Recently on Twitter, a reader asked whether we could imagine electing a minimalist president.
Yes, but we don’t have to imagine: his name was Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States of America. During the 67 months of his presidency, the national debt, the federal government, the federal budget, unemployment, and consumer prices shrank—and the GDP expanded significantly. All of this led Amity Shlaes, in her biography, Coolidge, to blazon “Silent Cal” as a “rare kind of hero: a minimalist president, an economic general of budgeting.”
But perhaps the best way to understand Coolidge’s minimalist ways is through his own words:
On contribution: “No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”
On spending: “There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no one independence quite so important, as living within your means.”
On wealth: “Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshipped.”
On listening: “It takes a great man to be a good listener.”
On focus: “We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.”
As for the current lot of mainstream candidates, it seems we’ll be asked to choose between a dynast and a misogynist. So, no, we don’t see a minimalist among the field. However, there may be other options.
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