February 12th, 2013

Shlaes on Coolidge

Amity Shlaes, author of the highly-praised (by conservatives, anyway) The Forgotten Man, about the Great Depression, has just put out a biography of Calvin Coolidge called—simply and appropriately enough, since he was known as a man who didn’t waste words—Coolidge.

PJ’s Ed Driscoll interviews her about the new book here. Well worth reading or listening. Here’s a sample quote from Shlaes:

So Forgotten Man was about the misremembering of the 1930s. Coolidge is about the misremembering of the 1920s.

Lots of misremembering going on, isn’t there? And remember, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

And sometimes those who can remember the past are condemned to repeat it along with them.

8 Responses to “Shlaes on Coolidge”

  1. holmes Says:

    It’s on my list, actually, they both are. I wish I could read more quickly/had more time to do so.

  2. southpaw Says:

    Words I have always taken to heart:

    “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent”

    Calvin Coolidge

  3. parker Says:

    I’ll check the library for Coolidge. From previous reads about Calvin he was my kind of president…. wise to know that not doing can be more productive and constructive than doing. And, I offer the highest praise for Shlaes’s The Forgotten Man. It is a well researched and systematic critique of the myths of the New Deal.

    “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work.” — Henry Morgenthau, Jr. circa 1937

  4. M J R Says:

    Ms. Shlaes does some incredibly good work.

    Alas — I’ve encountered a few people who think her name is “Shales”. Oh well . . .

  5. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Cal was a penny-pinching skinflint. Yes, he hated debt so much he never owned a home because he refused to go into debt. Methinks we could use a bit more of that philosophy today.

    Saw Ms Shlaes interviewed on Larry Kudlow today. She confirmed that Silent Cal was a man who said, “No,” often. He needed to be that way because, even in the 20s, there were plenty of grand spending schemes afoot. Is there such a man in government today? Nope, couldn’t get elected.

  6. Christopher Says:

    Southpaw, I hate to break it to you, but near the beginning of the book, Shlaes writes that Coolidge never said that. It sounds like something he’d say, she admits, but it had been floating around in various versions long before he got into public life.

  7. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States and some Canadian provinces Says:

    }}} And sometimes those who can remember the past are condemned to repeat it along with them.

    It’s not enough to remember the past. One must also LEARN from it.

    “Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by others’ experience.”
    – Bismarck –

    (insert earlier commentaries about liberals and a hypothetical “wisdom quotient” here)

    I think my favorite quote about him (probably also apocryphal) is that he was at some Washington party and this gushing debutante came up to him, and said, “Mr. Coolidge, my friends bet me you wouldn’t say more than two words to me all night!”

    “Silent” Cal looked right at her, said, “You lose.” and walked away.


    That one’s almost as good as one attributed to Dorothy Parker, in which, as she was getting along in years, some snotty young debutante stepped aside, waving her past her into the room, and sniped, “Age before Beauty”. Parker, with her sharp, Roundtable-trained tongue ever at the ready, sailed right on past, quipping, “Not at all. Pearls before Swine”.

  8. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States and some Canadian provinces Says:

    To me, the last truly GREAT President was not Coolidge, not even Teddy, but Grover Cleveland

    From his wiki entry:

    In 1887, Cleveland issued his most well-known veto, that of the Texas Seed Bill. After a drought had ruined crops in several Texas counties, Congress appropriated $10,000 to purchase seed grain for farmers there. Cleveland vetoed the expenditure. In his veto message, he espoused a theory of limited government:

    I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people. The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.


    This is further bolstered by a paragraph in his third SOTU:

    “When we consider that the theory of our institutions guarantees to every citizen the full enjoyment of all the fruits of his industry and enterprise, with only such deduction as may be his share toward the careful and economical maintenance of the Government which protects him, it is plain that the exaction of more than this is indefensible extortion and a culpable betrayal of American fairness and justice … The public Treasury, which should only exist as a conduit conveying the people’s tribute to its legitimate objects of expenditure, becomes a hoarding place for money needlessly withdrawn from trade and the people’s use, thus crippling our national energies, suspending our country’s development, preventing investment in productive enterprise, threatening financial disturbance, and inviting schemes of public plunder.”

    Cleveland is, to me, the last PotUS who understood the purpose of the Federal Government, as well as the limitations it was supposed to have on itself.

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