Let Us Renew Our Praise for Harding

I’ve had occasion here before (“Mister We Could Use a Man Like Warren Harding Again“), more than once in fact, to praise the unjustly underrated legacy of Warren Harding, but don’t miss today’s article in the Washington Post (yes, the Post!) from James Grant, noting how Harding quickly cured the depression of 1920-1921 with precisely the medicine that causes Krugmania Dementia, austerity:

Our Great Recession ended 2½ years ago, according to the official cyclical timekeepers, but you wouldn’t know it by a glance at the news. Zero percent interest rates and $1 trillion in “stimulus” notwithstanding, the U.S. economy can hardly seem to heave itself out of bed in the morning. Now compare this with the first full year of recovery from the ugly depression of 1920-21. In 1922, under the unsung stewardship of the president best remembered for his underlings’ scandals and his own early death in office, the unemployment rate fell from 15.6 percent to 9 percent (on its way to 3.2 percent in 1923), while constant-dollar output leapt by 16 percent. After which the 1920s proverbially roared.

And how did the administration of Warren G. Harding, in conjunction with the Federal Reserve, produce these astonishing results? Why, by raising interest rates, reducing the public debt and balancing the federal budget. Let 21st-century economists rub their eyes in disbelief. Eighteen months after the depression started, it ended.

There’s more good stuff in Grant’s article.   And then there’s this about Harding from another writer:

The harsh summary judgment of Harding reflects the massive ideological and historical bias of the mid-twentieth century, when this image of Harding took root as a result of a relentless onslaught of partisan and sensational criticism. The course of Harding’s reputation is an object lesson in the contingency of historical reflection. Contemporary research has cast a more favorable light on Harding, but his poor reputation lingers—a lesson in how images, positive or negative, are hard to shake once they are lodged in the public mind. A dispassionate review of Harding’s record in office will support the conclusion that he was the kind of president the Founders would have approved.

And who wrote that?  Well, me, it turns out, in my forthcoming book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents, From Wilson to ObamaIt will be published on February 13, so mark your calendars.  Better still, you can pre-order your copy right now on Amazon.  Further excerpts to come exclusively here on Power Line.  (For example, I’ll explain in a future post why the span from Wilson to Obama, rather than all the presidents.)

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