the time he took office to the time he left (being one of the few presidents to do so), lowered taxes, kept unemployment below 5% the majority of his presidency, was one of the first Presidents to support civil rights and racial equality, and yes, this was done without using government interference.
Coolidge’s approach to the presidency is the strict model of what I want from my president. As I noted above, he was able to reduce the federal budget throughout his presidency. Why? Because he did not commit to unnecessary spending, whether it be his opposition to farm subsidies or unneeded military spending, and viewed the government as the last solution to any issue. Many people on both sides of the aisle regularly ignore the constitution and although some stress support for limited government, they still love big government whenever it fits their best interest. Coolidge maintained consistently throughout his presidency in his support for free-market laissez-faire capitalism and always knew that his proper role as president was to make it easier for the American people to get jobs, which meant having as little government interference and regulations as possible. He was not interested in telling the American people how to live their lives and was not interested in forcing taxation onto them as only the wealthiest 2% of tax payers paid income taxes by 1927.
One of the main reasons I became I became a small-l libertarian is because I do not want the Government telling me what to do and I’m a “leave me alone” kind of guy. Silent Cal once said, “It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.”. He understood the Government’s role in things and did not attempt to increase its power.
As stated on the back of Amity Shlaes book “Coolidge”: “Calvin Coolidge never rated high in polls, and history has remembered the decade in which he served as an extravagant period predating the Great Depression. Amity Schales provides a fresh look at the 1920s-triumphant years in which the nation electrified, Americans drive their first cars, and the federal deficit was replaced with a surplus-and the little-known president behind them.”
It’s wonderful more and more people are learning who Calvin Coolidge is and the effectiveness of his limited government, constitutional conservatism, and I hope those ideas live long.