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  • Writer's pictureLiz Bowers

Calvin Coolidge: The Virtue of Self-Control

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

President Calvin Coolidge is the exception to the rule that career politicians create more problems than they solve and always overstay their welcome. Serving as the Vice President under Warren G. Harding, Coolidge was sworn in as President by his own father in 1923 when President Harding passed away unexpectedly. Coolidge immediately set about the business of cleaning up the corruption and scandals that plagued the previous administration. His efforts led to the golden age of American economic prosperity known as the Roaring Twenties.

The Key to Coolidge Prosperity

Restraint of the Federal Government

Another name for the Roaring Twenties was Coolidge Prosperity, a monicker that has doubtless been maligned by history because of the Great Depression. However, as economists and historians cannot agree on the real causes of the economic disaster starting late in 1929, it would be unjust to lay all the blame at the feet of Coolidge's Administration. In fact, most of Coolidge's detractors dislike him because of his focus on American business and the importance of the economy to the general welfare of the nation.

During his time in office, Calvin Coolidge used three philosophies of economy to reduce the national debt and ignite the booming economy.

1. Cut Spending Dramitically 2. Lower Taxes 3. Reduce the Burden of Regulation (Joseph Postell, The Heritage Foundation, 2013)

These philosophies came from Coolidge's worldview gleaned from watching his own father's interactions in politics when he was only a young man. Young Coolidge saw that the burden of public debt affected every citizen of the nation from the richest to the poorest and that the best way to serve the public as a responsible government would be through restraint. Note, however, that this restraint had to be self-imposed by the Federal Government through the President's influence. It was Coolidge who demanded dramatic cuts in spending and reduced government involvement in the business life of Americans through deregulation. It was Coolidge who led the way to lower taxes with the belief that Americans had a right to the dollars they earned through honest labor and it would create more prosperity for the nation if they were allowed to keep and spend it as they chose.

“American ideals do not require to be changed so much as they require to be understood and applied.” - Calvin Coolidge

"The Good Lord Helps Those Who Help Themselves"

Individual Responsibility vs. Government Social Programs

The saying, "The good Lord helps those who help themselves," is one that you don't hear very often anymore. It isn't a Calvin Coolidge quote, but I can certainly imagine him saying it over and over again throughout his career. I suppose that it is one of the many principles that have been discarded by the ever more radical progress of our nation. Yet, just a little over a hundred years ago it would have been understood that an individual is responsible for their own failing and their own success. They are not entitled to the continued "social helps" of the government or to the wealth of their neighbors.

"They criticize me," Coolidge said, "for harping on the obvious. Perhaps someday I'll write On the Importance of the Obvious. If all the folks in the United States would do the few simple things they know they ought to do, most of our big problems would take care of themselves." - Calvin Coolidge

While Coolidge aided businesses through deregulation, he is often criticized because of his refusal to sign the McNary-Haugen Farm Relief Bill for the Agriculture Industry suffering through drought and the early days of the Dust Bowl. He was eventually overridden by Congress in his efforts to block the legislation. His reasoning for not giving federal aid to the struggling farmers was twofold: first, the spending requested in the bill was the outrageous undoing of much of the work he had accomplished for the American economy. Second, he firmly believed that the American people should turn to themselves in their local states and communities to provide the means of economic recovery during a crisis, not to the so-called help of the federal government.

The increasing power of the federal government and the losses of personal responsibility that arose out of his opponents' leadership through the Great Depression certainly prove this point. It is reflected in the top-heavy bureaucratic nightmare that the American Federal government has progressed into today.

The Accomplishment of "Minding My Own Business"

The Lost Virtue of Self-Control in Federal Politics

It is almost unheard of today to have a politician whose sole interest is public service. We expect our politicians to be in it for personal gain whether the gains of power and influence, social connections, or personal wealth. Every action by each administration is scrutinized for what motivation they could have for making decisions so out of touch with the public. The 24-hour news cycle is fueled by the latest scandalous soundbite coming from either political party. I don't think we can imagine a president today being able to say, as Coolidge did, that one of their greatest accomplishments was simply that of, "Minding my own business." Oh, how we wish they would!

“Unless the people, through unified action, arise and take charge of their government, they will find that their government has taken charge of them. Independence and liberty will be gone, and the general public will find itself in a condition of servitude to an aggregation of organized and selfish interest.” - Calvin Coolidge

How different do you think the current state of the nation would be if politicians took the lessons of Calvin Coolidge's steady, though silent, leadership to heart?


*All opinions expressed by WYO Conservative guests are theirs alone and may not represent the views of WYO Conservative’s Founder and Owner, Donna K. Rice, or any WYO Conservative affiliates.


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