Shlaes rejects this. Director of an initiative on individualism at the George W. Bush Institute, she’s no stranger to right-wing economics. Her 2008 book, "The Forgotten Man: A New History of The Great Depression", dared criticize Herbert Hoover – a stodgy free-marketeer – for what she sees as his liberal response to the 20th century’s most severe downturn. To her, Coolidge, a fiscally stingy president who lived in a duplex after leaving the White House and didn’t think it was appropriate for the federal government to provide disaster relief, is Superman.
“Coolidge was a rare kind of hero: a minimalist president, an economic general of budgeting and tax cuts,” she writes. “Coolidge made a virtue of inaction.”
At least her sketch of the 30th president’s early life is uncontroversial. Born in 1872 in Vermont, Coolidge was a middling student, the last attorney who became commander-in-chief who “read law” in a firm instead of attending law school. In a move that conservatives compare to Ronald Reagan’s standoff with air-traffic controllers in 1981, Coolidge answered a police strike in 1919 as governor of Massachusetts by firing every officer who deserted his post.
“In some ways the year 1919 was like 1787,” Shlaes writes. “The time for disruption was over; in order for the next day, the next decade, to proceed well ... law must be allowed to reign.”