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Opening Arguments

Coolidge the great

Why Calvin Coolidge was the best president ever (besides the facts that he rarely spoke, had a great sense of humor and kept a pet raccoon):

But, best of all, Coolidge understood that the proper role of a President was to do as little as possible. For example, in the 1920s the top rate of income tax fell from 73 per cent to 25 per cent – yet the amount of money flowing to the Treasury from that group actually went up as the economy boomed. The GNP grew at an average of 4.7 per cent and unemployment fell to just 3.2 per cent. The Government taking in less left the American people making more. And all thanks in part to a quiet, funny man who kept a raccoon tethered up in the back yard.

Most "best of" lists for the presidency go for the consequentialists who did big things and served during transformational times, names like Washington and Lincoln and Roosevelt. Saying Coolidge was the best might be an exaggeration, or at best, a no-need-to-justify-it subjective judgment, but surely he deserves to be right up there. He had a constitutional sense of what a chief executive should be, which is to carry out the laws passed by Congress. Not many since then have felt so constrained. Barack Obama might be the most determined of all of them to fundamentally change the country, but he's far from the first to overreach his authority.