Condensed Version of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. Regnery Publishing, Inc. 270 p.
Compiled and Edited by
Dr. Jimmy T. (Gunny) LaBaume
Chapter 10: The Misunderstood Twenties
It is no surprise that Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge usually wind up near the bottom of presidential rankings by historians. Neither of them implemented a large-scale social engineering program nor did they involve the country in a foreign war. Most historians favor government activism with regard to “social justice” and think little of those who simply leave the American people alone.
America prospered during the 1920s.
Voting for the anti-Wilson
The Republicans nominated Harding in 1920 because he was not like Wilson. He had no grandiose plans or desire to strengthen and enlarge the office. In the area of foreign affairs, he favored a modest and independent course. He sought to avoid entanglements and desired no part in directing the destiny of Europe.
Harding was not the bumbling idiot that most historians make him out to be.
None of the above is to suggest that Harding was squeaky clean. Personally, he was unsympathetic and involved in his share of amorous affairs. He left his mark in scandals in which he, typically, was not personally involved. In fact, most of the time he was genuinely unaware of what was going on.
The truth about the Twenties
Conventional wisdom holds that the 1920s were a time of dramatically reduced government. However, liberal historians have overstated their case. True, compared to the previous decade, it was a time of decreased government intervention. Both spending and foreign involvement decreased. However they were both much higher than they had been before the war. Robert Higgs called this the “ratchet effect” meaning that, although government is scaled back after an emergency, it never declines to pre-emergency levels.
During World War I, the top income tax rate increased from 7% to 73%. This excessively high rate prompted the wealthy to shelter their incomes by putting their money into tax free municipal bonds. In the meantime, businesses were starved for capital.
Tax rates were reduced under the influence of Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon. Not only did economic activity multiply many times over, federal revenue actually increased as a result.
No, Harding or Coolidge did not establish any great new “programs.” They simply stayed out of people’s lives and the results speak for themselves. Their success shows how much better off the country would be if politicians would just shut up and leave us alone. No wonder historians loathe Harding and Coolidge.
It is very hard to imagine a man like Coolidge being elected today. He made no promises to enrich some at the expense of others. He understood the limited nature of government that the Founders had envisioned. These are ideas that could not be further from the message of present-day politicians.
Wood’s summary cannot be improved upon: “The America that Elected Calvin Coolidge was decent and good. Their president was a man of character who initiated no grandiose programs of economic and social reconstruction, and had no interest in meddling in all the world’s problems.”
The Essence of Liberty Volume I: Liberty and History chronicles the rise and fall of the noble experiment with constitutionally limited government. It features the ideas and opinions of some of the world’s foremost contemporary constitutional scholars. This is history that you were not taught at the mandatory government propaganda camps otherwise known as “public schools.” You will gain a clear understanding of how America’s decline and decay is really nothing new and how it began almost immediately with the constitution. Available in both paperback and Kindle versions.
You might be interested in the other two volumes of this three volume set The Essence of Liberty Volume II: The Economics of Liberty and The Essence of Liberty Volume III: Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic.