Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Quote of the Day (Calvin Coolidge, on Why A President Should ‘Know That He is Not a Great Man’)

“It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man. When a man begins to feel that he is the only one who can lead in this republic, he is guilty of treason to the spirit of our institutions.” —Massachusetts governor, U.S. Vice-President, and President Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge (1929)

Calvin Coolidge is not my favorite President. For all his intelligence and integrity, he failed to see that in aggregate, massive inequality could produce a power imbalance, and that sometimes the President, acting with Congress, should try to redress the situation lest it damage the fabric of our society and government.

Moreover, on an individual level, in claiming that “Wealth is the product of industry, ambition, character and untiring effort,” he could not see that some plutocrats have risen by dint of their ancestors or by their own chicanery.

All the same, Coolidge had a becoming sense of modesty. It’s a quality lacking in another Republican past (and possibly future) President, who told his party’s convention eight years ago, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it”—or, more recently, that he would be a dictator on “Day One.”

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