Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.84 shipping
Coolidge Hardcover – February 12, 2013
|New from||Used from|
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
A Dialogue Between Amity Shlaes and Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank
Amity Shlaes: I like Coolidge, but do you, Paul, think he matters? Coolidge was president in the 1920s. That’s a long time ago.
Paul Volcker: Well there are some parallels to current times. During his time, Coolidge was under great pressure, much like today. Even before he was president, as governor of Massachusetts, Coolidge was forced into the Boston police strike. He took a principled stance.
AS:You mean, he fired the police, who were good people. But he felt he had to fire them, because Boston fell into chaos when they left their post.
PV: Yes, that attracted a lot of attention, and for good reason. He was a good man himself. Sometimes I wish we had more principled men serving in government now.
AS: Is that kind of principled action even possible today?
PV: It is obviously difficult. But in the area of monetary policy the received wisdom has been that by removing decision-making a bit away from raw political life, you have a better chance of following reasonable, disciplined policy, and taking a longer term view. That is the hope.
AS: Coolidge tried to live a clean life. Harding had partied. Does that matter?
AS: What about the Federal Reserve Bank’s policy in the late teens and early 1920s? The Fed’s boss then, W.P.G. Harding, took a lot of criticism for supporting tightening.
PV: Central banking theory was not very well developed in those days, and it certainly was not well developed in the United States. But there was a sense that since there was inflation, raising interest rates was appropriate. The policy was not terribly active; there were no concerted open market operations in those days. The Federal Reserve was more reactive than an initiating instrument. It so happened they had a big inflation followed by a big, but short, recession. There are debates to this day as to whether the Federal Reserve failed to react soon enough given the depth of the recession or whether the hands-off attitude led to the rapid recovery after they dealt with the inflation.
AS: At the Federal Reserve W.P.G. Harding raised interest rates 300 basis points, which was basically doubling it, to squeeze out inflation.
PV: 300 basis points is nothing anymore (laughs).
AS: Congress blamed the fed’s head back then for the recession. Is it hard to be the Fed Head when people blame you for recession? You had recessions.
PV: Of course! You’re willing to experience it once, you don’t like to have one twice.
AS: Are there ways Coolidge was better than Ronald Reagan? Or, at the least, does Silent Cal warrant an upgrade?
PV: Coolidge is forgotten and Reagan is a hero. Coolidge had the police strike, Reagan had the strike of the air traffic controllers. Coolidge didn’t like to spend money, Reagan liked to reduce taxes.
AS: What’s important?
PV: Coolidge balanced the budget. Saving, we don’t do that anymore. Instead we rely on Social Security and government. Now we fight about all the entitlements, those programs didn’t even exist back in Coolidge’s day.
AS: What’s your summary?
PV: What we understood was that Coolidge was kind of a do-nothing president. He took over for Harding, he was an honest guy, he was kind of open and frugal, but that was it. But in fact there’s so much to learn from Coolidge. Any president is going to face a lot of problems and Coolidge faced up to them. He produced, after Harding, honest government. He contributed to some degree of trust in government. Americans today need to read Amity’s biography to learn more about him.
Rated below average in historians’ polls, Calvin Coolidge was a satisfactory president to the 1920s electorate, which certainly would have voted him back had he run in 1928. That he declined fit with the self-restraint of Coolidge, whose roots in rural Vermont Shlaes explores in this comprehensive biography. She infuses her narrative with Coolidge’s abhorrence of debt and practice of parsimony, personal principles he scaled up to federal size with his budget-cutting, tax-reducing policies. In addition to frugality, law and order was another salient Coolidge precept, which made him presidential timber when, as Massachusetts governor, Silent Cal broke a Boston police strike with the lapidary saying, “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, anytime.” Behind the stern public visage, Shlaes shows a Coolidge of feelings, close to his father, pained by the deaths of a sister and a son, and, at times, jealous of his attractive, gregarious wife. Wedged between Progressives and New Dealers, Coolidge may be fated to be a laissez-faire anachronism, but one whose record Shlaes meticulously and fluidly presents for history readers to judge. --Gilbert Taylor
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
For Shlaes, Coolidge was an interesting presidential incumbent more because he said no more often than yes. He vetoed many bills put up by Congress. He was a republican president who did little in policy terms, believing strongly that federal government should be as limited as possible. She points directly to his harsh upbringing in rural New England to explain his careful, even parsimonious legislative approach. He was ably supported in his policies by many gifted individuals in his cabinet including Andrew Mellon. And the results speak for themselves. During Coolidge’s presidency, the US experienced unprecedented economic growth during the Roaring Twenties.
Shlaes has an engaging writing style with some interesting insights which are sorely needed with this dull president and his relatively dull life in Vermont. He wasn’t called ‘silent Cal’ for nothing. He was also an accidental president (much like Gerald Ford) being appointed upon the untimely death of Warren Harding. It is the historical context that comes through in this biography that is of interest to those of us living outside the US; however it is still difficult to fully grasp the American context that is needed in this particular book. For those of us new to American biography this is a densely written book with much detail.
What is quite clear is that Shlaes is enamored in the work of this unassuming, refined president who left office with the federal budget at a lower level than when he first became president. She calls him the great refrainer and she uses him as a model to other presidents.
It is written in a most palatable style and reads, to me, more like a novel! She has an extensive appendix which is helpful if you wish to explore certain events more intimately too.
I love Erik Larsen's books and this one is right on par with his books.
This should be a required book in all high school or college American history classes as it makes our past come alive!
The second review is the content of the book. The way she praises Coolidge about being a “man of action” when in reality, he did nothing significant to affect the national economy. When Coolidge took over from Harding, the economy was already buzzing along and he basically stayed the course without doing anything drastic to change it. The tax cuts that passed was self defeating in the end because it led to an economic catastrophe. Ms. Shales tried to make the argument that it was Hoover who cause the depression when in reality it was Coolidge’s inaction that made it worse than it really was.
I admire that Coolidge wanted to shrink the government and try and make America more prosperous. But the portrait that was painted seemed like he was in the presidency because he had to and not because he wanted to.
Alongside key allies inside his cabinet, he led a genuine and effective drive for thrift in government and steadfastly resisted the growing clamour for expansion. He successfully enacted tax cuts that led to an increase in government revenue, and he stood firm on his commitment to the separation of powers between state and federal government, even in the face of natural calamities.
For a classical liberal like myself, it's difficult not to cheer Coolidge on as the book progresses through his remarkable life and political career, but it's also a bittersweet read. Much of his hard-fought achievements were promptly undone, first by his "activist" Republican successor, Herbert Hoover, and then by the catastrophic New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt. It's also a pipe dream to imagine anyone of Coolidge's humble disposition rising to national politics in the today's era, certainly not in the United States, or perhaps anywhere.
Setting aside such pessimism however, the successes of Coolidge's tenure are firmly established in these pages and offer tremendous lessons for how limited government once did work, and can again in future. A remarkable book about a throughly decent politician and man.
Most recent customer reviews
Amity Shlaes has written a nuanced and compassionate account of the life of our 30th President called, simply, Coolidge...Read more