COOLIDGE

By: Amity Shlaes

Like many, I suspect, I knew very little about Calvin Coolidge before reading this biography. My basic impression of Coolidge arose out of a Dorothy Parker quip. Upon being informed of Coolidge’s death, she asked “How can they tell?”

Born in Vermont in 1872, Coolidge became a successful Governor of Massachusetts and then Warren G. Harding’s Vice-President. After Harding died in 1923, Coolidge became President. A minimalist and a man of few words, he reduced the size of the federal government and, with Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, advocated what we now call “supply-side” economics, arguing accurately that a reduction of marginal tax rates can and often will generate increased revenue. While Coolidge never fully grasped the fallacy of the Republican Party’s pro-tariff stance, he did usher in an era of political civility, honesty and, Shlaes argues, prosperity. Although he was certain to be re-elected in 1928, Coolidge declined to run.

There is much to admire about our thirtieth President and much to admire about this splendid biography.

I have one quibble about Shlaes’ writing style. She uses too many semicolons. I have always suspected that semicolons were a pernicious invention by law schools to teach law students how not to write.

-- Bob Kopf