Excerpt from Calvin Coolidge’s speech “Economy in the Interest of All”
Washington, D.C. | June 30, 1924

Full speech text available here.

This is the seventh regular meeting of the Business Organization of the Government. The first of these meetings was held three years ago. This marks the close of three years of action under the Budget system. At the first meeting was commenced an intensive campaign in behalf of the people who pay the taxes in our country. The foes of that campaign were extravagance and inefficiency in the public service. For three years we have waged this intensive campaign. It has been a united effort, and united effort never fails of accomplishment. The people of this Nation are beginning to win. In that short space of time we have accomplished the unbelievable. Uncoordinated procedures of official action have been coordinated. Departmental interests have been made subservient to the common interests of the Government as a whole. The business of Government has been established on an efficient basis. You have done this, and for doing it you are entitled to the thanks of the American people. This has been and is their fight.

We are often told that we are a rich country, and we are. We are often reminded that we are in the best financial condition of any of the great powers, and we are. But we must remember that we also have a broader scale of existence and a higher standard of living. We have a freer Government and a more flexible organization of society. Where more is given, more is required. A tropical state of savagery almost maintains itself. American civilization is the product of a constant and mighty effort. One of the greatest perils to an extensive republic is the disregard of individual rights. In our own country such rights do not appear to be in immediate danger from direct attack, but they are always in jeopardy through indirect action.

One of the rights which the freeman has always guarded with most jealous care is that of enjoying the rewards of his own industry. Realizing that the power to tax is the power to destroy and that the power to take a certain amount of property or of income is only another way of saying that for a certain proportion of his time a citizen must work for the Government, the authority to impose a tax on the people has been most carefully guarded. Our own Constitution requires that revenue bills should originate in the House, because that body is supposed to be more representative of the people. These precautions have been taken because of the full realization that any oppression laid upon the people by excessive taxation, any disregard of their right to hold and enjoy the property which they have rightfully acquired, would be fatal to freedom. A government which lays taxes on the people not required by urgent public necessity and sound public policy is not a protector of liberty, but an instrument of tyranny. It condemns the citizen to servitude. One of the first signs of the breaking down of free government is a disregard by the taxing power of the right of the people to their own property. It makes little difference whether such a condition is brought about through the will of a dictator, through the power of a military force, or through the pressure of an organized minority. The result is the same. Unless the people can enjoy that reasonable security in the possession of their property, which is guaranteed by the Constitution, against unreasonable taxation, freedom is at an end. The common man is restrained and hampered in his ability to secure food and clothing and shelter. His wages are decreased, his hours of labor are lengthened. Against the recurring tendency in this direction there must be interposed the constant effort of an informed electorate and of patriotic public servants. The importance of a constant reiteration of these principles can not be overestimated. They can not be denied. They must not be ignored.

There is a most urgent necessity for those who are charged with the responsibility of government administration to realize that the people of our country can not maintain their own high standards, they can not compete against the lower standards of the rest of the world, unless we are free from excessive taxes.

With us economy is imperative. It is a full test of our national character. Bound up in it is the true cause, not of the property interests, not of any privilege, but of all the people. It is preeminently the source of popular rights. It is always the people who toil that pay. It seems to me, therefore, worthy of our highest endeavor. It is this which gives the real importance to this meeting.


We must have no carelessness in our dealings with public property or the expenditure of public money. Such a condition is characteristic either of an undeveloped people, or of a decadent civilization. America is neither. It stands out strong and vigorous and mature. We must have an administration which is marked, not by the inexperience of youth, or the futility of age, but by the character and ability of maturity. We have had the self-control to put into effect the Budget system, to live under it and in accordance with it. It is an accomplishment in the art of self-government of the very highest importance. It means that the American Government is not a spendthrift, and that it is not lacking in the force or disposition to organize and administer its finances in a scientific way. To maintain this condition puts us constantly on trial. It requires us to demonstrate whether we are weaklings, or whether we have strength of character. It is not too much to say that it is a measure of the power and integrity of the civilization which we represent. I have a firm faith in your ability to maintain this position, and in the will of the American people to support you in that determination. In that faith in you and them, I propose to persevere. I am for economy. After that I am for more economy. At this time and under present conditions that is my conception of serving all the people.

I will now turn this meeting over to General Lord, the Director of the Bureau of the Budget. He is human. He hates to say no. But he is a brave man, and he does his duty without fear or favor. This Nation is his debtor. He will tell you more in detail of the things which have been accomplished and of the work which lies before you under the financial program which I have outlined to you. But let me leave this final word with you. So far as it is within my power I will not permit increases in expenditures that threaten to prevent further tax reduction or that contemplate such an unthinkable thing as increase in taxes. If with increasing business our revenues increase, such increase should not be absorbed in new ways of spending. They should be applied to the lowering of taxes. In that direction lies the public welfare.