I recommend that you all watch this. A few pleasantly surprising sound bytes made by President Coolidge includes:
the cost of government is forced upon all citizens ... every tax dollar taken forces everyone to work, part-time, for the government.The emphasis is mine. I find it truly impressive to hear a 20th century U.S. president acknowledge taxes as a use of force instead of an admirable sacrifice or a moral duty. Of course, President Coolidge is not calling for the abolition of taxes; he is just honestly stating the reality of what they are. Here is another refreshing quote:
I want the people of America to work less for the government and more for themselves. I want the people to have the rewards of their own industry. This is the chief meaning of freedom.From what I recall from Robert Sobel's Coolidge: An American Enigma, Coolidge viewed taxes as a necessary evil to fund the basic functions of government. Needless to say, Coolidge's perception of what was necessary went beyond police, military and a court system as it included public works and schools. However, as a general standard, he seemed to strive to avoid expanding the government's role beyond its current functions, he seemed to work to improve the overall efficiency of government so as to reduce the tax burden on America and he tried to let the "business of America [be] business". Of course, it would have been much better had the Coolidge Administration actively fought to undo the Pure Food and Drug Act, the Interstate Commerce Commission or the Anti-trust laws. Nevertheless, Coolidge's Administration still sounds very good relative for the early 20th century.
The address that I have posted ends with a general call for more efficiency in government spending. I have no idea to what extent Coolidge delivered on this last point. Every politician calls for more efficiency in government spending. None are going to (explicitly) call for the government to be more wasteful. However, this still sounds more believable when Coolidge calls for it.
Contrast the overall spirit of Coolidge's speech (to the extent we can tell with limited context) to the various speeches of modern politicians. Most politicians today never acknowledge that taxes are forced upon Americans. Most politicians today also insist that their economic policies will only negatively impact the wealthiest of Americans as opposed to affecting all taxpayers. Most importantly, politicians today brag about how many new government programs they have helped create, as if they are bragging points to be itemized on a resume. Almost no politicians today call for less government. How far things have fallen.