Conscience of a Conservative

by Barry Goldwater

Entire book online, here:

Mandatory reading for all who love America. 


THIS BOOK is not written with the idea of adding to or improving on the Conservative philosophy. Or of “bringing it up to date.” The ancient and tested truths that guided our Republic through its early days will do equally well for us. The challenge to Conservatives today is quite simply to demonstrate the bearing of a proven philosophy on the problems of our own time.

I should explain the considerations that led me to join in this effort. I am a politician, a United States Senator. As such, I have had an opportunity to learn something about the political instincts of the American people, I have crossed the length and breadth of this great land hundreds of times and talked with tens of thousands of people, with Democrats and Republicans, with farmers and laborers and businessmen. I find that America is fundamentally a Conservative nation. The preponderant judgment of the American people, especially of the young people, is that the radical, or Liberal, approach has not worked and is not working. They yearn for a return to Conservative principles.

At the same time, I have been in a position to observe firsthand how Conservatism is faring in Washington. And it is all too clear that in spite of a Conservative revival among the people the radical ideas that were promoted by the New and Fair Deals under the guise of Liberalism still dominate the councils of our national government.

In a country where it is now generally understood and proclaimed that the people’s welfare depends on individual self reliance rather than on state paternalism. Congress annually deliberates over whether the increase in government welfarism should be small or large.

In a country where it is now generally understood and proclaimed that the federal government spends too much, Congress annually deliberates over whether to raise the federal budget by a few billion dollars or by many billion.

In a country where it is now generally understood and proclaimed that individual liberty depends on de­centralized government, Congress annually deliberates over whether vigorous or halting steps should be taken to bring state government into line with federal policy.

In a country where it is now generally understood and proclaimed that Communism is an enemy bound to destroy us, Congress annually deliberates over means of “co-existing” with the Soviet Union.

And so the question arises: Why have American people been unable to translate their views into appropriate political action? Why should the nation’s underlying allegiance to Conservative principles have failed to produce deeds in Washington?

I do not blame my brethren in government, all of whom work hard and conscientiously at their jobs. I blame Conservatives — ourselves — myself. Our failure, as one Conservative writer has put it, in the failure of the Conservative demonstration. Though we Conservatives are deeply persuaded that our society is ailing, and know that Conservatism holds the key to national salvation — and feel sure the country agrees with us — we seem unable to demonstrate the practical relevance of Conservative principles to the needs of the day. We sit by impotently while Congress seeks to improvise solutions to problems that are not the real problems facing the country, while the government attempts to assuage imagined concerns and ignores the real concerns and real needs of the people.

Perhaps we suffer from an over-sensitivity to the judgments of those who rule the mass communications media. We are daily consigned by “enlightened” commentators to political oblivion: Conservatism, we are told, is out- of-date. The charge is preposterous and we ought boldly to say so. The laws of God, and of nature, have no date­line. The principles on which the Conservative political position is based have been established by a process that has nothing to do with the social, economic and political landscape that changes from decade to decade and from century to century. These principles are derived from the nature of man, and from the truths that God has revealed about His creation. Circumstances do change. So do the problems that are shaped by circumstances. But the principles that govern the solution of the problems do not. To suggest that the Conservative philosophy is out of date is akin to saying that the Golden Rule, or the Ten Commandments or Aristotle Politics are out of date. The Conservative approach is nothing more or less than an attempt to apply the wisdom and experience and the revealed truths of the past to the problems of today. The challenge is not to find new or different truths, but to learn how to apply established truths to the problems of the contemporary world. My hope is that one more Conservative voice will be helpful in meeting this challenge.

This book is an attempt to bridge the gap between theory and practice. I shall draw upon my speeches, the radio and television broadcasts and the notes I have made over the years in the hope of doing what one is often unable to do in the course of a harried day’s work on the Senate floor: to show the connection between Conservative principles so widely espoused, and Conservative action, so generally neglected.


3 Responses to Conscience of a Conservative

  1. […] Republic and Conservatism inseparable & interdependent […]

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