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Conservatism, politics, Uncategorized

To Whet Your Appetite: Selected Quotes from The Conscience of a Conservative, by Barry Goldwater

If I could require just one book for political education it would be this 122 page gem, The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater. The following are some quotes from that which was a very formative book for me politically, through you’ll miss out on much of the gold that could be mined without the argumentation and further support found within.

Rereading it again, I’m shocked by how timely his 1960 words are in our era of an ever expanding government.

  • Secondly, the Conservative has learned that the economic and spiritual aspects of man’s nature are inextricably intertwined. He cannot be economically free, ore even economically efficient, if he is enslaved politically; conversely, man’s political freedom is illusory if he is dependent for his economic needs on the State. (12)
  • The conscience of the Conservative is pricked by anyone who would debase the dignity of the individual human being. (13)
  • Throughout history, government has proved to be the chief instrument for thwarting man’s liberty. (16)
  • The turn will come when we entrust the conduct of our affairs to men who understand that their first duty as public officials is to divest themselves of the power they have been given. (23)
  • The Republican Party, to be sure, gives lip-service to States’ Rights. We often talk about “returning to the States their rightful powers”; the Administration has even gone so far as to sponsor a federal-state conference on the problem. But deeds are what count, and I regret to say that in actual practice, the Republican Party, like the Democratic Party, summons the coercive power of the federal government whenever national leaders conclude that the States are not performing satisfactorily. (25)
  • States’ Rights means that the States have a right to act or not to act, as they see fit, in the areas reserved to them. The States may have duties corresponding to these rights, but the duties are owed to the people of the States, not to the federal government. Therefore, the recourse lies not with the federal government, which is not sovereign, but with the people who are, and who have full power to take disciplinary action. If the people are unhappy with say, their State’s disability insurance program, they can bring pressure to bear on their state officials and, if that fails, they can elect a new set of officials. (28-29)
  • Not only does [the Constitution] prevent the accumulation of power in a central government that is remote from the people and relatively immune from popular restraints; it also recognizes the principle that essentially local problems are best dealt with by the people most directly concerned. (29)
  • Nothing could so far advance the cause of freedom as for state officials throughout the land to assert their rightful claims to lost state power; and for the federal government to withdraw promptly and totally from every jurisdiction which the Constitution reserved to the states. (30)
  • A civil right is a right that is asserted and is therefore protected by some valid law. It may be asserted by the common law, or by local or federal statutes, or by the Constitution; but unless a right is incorporated in the law, it is not a civil right and is not enforceable by the instruments of the civil law. There may be some rights–“natural,” “human,” or otherwise–that should also be civil rights. But if we desire to give such rights the protection of the law, our recourse is to a legislature or to the amendment procedures of the Constitution. We must not look to politicians, or sociologists–or the courts–to correct the deficiency. (32-33)
  • The intentions of the founding fathers in this matter are beyond any doubt: no powers regarding eduction were given to the federal government. Consequently, under the Tenth Amendment, jurisdiction over the entire field was reserved to the States. (34)
  • The Constitution is what its authors intended it to be and said it was–not what the Supreme Court says it is. (36)
  • The teaching of the Constitution on this matter is perfectly clear. No power over agriculture was given to any branch of the national government. (39)
  • Where is the politician who has not promised his constituents a fight to the death for lower taxes–and who has not proceeded to vote for the very spending projects that make tax cuts impossible? (58)
  • We have been led to discount, and often forget altogether, the bearing of taxation on the problem of individual freedom. We have been persuaded that the government has an unlimited claim on the wealth of the people, and that the only pertinent question is what portion of its claim the government should exercise. the American taxpayer, I think, has lost confidence in his claim to his money. He has been handicapped in resisting high taxes by the feeling that he is, in the nature of things, obliged to accommodate whatever need for his wealth government chooses to assert. (58-59)
  • Government does not have an unlimited claim on the earnings of individuals. One of the foremost precepts of the natural law is man’s right to the possession and the use of his property. (59)
  • It has been the fashion in recent years to disparage “property rights”–to associate them with greed and materialism. This attack on property rights is actually an attack on freedom. Is is another instance of the modern failure to take into account the whole man. How can a man be truly free if he is denied the means to exercise freedom? How can he be free if the fruits of his labor are not his to dispose of, but are treated, instead, as part of a common pool of public wealth? (59)
  • Therefore, if we adhere to the Constitution, the federal government’s total tax bill will be the cost of exercising such of its delegated powers as our representatives deem necessary in the national interest. But conversely, when the federal government enacts programs that are not authorized by its delegated powers, the taxes needed to pay for such programs exceed the governments rightful claim on our wealth. (61)
  • What is a “fair share?” I believe that the requirements of justice here are perfectly clear: government has a right to claim an equal percentage of each man’s wealth, and no more. (61)
  • I do not believe in punishing success. To put it more broadly, I believe it is contrary to the natural right to property to which we have just alluded–and is therefore immoral–to deny to the man whose labor has produced more abundant fruit than that of his neighbor the opportunity of enjoying the abundance he has created. (61-62)
  • The graduated tax is a confiscatory tax. Its effect, and to a large extent its aim, is to bring down all men to a common level. (62)
