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Coolidge Expresses Confidence in a Free Press

February 4, 2014

by beckandstone

444px-John_Calvin_Coolidge,_Bain_bw_photo_portraitCalvin Coolidge’s address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in January 1925, shortly following his re-election to the presidency, offers a clear example of his confidence that democracy and laissez-faire capitalism are compatible. He focuses on one node of our economic and political systems that some have seen as problematic: maintaining a free and independent press  when journalism is conducted as a for-profit enterprise—or, as Coolidge puts it, “the dual relationship of the press to the public, whereby it is on one side a purveyor of information and opinion and on the other side a purely business enterprise.”

While this speech is the source of Coolidge’s oft-quoted maxim: “the chief business of the American people is business,” it also expresses another idea in which Coolidge places his ultimate confidence:  “The chief ideal of the American people is idealism. . . . No newspaper can be a success which fails to appeal to that element of our national life.”

Coolidge himself cultivated good relations with the press, holding 520 press conferences during his five and a half years in office.

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