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A terrible biography of the 30th president

Coolidge - Amity Shlaes

Calvin Coolidge is a president who has been defined not by the times in which he lived but in the ones which followed -- specifically the Great Depression, for which he has received a share of the blame. Amity Shlaes's goal, however, is not to bury Coolidge but to praise him by arguing that his policies promote national prosperity through austerity. Yet her argument relies on a good deal of post hoc fallacy that is often contradicted by the very facts she cites (such as her continual reference to growth and prosperity that predated the tax cuts and other measures championed by Coolidge which supposedly brought it about) and she resorts to outright falsehoods in an effort to cover up Coolidge's role in fostering the stock market bubble that burst after he left office.

Nor is this the only problem with her book. Shlaes's text is disappointingly sloppy, riddled with factual and even grammatical errors that suggest the book was a rushed effort. Better editing would have taken care of this, and possibly also cleaned up the morass of details with which she loves to inundate the readers but which only serve to bog them down in her text. Readers seeking to learn more about Coolidge would be well advised to turn to Robert Sobel's Coolidge: An American Enigma which in every way is superior to Shlaes's muddled effort.