Excerpts of the President's News Conference in Swampscott, Massachusetts
I am not familiar enough with the details of the work that the Federal Trade Commission does to go into any specifications in relation to it, but I should think there was a very broad field of useful activity in which they might engage which is set out in detail in the act establishing the Commission. They come upon that condition that is chronic in relation to commissions that are established to do something that the legislative body doesn't know how to do. Now that is no criticism on the legislative body. There are matters of legislation and control that are of such an intricate and technical nature that legislation doesn't appear to fit them, and there is a belief on the part of individuals and the public—I am speaking generally now—that there are evils that ought to be remedied and the established remedy is to provide a Commission to do that. It has been my understanding and experience in public life that a commission would be established and the legislature would go home thinking that that question was never going to bother them again. Well, these evils that are complained of are more or less chronic in the carrying on of business affairs and the relationship between different individuals of the community. While the commission may help to solve the problems, it isn't able usually entirely to eliminate them. Then the legislature comes back the next year and somebody gets up on the floor and says the commission is all right but it is the personnel. He wants to abolish that commission and appoint new members, then the evils will be entirely eliminated. That is the way things of this kind work. Well now, I don't expect that commissions are going to cure entirely all the evils of our relations, whether they be industrial or social. I think they are helpful. It isn't always possible to get the members of the commission, when it comes to be tried out, to be one that functions perfectly. But I have a good deal of faith and confidence in the state commissions here in Massachusetts and in our Federal commissions. I think they serve a very useful purpose and are very helpful, and I think the Federal Trade Commission can perform a very helpful service. Now it may be that there are practices that ought to be changed. It may not be doing some things it ought to do. As I say, I can't discuss the details of their work because I am not familiar with them. But I should be very much surprised if there wasn't a very large volume of work that would appear to be profitably performed by this Commission. It isn't very popular in the business life of the nation, but I don't regard that as a fatal criticism of it. It is in the nature of a business policeman. While perhaps it does things it ought not to do, and refrains from doing things it ought to do, I don't think it has reached that stage where it can be said it isn't any good.
I don't know enough about the workings of the school board of the District to know whether it is feasible to have them elected or not. I recall about that what was an interesting incident to myself. When I studied geography I was very certain that it said in the geography that there were certain elections held by the people of the District, and when I was candidate for Vice-President I came through Washington and some of the local newspapermen here inquired of me whether I was in favor of elections in the District, and I told them that I thought they had local elections here now. I didn't happen to be correct, but it came about by reason of what I had remembered of my geography days. It seemed very curious to some of the newspapermen who were considerably younger than I, that I must be very much mistaken about it. I don't know what could be done. I want to have the schools of the District up to the very best condition. Whether they could be improved by having an elective school board—that is the direct question—or not, I do not know. And I haven't any mature views about the matter of general suffrage in the District. I can see a great many difficulties. Of course I am pretty well committed to local self-government, and having people elect their own officers. But of course I have also had it brought to my attention, though not in any discussion of what ought to be done here in the District, the rather sorry plight of the national government of one of the countries abroad. It has no jurisdiction whatever over the local police. It is never certain whether it is going to have police protection. It is in a certain city and it is there rather as a matter of suffrance. Now, the United States Government couldn't submit to anything of that kind. It has to have absolute authority to protect itself and pretty nearly absolute authority over local police, and in order to have authority over local police it has to have pretty general authority over the government of a locality. This of course is a Federal city set apart for the carrying on of the business of the United States Government. Pennsylvania is interested in it, the States of Washington and Oregon are interested in the Government here in the District of Columbia no less than Maryland and Virginia. And those states are interested in it no less than persons that live here. So it makes a difficult and com-plicated question, and unless there appear to be very serious abuses of some kind or another I should be rather inclined to let the present method of government go on. They tried local government here one time with an elective Mayor, I think, and then they went back to the present system.
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There isn't any change in the status of the proposed disarmament conference. One thing or another has developed in Europe that hasn't made it seem quite opportune to propose it. Just at present the matter of the security agreement is pending. Of course if that can be arranged, why it will lay a very broad foundation for further disarmament. With that undecided the question of how far disarmament could be carried would not be one that they could make an accurate decision about. Now, I am quite aware that there is never going to be any perfect condition under which disarmament conferences can be called. First, I didn't want to insert that question into an international discussion during the work that was going on on the Dawes plan when the question arose about putting the Dawes plan into operation. Then the question came up at the Geneva conference. Now it is the question of the security pact. What I have been waiting for was a time when Europe had seemed to arrive at as stable a condition as we can hope to have there, with all pending difficulties over there, so that there will be a situation that would make it seem that a disarmament conference would have the largest possible promise of being successful.
Source: "The Talkative President: The Off-the-Record Press Conferences of Calvin Coolidge". eds. Howard H. Quint & Robert H. Ferrell. The University Massachusetts Press. 1964.
Calvin Coolidge, Excerpts of the President's News Conference in Swampscott, Massachusetts Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/349116