February 15, 2013

"Most presidents place faith in action; the modern presidency is perpetual motion."

"Coolidge made a virtue of inaction. 'Give administration a chance to catch up with legislation,' he told his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate. 'It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones,' he wrote to his father as early as 1910. Congress always says, 'Do.' Coolidge replied, 'Do not do,' or, at least, 'Do less.' Whereas other presidents made themselves omnipresent, Coolidge held back. At the time, and subsequently, many have deemed the Coolidge method laziness. Upon examination, however, the inaction reflects strength. In politics as in business, it is often harder, after all, not to do. Coolidge is our great refrainer."

From the new biography "Coolidge," by Amity Shlaes.

Were you, like me, struck by the word "administration" in "Give administration a chance to catch up with legislation"? Did you think there was a missing "the" and have to stop and think? We're so used to the entity called "the Administration" that it's hard to see "administration" as the counterpart to "legislation." Or — more disturbing — our go-to word for what the executive branch is "enforcement."

22 comments:

CEO-MMP said...

I did not think the "the" was missing, but I can easily see your point, Professor. Would that more people in public office felt that way.

Did you think of they Hippocratic Oath at all when you read it? First do no harm and all? I did.

Question: is this going to be the first of a series of posts relating to Coolidge, taken from Ms. Slaes book? In case you care at all, can I vote for "I certainly hope so" in the poll?

I haven't been able to start it yet, but I'm very much looking forward to it. Coolidge was a great POTUS.

Expat(ish) said...

I still tell my kids something my first boss said: Don't just do something, stand there.

Possibly he was a fan of the late prez.

To me that theory has always gone hand in hand with: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

-XC

AJ Lynch said...

Which I bought here and just happens to be scheduled for delivery by Amazon today. Thanks for the reading suggestion.

Tank said...

On my TBR list.

If Coolidge were alive today, one look around would instantly kill him.

AJ Lynch said...

Today, pols avoid fixing govt programs that are broken because that is hard work.

As a result, they love to establish shiny new govt programs like NCLB, Obamacare, Green Energy "Investments", Homeland Security Dept, etc. But eventually the public finds that the new stuff sucks too but the pols continue to brag about how wonderful the new stuff is.

Suggest you make a list one day:
Govt programs that work versus govt programs that don't work.

Marshal said...

Question: is this going to be the first of a series of posts relating to Coolidge, taken from Ms. Slaes book? In case you care at all, can I vote for "I certainly hope so" in the poll?

I'd take this over the Great Gatsby any day. Her last book was great.

traditionalguy said...

Coolidge appreciated that human families and groups need stable time to grow up into a life of experiences.

Changing the rules in midstream leads to anxious and maladjusted people. It seldom leads to the utopian socialist vision promised by the priests of the Pied Piper Church.

Obama and his servant media is intentionally changing all rules by renaming the categorical realities to which the rules apply.

The glee of watching the people squirm as their life support systems are removed is an inhuman trait that Obama is getting away with because he offers that vicarious fun to the mentally ill liberals among us.

bpm4532 said...

We live in the era of ready, fire, aim!

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I didn't miss the the. However, usually when we talk of legislation, we are talking about the laws that have been passed.

If he is using administration to mean the act of administering, is that balanced by using legislation to mean the act of legislating?

dmoelling said...

I just started reading "Coolidge" and have been reading about his education at home, in town and at Amherst. It struck me that our past presidents had much better educations than our current highly credentialed recent Chief Executives.

All had classic educations cobbled up by the fluid paths of the 19th Century. They knew history, geography, classic texts (Bible and Shakespeare) and a good feeling for commerce.

ricpic said...

Could have also said "let execution catch up with legislation." Isn't that what the executive branch is supposed to do, or at least was originally designed to do, execute legislation?

Mitchell the Bat said...

When in doubt, do nothing.

That's my motto.

I don't do much.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

Coolidge understood that the President's job was to actually see to it that the Congressional laws were faithfully executed.

Whereas Obama thinks that Congress exists merely to sing hosannas to Himself. And that mere 'laws' are only the wrapping for such edicts and policies as he might feel should be inflicted on Americans. Particularly the laws ordaining that annual budgets be drafted by the Senate and the House, to be reconciled and adopted. He threw that wrapper away with the fries.

edutcher said...

Considering what an incompetent failure he is, Choomie might want to try a little inaction.

AJ Lynch said...

Today, pols avoid fixing govt programs that are broken because that is hard work.

No, not really, but fixing the program might fix the problem and that would put politicians out of a job.

Kirby Olson said...

She's been on BookTV with the book. I read the predecessor to this book: The Forgotten Man. I don't think she writes terribly well in general, but she is representing a viewpoint that the communists in their rush toward collective action would like to silence. Silent Cal had it right.

CEO-MMP said...

Wow. only 15 comments to a nice post from a book about a really good POTUS. As compared with over 200 ugly posts about gay marriage that a few of us didn't even bother to participate in because it's just so much ugliness.

Too bad. Coolidge is much better to talk about. Was a good try, Professor.

Chuck Currie said...

This => 'It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones', has been my thinking for quite some time, and I swear I did not know it was from Coolidge.

I find that our educational system has left me quite ignorant of Coolidge. Maybe I should read this book.

Cheers

mccullough said...

Jazz Age President. It would have been interesting if he had run for another term and been at the helm when the stock market crashed in late 1929.

jaynie said...

Traditionalguy wrote:

"Coolidge appreciated that human families and groups need stable time to grow up into a life of experiences.

Changing the rules in midstream leads to anxious and maladjusted people. It seldom leads to the utopian socialist vision promised by the priests of the Pied Piper Church.

Obama and his servant media is intentionally changing all rules by renaming the categorical realities to which the rules apply.

The glee of watching the people squirm as their life support systems are removed is an inhuman trait that Obama is getting away with because he offers that vicarious fun to the mentally ill liberals among us."

Got that right, hit the nail squarely.

Right from the start if POTUS's first administration, I kept on thinking he seemed so hyperactive. Hyperactive and sowing chaos, under the radar, but chaos nonetheless, every time he spoke or took some action.

jaynie said...

I'll have to go back and try reading "Forgotten Man" I find Shales writing challenging. But i read so many positive reactions to her work. This book on Coolidge looks intriguing. Imagine a study of a uniquely American President!

As an aside regarding smaller, less-activist government: I am participating in a Constitution study group and was surprised to read that the US Congress is tasked with the onerous responsibility of meeting at least ONE TIME PER YEAR! Imagine that! If they did, that'd restrain government activism. ... And spending since Congress controls the money.

jaynie said...

I meant to say : Imagine if Congress met only once a year!

Revenant said...

I've been of the opinion for a while that Coolidge was the last great President we've had.