If Reagan is the favorite president of neo-cons & movement conservatives, should classical cons claim Coolidge?

22 Feb

Conservatives look to Reagan as their favorite prez; but I wonder if Coolidge isn’t a better fit? I suppose ignorance and dismissals of Coolidge among conservatives has something to do with the late 20th century victory of neo-conservatism and movement conservatism over classical conservatism.

From The Public Discourse (book review):

President Obama’s recent State of the Union address made it perfectly clear that the era of what former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels once called “shock-and-awe statism” will be with us for at least four more years. To find their way out of this mess, conservatives obviously need to look past President George W. Bush’s lamentable example of domestic profligacy and foreign adventurism over eight long years.

They would benefit, and at the state level are benefitting, from the remarkable conservative lessons of Calvin Coolidge. Amity Shlaes’s new biography, Coolidge, is a fine portrait of a president whose reputation has been restored after many decades of either being ignored or mocked.

Shlaes, a Bloomberg View economics columnist and author of the well-received The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (2007), has written a sympathetic chronicle of Coolidge’s disciplined rise from obscurity in Vermont to the presidency. She sees Coolidge much as Paul Johnson did in his Modern Times (1984), a volume that memorably celebrated Coolidge in a brilliantly drawn portrait. Johnson tendered a provocative claim about Coolidge: “No one in the twentieth century . . . defined more elegantly the limitations of government and the need for individual endeavour, which necessarily involved inequalities, to advance human happiness.” Shlaes’s book provides ample evidence to support this claim.

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