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The Conscience of a Conservative
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112 of 131 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2003
"The challenge to Conservatives today is quite simply to demonstrate the bearing of a proven philosophy on the problems of our own time," notes Barry Goldwater in his introduction. The problems from 1960 that Mr. Goldwater chose as topics for his book were: States' Rights, Civil Rights, Freedom for the Farmer, Freedom for Labor, Taxes and Spending, The Welfare State, Education and the Soviet Menace.
His thoughts later became political gospel for conservative activists and a measuring stick against which politicians were held to see if they were truly conservative. One such prominent conservative activist, Phyllis Schlafly, stated: "It is hard to overestimate the importance of Barry Goldwater to the conservative movement. If there hadn't been a Barry Goldwater, there wouldn't have been a Ronald Reagan."
A closer look at what Mr. Goldwater wrote in 1960 convinces one that he would still have plenty to say today. His barbs would target both Democrats and Republicans. Perhaps it's discovering the barbs he would have tossed at today's Republicans that makes reading this book full of surprises.
States' rights formed a cornerstone to Barry Goldwater's conservative thought. Although the States' rights to permit slavery were ended by war and constitutional amendment, Goldwater saw no such restrictions on a state's right to keep racially segregated schools. Simply put: "no powers regarding education were given the federal government" and "it has never been seriously argued ... that the authors of the Fourteenth Amendment intended to alter the Constitutional scheme with regard to education. ... I therefore support all efforts by the States ... to preserve their rightful powers over education." (p.35) The Bush Administration supports a court challenge to the University of Michigan's policy of giving African Americans racial preferences in admissions. Mr. Goldwater would shout "NO" to this interference. You can't have it both ways: supporting States' rights when they result in segregated schools, and opposing them when they result in greater African American enrolments.
Goldwater further proclaimed: "federal intervention in education is unconstitutional" and "the alleged need for federal funds (for education) has never been convincingly demonstrated." (p. 79) It's doubtful if Barry Goldwater would have supported the Bush Administration's much touted educational initiative, the "No Child Left Behind Act," which involves the federal government in policy-making and funding.
Forty years ago Barry Goldwater led the conservative attack on federal tax and related spending policies. Faced with the Bush Administration's tax cuts and its disregard for ensuing deficits, Barry would be fuming. He wrote: "While there is something to be said for the proposition that spending will never be reduced so long as there is money in the federal treasury, 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." (p. 65)
Finally, Goldwater called for "prompt and final termination of the farm subsidy program." (p. 43) He considered it unconstitutional. Last May President Bush boosted U.S. crop and dairy subsidies by 67 percent by signing a $51.7 billion farm law.
Mr. Goldwater's analysis of the Soviet menace also makes fascinating reading in our post-Soviet world.
First, he opposed the U.S. halt to nuclear testing. Tests were "needed to develop tactical nuclear weapons for possible use in limited wars" (p. 112). Barry Goldwater believed that limited nuclear wars were almost inevitable, for they provided our only answer to superior Communist conventional military power. Moreover, the U.S. government was tricked into halting tests. "Our government was originally pushed into suspending tests by Communist-induced hysteria on the subject of radio-active fallout." (p.113). I'm sure Mr. Goldwater would be among the first to rejoice that his worst fears were wrong.
Second, Barry Goldwater opposed our official exchange programs with the Soviet Union, even though they received major support in some Republican circles (Eisenhower, Nixon and Kissenger). Exchanges would lull Americans into accepting Communism and reduce our willingness to make sacrifices to halt Communist expansion. (p.108) I think, however, it can now be argued that these exchange programs played a major role in undermining the Soviet Union by creating a core of internal opposition. Many Soviet citizens who saw the West first hand on official exchanges later risked the "knock on the door" in opposing Communism. They are the unsung individuals who "won" the Cold War. Ironically, Mr. Goldwater's vocal opposition to these exchange programs probably made it easier to gain support for them within the Soviet bureaucracy.
Upon finishing Mr. Goldwater's book, it appears to me that Conservatives are still being challenged to "demonstrate the bearing of a proven philosophy" today, especially to many Republicans. On turning the last page, I was left wondering, if the Bush Administration fails so many of Goldwater's litmus tests for Conservatism, who are the Conservatives today?
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2006
At just over 100 pages, this brisk handbook for Conservative political thought impressed me by its constant recourse to the sanctity of the US Constitution, and by its thorough enumeration of the ways in which the federal government has trespassed into areas forbidden it by that same founding document. It is clear that these repeated violations of the Constitution, carried out by both Democrats and Republicans (as Goldwater assiduously points out), have spoiled the Senator's good mood. Yet Goldwater has written here a gentleman's treatise. There is no partisan venom, just good, clean, political argumentation from a man who feared, in 1960, that decades of growth in federal power had taken the nation down the wrong path in several areas of public policy, and that this same growth in government was already strangulating individual freedom and sapping the souls of those dependent on government welfare.

