Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hail To This Chief

Every so often, it is necessary to pay tribute to the great leaders of the past. John Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, has warranted my attention today.

John was a reticent man; once at dinner with the President, a woman told him that she had made a bet that she could make him say more than three words during the meal, and he responded simply, “You lose.” Calvin’s silence extended beyond mere words, though. He was silent on matters of national policy as well. His defense of his policies that caused the worst depression in American history was simply, "The chief business of the American people is business." As millionaires grew on trees, Silent Cal preferred to sit back and watch. Some have even speculated that he chose not to run for re-election in 1928 because of the inevitable crash, which he predicted to his wife. It seems that he forgot identifying a problem is only the first step in solving it.

John was also a great humanitarian. The 1920s were not a time of great prosperity for all Americans. Farmers, who profited enormously from selling supplies during the war, saw the prices of their goods plummet as America returned to a peacetime economy and demand dropped. A bill, similar in principle the Agricultural Administrative Act passed by Franklin Roosevelt, the man elected to clean up Calvin’s mess, that would raise farm prices by cutting supply, was dismissed by the Commander in Chief as communist rhetoric. Farmers thus suffered twenty years of depression in between the two world wars. Also, when a flood struck Mississippi, Calvin responded by doing what he believed in. Nothing.

Calvin is an example of why it is so vital for a country to have a strong leader. Markets will set prices and people will help people to a certain degree, but it is the duty of the government to ensure protection and stability for its citizens. The 1920s provided neither. Calvin’s laissez-faire policies, thankfully, have not been repeated, and the Commander was not prophetic when he said, “Four-fifths of all our troubles would disappear, if we would only sit down and keep still.”


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