In a recent piece from the Mises Institute I was reminded of something once said by one of my favorite presidents, Calvin Coolidge:
"If the federal government were to go out of existence the common run of people would not detect the difference."
BTW, if you want to see “silent Cal” giving a little speech, check this out. How ‘unslick’ Coolidge seems. But slickness is entirely beside the point when, like Coolidge, you are not even attempting to ‘transform society’ with half-truths, as is so often the case today.
But back to the words from Coolidge above. He was quite right in the context of the 1920s. But as the article points out, Coolidge came close on the heals of the first Roosevelt and Wilson, both of whom were bent on making the ‘federal government’ very much a part of the lives of ‘the common run of people.’ After Coolidge, the second Roosevelt was handed a ‘crisis’ that was used to slip the long arm of the feds even further into everyday life. That trend has had little letup since then.
So today, for most people, a situation described by ‘silent Cal’ seems almost unimaginable. That, of course, was exactly what the Roosevelts, Wilson, and their followers were trying to do. You must give them credit, they did it quite well.
If you think the government of Silent Cal is at all desirable, you have to imagine, and help others imagine, what life could be like without the central government directing almost every aspect of the lives of us ‘common run of people.’ If you watch Coolidge’s little speech linked above and you can listen past his Barney Fife-like delivery, he will help you think about what it was like when the ‘feds’ did almost nothing directly to ‘the common run of people.’
As he says there, ‘economy of government’ (which means government spends less because it does less) means people do not have to pay as much for government. This in turn means that they can keep more of what they earn, to make their lives more of what they want them (as opposed to what government wants them) to be.
And this, Silent Cal says, is the essence of freedom. Apparently, Coolidge was the last President to write most of his own speeches. He wasn’t much for delivery, but what he said was golden.