Goldwater presents what he perceives to be a striking contrast between the mode of thought of politicians in the 1960s and that of the radiant group who founded this country. On the one hand, at least one Republican of Goldwater's generation was quoted as saying "The underlying philosophy. . .is that if a job has to be done to meet the needs of the people, and no one else can do it, then it is the proper function of the federal government." Goldwater shows how this kind of intellectually lazy rhetoric is actually a declaration of the first principle of absolutism--that the State is competent to do all things--and is a repudiation of the Constitution itself, which defines many spheres of activity (education, agriculture, even some forms of foreign aid) as being expressly outside the power of the federal government.

There are some real gems here, particularly Goldwater's grasp of the beginnings of judicial over-reach and the Supreme Court's end run around democracy and local decision-making. The 1954 Brown v. Board decision to desegregate public schools might well have been motivated by the best intentions, but it was, Goldwater reminds us, an un-Constitutional intrusion by a branch of the federal government into a domain that is off-limits to federal power. Indeed, the majority opinion in Brown v. Board acknowledged that the Court's decision long-jumped over the Constitution, since the "equal protection" clause in the 14th Amendment, which the Court used to strike down desegregation of schools, didn't apply to education. As Goldwater writes, "In effect, the Court said that what matters is not the ideas of the men who wrote the Constitution, but the Court's ideas." Of course, Americans tend to ignore the abuse of 1954 because segregation was so odious, but the lesson is that once a citizenry permits the Court to impose its ideas exta-legally, the same thing will happen in the future, but producing, potentially, wildly contested rulings.

Goldwater concludes this book with a brief (actually, it's one of the longer chapters in the book) chapter on "The Soviet Menace". I believe it would be fascinating to sit down with someone versed in military tactics/military history/Cold War history to discuss the merits of Goldwater's proposals for defeating the Soviet Union. There is no question Mr. Goldwater espoused a hard-line, aggressive, offensive-minded policy, kind of like throwing two punches at the Russian Bear for every paw swipe he took at us. Goldwater goes on record as saying he likely would have used tactical nuclear weapons to assists the Hungarians in 1956. Whoa, damn. . .that's a slippery slope that I personally might not have been willing to ascend had I been a voter when Barry Goldwater ran for president.

