Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Conscience of a Conservative (A Review)

Thus, for the American Conservative, there is no difficulty in identifying the day's overriding political challenge: it is to preserve and extend freedom.  As he surveys the various attitudes and institutions and laws that currently prevail in America, many questions will occur to him, but the Conservative's first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom?--Barry Goldwater
I've heard a lot about Barry Goldwater, but had never taken the time to read much about him.  During my study of the civil rights movement in the 50's and 60's, Goldwater's name came up.  Some accused him of voting against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and thus being against civil rights for African-Americans.

I did some research.  While researching, I came across his short book that I knew outlined the conservative movement.  I decided to read, Conscience of a Conservative and find out for myself his stance on civil rights.

While he did vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he wasn't a racist nor was he against African-Americans having civil rights.  Yet, I found his view on this lacking in compassion.

He argued in Chapter 4, that the Federal government shouldn't be involved in forcing states to abide by civil rights' laws.  But in the next chapter, he argues for federal legislation to "fix" the problem with farmers getting subsidies.

Why was it okay to push for new federal laws for farming, but not for the much more important issue of civil rights?  While studying the civil rights' movement, I was shocked at how racist some of the southern governors were.  There is no way African-Americans would've been treated equally in the south had they not be forced to by the federal government.

Yet, for the most part, I agreed with the rest of what he laid out in the book.  Below I will list the Chapters and a short description of them.  It is amazing how this book was written 55 years ago, and yet most of it still applies today.

Chapters:
Chapter 1--The Conscience of a Conservative
Chapter 2--The Perils of Power
Chapter 3--State's Rights
Chapter 4--And Civil Rights 
I've already addressed this issue.
Chapter 5--Freedom for the Farmer
Not much has changed on this issue in the past 55 years.  Most Republican Representatives are against subsidies for farmers (or anyone for that matter), but farmers make up a big percentage of conservative voters.  Thus, the representative continues to support farm subsidies to keep his constituents happy.
Chapter 6--Freedom for Labor
Goldwater was spot on in describing the problems with Unions, we are still having the same problems, although they have been weakened in some states like Wisconsin.
Chapter 7--Taxes and Spending
This too, of course, is the same today except the numbers have gotten drastically larger.
Chapter 8--The Welfare State
Again, the same today, except the number of people dependent has risen sharply.  We have implemented some reforms, but not even close to enough.
Chapter 9--Some Notes on Education
Chapter 10--The Soviet Menace
While the Soviet Union no longer exists, and the Cold War has been won, Goldwater's views on how to deal with them could be applied to today's War on Terror.

I highly recommend this book for all conservatives.  Goldwater is said to be The Most Consequential Loser in American Politics.  I think that is true.  Goldwater influenced Reagan (who had a lot more charisma), and Reagan ended up being able to apply a lot of Goldwater's principles and make the Republican party more conservative.

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