On this day, April 16th, in 1928, Calvin Coolidge addressed the meeting of the Society of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The full speech can be accessed h e r e, at the very useful American Presidency Project website. I’ll just post a brief excerpt from it that appears to be particularly pertinent today:
(…) If the Government gets into business on any large scale, we soon find that the beneficiaries attempt to play a large part in the control. While in theory it is to serve the public, in practice it will be very largely serving private interests. It comes to be regarded as a species of Government favor an those who are the most adroit get the large part of it. Men in public life are besought to secure places of employment for some persons in their locality and favorable contracts for others. The situation rapidly develops into a position of intrenched selfishness, where a great body of public employees and large outside interests are in virtual control, with the general public paying a high cost for poor service. With all the care that it is possible to exercise, a situation of this kind becomes entangled in favoritism an is always in great danger of causing corruption and scandal.
If it is desirable to protect the people in their freedom and independence, if it is desirable to avoid the blighting effects of monopoly supported by the money of the taxpayer, if it is desirable to prevent the existence of a privileged class, if it is desirable to shield public officials from the influence of propaganda and the acute pressure of intrenched selfishness, if it is desirable to keep the Government unencumbered and clean, with an eye single to public service, we shall leave the conduct of our private business with the individual, where it belongs, and not undertake to unload it on the Government. We shall constantly remember the society can not take any short cuts. It can not escape from itself. It can not get something for nothing. What it has, it must pay for. It can not shift, it can not dodge, it can not avoid meeting its own responsibilities. Any scheme to evade, however specious it may appear, will prove to be only a delusion.