Sunday, May 12, 2013


"Isn't it a strange thing," [Coolidge] asked Barton, "that in every period of social unrest men have the notion that they can pass a law and suspect the operations of economic law?"
From Coolidge, by Amity Shlaes, p 191

I picked up Shlaes' book because the local library had a copy and I had read and enjoyed The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. If I had received this book to review for Choice, I would have written something like this:

Calvin Coolidge became president on the unexpected death of Warren Harding in 1923 and won re-election in 1924. He declined to run in 1928 despite pressure from his party. As president he cut taxes, spending, and government debt, leaving government smaller than when he took office. The low ranking professional historians give him reflects their bias for activist presidents. In this view the prosperity during his administration was accidental, not a result of his efforts to curtail government. Shlaes disagrees, arguing that by reducing the role of government, Coolidge encouraged private-sector expansion. She describes how his determination to cut spending overcame opposition from those wanting to spend more on veteran's bonuses, farm subsidies, defense, aid to flood victims, and an ambitious dam building program proposed by Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover. Coolidge emerges as a determined man respected and popular not because he followed public opinion but because he did what he thought was the right thing to do. That determination and principle combined with luck and a group of dedicated supporters carried him from state legislature to governor of Massachusetts to the vice presidency. Highly recommended, all audiences.

That just makes the 190-word limit for Choice reviews.

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