Monday, January 23, 2012

Warren Harding is A-OK with me

Another thing on the 1920-1921 stuff.

A lot of this inevitably turns into "Warren Harding was great" or "they don't like Harding". As a non-Harding scholar but as someone who is modestly conversant in the economic events of 1920-1921, I want to make clear that I think Harding was a fine president, for the brief time that he served. Labor unrest played a major role in the downturn, and he could have cracked down on that, but I know of no particularly draconian action from the Harding administration. Harding released Debs from the jail that Wilson threw him in on inexcusable, trumped up charges. Harding wisely cut taxes which, while not some depression-curing elixir, was the right move. Harding was a "return to normalcy" and a long-term growth president. He was a good president.

The one stain (which I don't know much about) is the Teapot Dome Scandal. I'm told he didn't have direct involvement in that. That's good, but not great. Presidents ought to know what goes on in their administration. So that's not ideal, but overall I don't judge Harding to be a "bad president" or anything like that. The caveat - as I said above - is that I'm certainly no Harding scholar.

UPDATE: Oh! And I almost forgot! Harding established the OMB which was an extremely wise move that was probably long overdue.


  1. "Presidents ought to know what goes on in their administration"

    Yes, as executive, the ultimate responsibility for bureaucratic or administrative actions falls upon him. This is true of any management or hierarchical structure.

    I too am not a Harding scholar and cannot really say more than what I have said above.

  2. Get ready for a renaissance in Harding hate via his portrayal in Boardwalk Empire, I've reading. Even years ago I was hearing about how he was supposedly nonchalant about things - don't know where the kids got that from though.

    Didn't know about the OMB. Goes to show that popular history is usually wrong history - even if his love poetry was really bad. This article makes a contrast nicely: Harding is responsible for "40-hour work week, improved health care for new mothers, the first balanced-budget bureau, a focus on technology [and] the rumor mill," and by way here's some terrible poetry.

    Looks like exactly the sort of President I need to read more about!


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