Calvin Coolidge on the Federal Government
By David Henderson
Only in one key respect were the two presidents similar: even considering Harding’s belated conversion in Denver, neither man was particularly interested in enforcing Prohibition. In Coolidge’s case this was consistent with his general position on the role of government. “If the federal government should go out of existence,” he said, “the common run of people would not detect the difference in the affairs of their daily life for a considerable length of time.” [DRH comment: that would not be true today. Many people would miss their Social Security check or Medicare payment; others would “miss” being nailed on drug charges; others would find pharmaceuticals more available; still others would find health insurance more affordable because their would be no tax treatment of employer-provided health insurance providing an incentive to over-insure. I could list 100 ways, both in absence of traditionally relied on benefits and traditionally expected costs and invasions of one’s life, in which Coolidge’s statement would not be true today.] It was as if he viewed government as a vestigial organ of the body politic. The president’s inclination toward inactivity, wrote Walter Lippman, “is far from being indolent inactivity. It is grim, determined, alert inactivity.”
This is from Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent.