It's tempting to say that Ronald Reagan was the best U.S. president of the past century, and I've certainly demonstrated my man-crush on the Gipper. But there is some real competition. I had the pleasure yesterday of hearing Amity Shlaes of the Council on Foreign Relations make the case for Calvin Coolidge at the Mont Pelerin Society Meeting in Australia.
I dug around online and found an article Amity wrote for Forbes that highlights some of the attributes of "Silent Cal" that she mentioned in her speech. As you can see, she makes a persuasive case.
... the Coolidge style of government, which included much refraining, took great strength and yielded superior results. ...Coolidge and Mellon tightened and pulled [income tax rates] multiple times, eventually getting the top rate down to 25%, a level that hasn't been seen since. Mellon argued that lower rates could actually bring in greater revenues because they removed disincentives to work. Government, he said, should operate like a railroad, charging a price for freight that "the traffic will bear." Coolidge's commitment to low taxes came from his concept of property rights. He viewed heavy taxation as the legalization of expropriation. "I want taxes to be less, that the people may have more," he once said. In fact, Coolidge disapproved of any government intervention that eroded the bond of the contract. ...More than once Coolidge vetoed what would later be called farm allotment--the government purchase of commodities to reduce supply and drive up prices. ...Today our government has moved so far from Coolidge's tenets that it's difficult to imagine such policies being emulated.
But if you don't want to believe Amity, here's Coolidge in his own words. This video is historically significant since it is the first film (with sound) of an American President. The real value, however, is in the words that are being said.