In closing, let me just say that is a great tutorial for conservative thought, with conservative principles lucidly explained in the context of certain policy issues (education, agriculture, taxation) that were front-and-center when Goldwater wrote this book. Mr. Goldwater strikes me as a rugged individual who does not compromise on principle. This book was a delight to read.
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144 of 186 people found the following review helpful
I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. -Barry Goldwater (1964 Republican Convention Acceptance Speech)
If, as Oscar Wilde opined, homosexuality is "the love that dare not speak its name," then we might say that Conservatism is "the political philosophy that dare not speak the truth." Liberals are wont to bathe the masses in comforting but demonstrably false platitudes, because at the root of their political philosophy they maintain a series of fictions, like: (1) we're all essentially equal--all differences in intelligence, ability, etc. are a function of external factors and these external factors can be corrected by government; or, (2) all problems, both international and domestic, are soluble by government action because basically we all really have each others best interests at heart, we just sometimes need a push from Big Brother to realize it; and so on. Conservatism meanwhile is based on a set of somewhat ugly truths, derived from hard experience: (1) the natural state of man, like that of other animals, is one of competition, not cooperation; (2) it is because this competition was so brutal, often fatal, that men reluctantly gave up some measure of freedom, in order to establish a government to protect them from one another; (3) government, foreign and domestic, is now the greatest threat to man, because those governments will seek ever increasing levels of control over human behavior; and so on. Obviously, conservatives are left with a harder sell here.
Therefore, while conservative academics express themselves openly, you very seldom hear conservative politicians present their ideas in simple unvarnished fashion; for the most part it gets dressed up in warm fuzzy language. Every once in a while though, especially in times of great crisis, someone will step forward and actually enunciated conservative values in blunt terms--modern instances include: Herbert Hoover in his post presidency phase; Charles Lindbergh and the America First movement; George S. Patton during WWII; Robert Taft after the War; Barry Goldwater in the early '60s; Ronald Reagan from 1962 to 1988; and Alan Keyes today. Significantly, most of these men were either destroyed personally or were denied the opportunity to exercise real power, either by voters or by party power brokers. For all the noble cant about how voters wish that politicians were more truthful, their actions at the voting booth tend to indicate the opposite. They would much rather be comforted than confronted.
It is against this backdrop that we must consider Barry Goldwater's seminal treatise The Conscience of a Conservative. And it is only once we understand these circumstances that we can appreciate how significant a book it was; in fact, it may be the single most important written work of ideology ever produced by a practicing American politician of any real stature. Considered first merely in terms of the audience it reached, only Tom Paine's pamphlets can be said to provide it any competition for popularity. Adjusted for population size, it is probably true that Paine's Common Sense is the best selling political treatise in the nation's history, but it is also true that Paine, though obviously political, was not truly a politician, at least not an office seeker. It is also the case that Presidents and presidential contenders have written bestselling books dealing with politics, but they tend not to be ideological. Instead they are wifty things like JFK's ghost written bit of self serving puffery, Profiles in Courage, or Nixon's eminently forgettable, Six Crises. Of course, ex-President Ulysses S. Grant wrote one of the great memoirs of all time, but he did not even deal with his presidency therein. The GOP did issue its Contract with America prior to the 1994 Congressional elections (a document which borrowed from Goldwater's book and philosophy), but there was no single national candidate behind that text (and its elements had been tested in opinion polls prior to inclusion in the final draft). No, there has really only been one great political treatise promulgated by a single man and then used as a campaign platform. For that reason alone, you would think this book would still be in print and be a subject of academic study.
Even more remarkable is the fact that almost all of the book is still topical today. On the very first page, Goldwater talks about his annoyance at Republican leaders who feel compelled to call themselves "progressive Conservatives" or, as he quotes then Vice President Nixon: "Republican candidates should be economic conservatives, but conservatives with a heart." This discussion so closely parallels current Conservative angst over George W. Bush's use of the term "compassionate Conservative" that it's almost spooky. In his discussion of taxes, he comes out in favor of a flat tax in terms that presage Steve Forbes:
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.
Pessimism is a sort of occupational hazard for conservatives. There's a tendency to say that things are always in decline from an imagined ideal point in the past. But men like Goldwater and Reagan recast conservatism in a much more forward looking mold and made it a philosophy of human progress and their vision has largely prevailed. We won the Cold War, cut and flattened taxes, reformed Welfare, started returning power to the states, etc., etc., etc... But as you read this book and realize that we're still fighting all of the same fights, you realize how little has actually been accomplished. I still believe that Goldwater is largely right--the future of America will be basically fiscally conservative and socially libertarian--but it will always be a struggle, one we're often losing. This slender impassioned polemic remains an important statement of the principles which should guide our public policy and its very immediacy and relevance amply demonstrate Goldwater's continuing political significance. He is without a doubt the most influential losing candidate in the history of presidential politics, one of the seminal figures in American political thought in the second half of the 20th Century, and his influence may well extend far into the 21st Century.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2008
As the political season is upon us, I recently decided to read Barry Goldwater's "The Conscience of a Conservative." I was a bit surprised at what I read. There was little concern for the social agenda which has dominated conservative conversations in recent years. One might argue that back in 1960 at the book's writing, the "culture wars" were not on anyone's radar screen. Even in later life, however, Goldwater sparred intensely with religious and social conservatives. Their agenda does not seem to be Goldwater's.