  • I believe that as a practical matter spending cuts must come before tax cuts. If we reduce taxes before firm, principled decisions are made about expenditures, we will court deficit spending and the inflationary effects that invariably follow. (62-63)
  • I do mean to say, however, that neither of our political parties has seriously faced up to the problem of government spending. … The root evil is that the government is engaged in activities in which is has no legitimate business. (65)
  • The only way to curtail spending substantially, is to eliminate the programs on which excess spending is consumed. (66)
  • The government must begin to withdraw from a whole series of programs that are outside its constitutional mandate–from social welfare programs, education, public power, agriculture, public housing, urban renewal and all the the other activities that can be better performed by lower levels of government or by private institutions or by individuals. (66)
  • By reducing taxes and spending we will not only return to the individual the means with which he can assert his freedom and dignity, but also guarantee to the nation the economic strength that will always be its ultimate defense against foreign foes. (67)
  • Socialism-through-Welfarism poses a far greater danger to freedom than Socialism-through-Nationalization precisely because it is more difficult to combat. The evils of Nationalization are self-evident and immediate. Those of Welfarism are veiled and tend to be postponed. People can understand the consequences of turning over ownership of the steel industry, say, to the State; and they can be counted on to oppose such a proposal. But let the government increase its contribution to the “Public Assistance” program and we will, at most grumble, about excessive government spending. The effect of Welfarism on freedom will be felt later on–after its beneficiaries have become its victims, after dependence on government has turned into bondage and it is too late to unlock the jail. (70-71)
  • Conservatism is through unless Conservatives can demonstrate and communicate the difference between being concerned with these problems and believing that the federal government is the proper agent for their solution. (71)
  • Indeed, this is one of the great evils of Welfarism–that it transforms the individual from a dignified, industrious, self-reliant spiritual being into a dependent animal creature without his knowing it. (73)
  • I agree with lobbyists for federal school aid that education is one of the great problems of our day. I am afraid, however, that their views and mine regarding the nature of the problem are many miles apart. They tend to see the problem in quantitative terms–not enough schools, not enough teachers, not enough equipment. I think it has more to do with quality: How good are the schools we have? Their solution is to spend more money. Mine is to raise standards. Their recourse is to the federal government. Mine is to the local public school board, the private school, the individual citizen–as far away from the federal government as one can possibly go. (76)
  • The truth, of course, is that the federal government has no funds except those it extracts from the taxpayers who reside in the various States. (80)
  • The money that the federal government pays to State X for education has been taken from the citizens of State X in federal taxes and comes back to them, minus the Washington brokerage fee. (80)
  • … federal aid to education inevitably means federal control of education. (81)
  • In the main, the trouble with American education is that we have put into practice the educational philosophy expounded by John Dewey and his disciples. (83)
  • Responding to the Deweyite attack on the methods of teaching, we have encouraged the teaching profession to be more concerned with how a subject is taught than with what is taught. (83)
  • We have forgotten that the proper function of the school is to transmit the cultural heritage of one generation to the next generation, and to so train the minds of the new generation as to make them capable of absorbing ancient learning and applying it to the problem of its own day. (84)
  • We should look upon our schools–not as a place to train the “whole character” of the child–a responsibility that properly belongs to his family and church–but to train his mind. (84)
  • If an enemy power is bent on conquering you, and proposes to turn all of his resources that that end, he is at war with you; and you–unless you contemplate surrender–are at war with him. (89)
  • But the Constitution does not empower our government to undertake that job in foreign countries, no matter how worthwhile it might be. Therefore, except as it can be shown to promote America’s national interests, the Foreign Aid program is unconstitutional. (95)
  • For many years now, our allies in Western Europe have devoted smaller portions of their national budgets to military forces than we have. The result is that the American people, in the name of military aid, have been giving an economic handout to these nations; we have permitted them to transfer their domestic economy funds which, in justice, should have been used in the common defense effort. (96)
  • Our present Foreign Aid program, in sum, is not only ill-administered, but ill-conceived. It has not, in the majority of cases, made the free world stronger; it has made America weaker.” (99)
  • Unlike America, the Communists do not respect the UN and do not permit their policies to be affected by it. (113)
  • Not so with us; we would rather be approved than succeed, and so are likely to adjust our own views to conform with a United Nations majority. (113)
  • Finally, I fear that our involvement in the United Nations may be leading to an unconstitutional surrender of American sovereignty. (114)
  • In all our dealings with foreign nations, we must behave like a great power. Our national posture must reflect strength and confidence and purpose, as well as good will. We need not be bellicose, but neither should we encourage others to believe that American rights can be violated with impunity. We must protect American nationals and American property and American honor–everywhere. We may not make foreign peoples love us–no nation has ever succeeded in that–but we can make them respect us. And respect is the stuff of which enduring friendships and firm alliances are made. (119)
  • We must adopt a discriminating foreign aid policy. American aid should be furnished only to friendly, anti-Communist nations that are willing to join with us in the struggle for freedom. (119-20)

[Also published on SEMPER REFORMANDA]

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About Eric "Gunny" Hartman

Gunny is pastor of Providence Church in Plano, TX, and has taught at Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has completed coursework for a PhD in Rhetoric at University of Texas at Arlington and tries to be a good father to his 4 kiddos, exhibited by coaching a girls soccer team.

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