Calvin Coolidge Channels Lysander Spooner
By Bryan Caplan
Matt Yglesias amusingly mocked Calvin Coolidge’s note cards in this video, but the actual speech is remarkable. The President of the United States sounds only two or three steps short of Lysander Spooner:
Taxes take from everyone a
part of his earnings and force everyone to work for a certain part of
his time for the government.
When we come to realize
that the yearly expenses of the governments of this country…the
stupendous sum of about 7 billion, 500 million dollars…
Such a sum is difficult to
comprehend. It represents all the pay of five million wage earners
receiving five dollars a day, working 300 days in the year. If the government should add
100 million dollars of expense, it would represent four days more work of
these wage earners. These are some of the reasons why I want to cut down
I want the people of
America to be able to work less for the government — and more for
I want them to have the
rewards of their own industry. This is the chief meaning of freedom.
Until we can reestablish a
condition under which the earnings of the people can be kept by the
people, we are bound to suffer a very severe and distinct curtailment of
These results are not
fanciful; they are not imaginary. They are grimly actual and real,
reaching into every household in the land. They take from each home
annually an average of over 300 dollars — and taxes must be paid. They are
not a voluntary contribution to be met out of surplus earnings. They are
a stern necessity. They come first.
It is only out of what is
left, after they are paid, that the necessities of food, clothing, and
shelter can be provided and the comforts of home secured, or the
yearnings of the soul — for a broader and more abundant life gratified.
When the government
affects a new economy, it grants everybody a life pension with which to
raise the standard of existence. It increases the value of everybody’s
property, raises the scale of everybody’s wages.
One of the greatest favors
that can be bestowed upon the American people is economy in government.
Amen, but don’t mistake libertarian rhetoric for reality. The fact remains that Coolidge signed the bill that permanently ended the American tradition of open borders.