Goldwater's agenda is freedom. His primary observation of human nature is its diversity. Each human being is unique, and it is the responsibility of each individual to realize his or her full potential. When government must exercise control, that action should occur at the most local level possible. Politics, for Goldwater, is "the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of the social order" (pg 5). In modern parlance, Goldwater is probably more libertarian than conservative.

Every other concern of Goldwater flows out of this agenda of freedom--the defeat of the Soviet Union, his reverence for the rule of law, the importance of federalism, his opposition to federal welfare programs, and his disagreement with court decisions and legislation on desegregation. The last is probably the most controversial. Goldwater agrees with the proposition that racial segregation in schools is wrong, but he believes that Brown vs. Board of Education is wrongly decided as an encroachment of the federal courts on what is a state issue. For some, they view Goldwater's position as an issue in semantics hiding racism. Others saw a man who desegregated his family department stores and worked to end segregation in the Arizona National Guard and in the schools and restaurants of Phoenix. Those facts, alas, are not in the book. Nonetheless, one still wonders how the agenda of freedom applied to unenforced civil right laws dating back to Reconstruction or the judicial activism of "separate but equal."

In the preface of my edition, George Will suggests that Goldwater's conservatism was greatly influenced by his Arizona upbringing. The spirit of the West certainly promotes individualism and a desire for limitless opportunity. Perhaps, being raised in Texas, I found some attraction in Goldwater's agenda of freedom. Moreover, I agree with Goldwater that there are human needs for which the government cannot provide. Unfortunately, since this book was about government, Goldwater had little to say about meeting those needs. Goldwater is silent on what is most important. Similarly, the Declaration of Independence hails the importance of the "pursuit of happiness" but is silent on what happiness actually is. Apparently, the individual has the freedom to decide. This isn't a criticism of the book, but it reminds me that politics isn't the source of my salvation. Instead, a free society merely gives me the opportunity to seek it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2006
While written over four decades ago, this book is still topical today, and not surprisingly so. For anyone interested in politics, it is a necessary read. In all honesty, any liberal should read this book to get an understanding of the conservative mindset. While, I, as a conservative, disagree on a few points with Goldwater, I still found the book enlightening and a worthwhile read. It strenghtened my own arguments and my own conservatism. The same will be the case for a liberal who reads this book. It's true what they say: keep your friends close and your enemies closer. If you are in any way interested in politics, you owe to yourself to give this book a read.

Goldwater's writing style is simple and straightforward. It is very logical and stays to the point. Impressively, he is able to maintain the attention of the reader without using significant humor or anecdotes. He tells you what he believes and leaves it for you to decide.

Perhaps the best part of this book is that it is not a forum for liberal bashing or conservative praising. The truth is that he is critical of both sides. He doesn't absolve Republicans who have engaged in the expansion of the government as he doesn't absolve likeminded Democrats. He warns of the Soviet threat and the dangers of Communism. He simply states what he believes and what he has observed. While it is simple in flavor, you will appreciate the fact that it really doesn't have a political agenda, especially now, over four decades later.

It's short, concise, and to the point. Read it, especially the first chapter. You will not regret it.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 9, 2008
This new edition of the modern classic statement of conservative principles is both welcome and important.

As the forward by George Will and the afterward by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., both point out, the principles of conservatism-- and even the very label "conservative"-- have been hijacked by the modern Republican party's leaders. They both correctly point out that Barry Goldwater would be horrified by what is happening today in the name of conservatism. That's because as he saw it, the single function of the American system should be to maximize the freedom enjoyed as a birthright by every individual in order to allow each individual to achieve to his or her maximum potential.

Obviously, it's possible to disagree with some (or even most) of the specific positions Goldwater takes. But it's not really possible to disagree with his definition of and explication of conservative principles. Equally obviously, there is virtually nothing being done in the name of conservatism today that fits the definition Goldwater establishes, mostly because the "big government conservatives" and the religious social conservatives they are allied with are interested in expanding government power over individuals in order to achieve the social aims they seek. The neoconservative chicken-hawks are interested in projecting American military power to every corner of the world to achieve the geopolitical aims they seek.

None of these people have the least interest in maximizing individual liberty. The enormity of the opportunity that was lost as the conservative movement that Goldwater galvanized was hijacked is staggering.

