In the early part of the 20th century the “progressives” elected a fool named Wilson and took the country to war in the horror we now call WWI. After that nightmare was over the country looked for healing. And so it was that Warren Gamaliel Harding ran for president and won. His platform and slogan was; “Return to normalcy”. Harding was a dark-horse candidate, much like Ron Paul last election cycle but Harding won with 60% of the vote. This was an amazing turn of events in those days.
One of his first actions as president was to pardon socialist candidate Eugene Debs who was rotting in jail for opposing the war draft. This took a lot of courage and showed that Mr. Harding had the “right stuff” to make hard decisions. He also did the economically correct thing by reduced taxes and ending much of the war regulations. While it was not a return to complete laissez-faire, his actions had a calming effect and the country returned to normalcy just as the candidate had promised. A time of great prosperity followed.
Mr. Harding told the nation:
There isn’t anything the matter with world civilization, except that humanity is viewing it through a vision impaired in a cataclysmal war. Poise has been disturbed, and nerves have been racked, and fever has rendered men irrational; sometimes there have been draughts upon the dangerous cup of barbarity, and men have wandered far from safe paths, but the human procession still marches in the right direction.
America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality.
It is one thing to battle successfully against world domination by military autocracy, because the infinite God never intended such a program, but it is quite another thing to revise human nature and suspend the fundamental laws of life and all of life’s acquirements…
This republic has its ample tasks. If we put an end to false economics which lure humanity to utter chaos, ours will be the commanding example of world leadership today. If we can prove a representative popular government under which a citizenship seeks what it may do for the government rather than what the government may do for individuals, we shall do more to make democracy safe for the world than all armed conflict ever recorded.
The world needs to be reminded that all human ills are not curable by legislation, and that quantity of statutory enactment and excess of government offer no substitute for quality of citizenship.
The problems of maintaining civilization are not to be solved by a transfer of responsibility from citizenship to government, and no eminent page in history was ever drafted by the standards of mediocrity. More, no government is worthy of the name which is directed by influence on the one hand, or moved by intimidation on the other…
My best judgement of America’s needs is to steady down, to get squarely on our feet, to make sure of the right path. Let’s get out of the fevered delirium of war, with the hallucination that all the money in the world is to be made in the madness of war and the wildness of its aftermath. Let us stop to consider that tranquillity at home is more precious than peace abroad, and that both our good fortune and our eminence are dependent on the normal forward stride of all the American people.
And so it was that this “do-nothing” President, so hated by modern historians who are boot-lickers of the power elite, was able to guide the country to relative prosperity.
In 1920-21 a great test came for Mr. Harding. It was the recession of 1920-21 in which Harding resisted intervening at all. No government action to “deal with the problem”! And so the recession of ’21 was very short and did not become the “Great Depression” as the one in 1929 did when Hover and FDR made massive government interventions. In fact, the recession of 1921 is barely mentioned in textbooks since it demonstrates the Austrian economists point so dramatically. A good account can be read here.
Of course government worshippers of all kinds hate Warren G. Harding. They will say he was a do-nothing president which even Harding himself admitted to. He claimed that no man was qualified to be President — and in that he found an eternal truth.