In addition, Goldwater was an exemplar of the kind of politics that simply don't exist today. He was passionate in his beliefs, often abrupt and even abrasive in his delivery, and occasionally profane. But he was never mean, small, or personally insulting. Indeed, in the run-up to the 1964 election, Goldwater and President John Kennedy were thinking of travelling together around the country to engage in dozens of debates about the issues of the day. What an odd idea: the people running for President should talk about the issues and argue directly with one another! No swift-boat ads, no religious tub-thumping, no dirty tricks; just real political dialog.

What could have been...
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2005
...can be found in this short volume by the late Arizona Senator and former Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Though the present writer has read numerous works since coming across the volume by the late Senator currently being reviewed, this is the one that first begin impressing upon his (at the time quite youthful) mind the logic behind the authentically conservative view of the world, of mankind, and of the core differences between liberal socialism and authentic conservatism. In shorthand, the differences between those views can be well distinguished by noting what the Constitution actually allows for the federal government to do and and what it is not allowed to do.

The authentic conservative recognizes the restrictions (and if change is desired moves to do this through proper channels such as amending the Constitution) while the liberal socialist merely seeks to impose their views on others without respect for the rule of law in society. Whatever pretentions exist among those who think they are genuinely conservative in their outlooks but in varying ways are not (such as President Bush or Patrick Buchanan to name two examples), this is the book that for all intensive purposes ignited the modern conservative movement.

For it is The Conscience of a Conservative probably deserves a good share of the credit for Ronald Reagan (i) abandoning the Democratic Party in 1962 (ii) giving the defining speech "a time for choosing" in October of 1964 in support of Goldwater's candidacy for president and (iii) provided a solid foundation for Reagan to cultivate his own conservative outlook in his tenure as governor of California and in two major campaigns for president. (In 1976 and again in 1980 when he won the first of his two terms as president.)

It bears noting that while there is more to conservative philosophy than what is noted in this book, what is noted here is a good overview -showing the applicability of conservative principles to a host of issues outlined in chapters with titles such as "States' Rights", "Civil Rights", "Freedom for the Farmer", "Freedom for Labor", "Taxes and Spending", "The Welfare State", and "Education." A previous reviewer quoted a part of the book which this writer wants to reproduce here with some brief comments as they pertain to events subsequent to this book's initial publication runs:

"While there is something to be said for the proposition that spending will never be reduced so long as there is money in the federal treasury, 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." (p. 65)

This observation proved to be prophetic in what happened in the 1980's with the budget deficits. (Though not with inflation which came down dramatically in that decade.) Those who know their history are aware that President Reagan proposed a combination of across the board tax cuts. However, that was intended merely to spur on the economy in the short term and not as a long-term proposition in and of itself. The long term proposition for handling the deficit was raising taxes and cutting spending simultaneously -indeed President Reagan got Congress to agree to $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in taxes raised in 1982. Of course the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives never followed through with the promised spending cuts. And when taxes are cut and spending is not reduced at the same time, even when the dynamic (as opposed to static) effects that tax cuts have on an economy are considered, with evils such as "base line budgeting" in place long-term deficits are an inevitability.

Senator Goldwater recognized the problems of not equating tax cuts with spending cuts decades ago -only one of the many areas where this book proves itself to be somewhat prophetic. And it is nearly impossible to see the late Senator Goldwater being at all be happy with how a Republican controlled Congress and Republican president are handling these matters in 2005. Indeed, Senator Goldwater would not recognize himself in the Republican Party of today anymore than his friend the late Senator Hubert Humphrey would recognize himself in the Democratic Party of today. And this book contains ample instruction on how far these parties have strayed from their original principles. (As Goldwater notes towards the beginning of the book) the discomforting tendency of the Republican Party to mimic the Democratic Party preceding the publication of this book by a few decades.)

It was said that President Reagan in his last years did not remember much but he *did* remember not receiving those $3 in spending cuts from Congress for every $1 in tax raises he agreed to in the early 1980's. In light of how the Democrats pulled the same screwjob on President Bush Sr., one would think at some point the Republicans would wise up. They were on the receiving end of tax cuts without spending cuts accompanying them on two different occasions. We have seen them in the past four years do precisely what the Democrats did in the 1980's and 1990's. And since they have complete control of the purse strings, there is no excuse for what they are doing.

Unfortunately, the Republicans only seem to fight for core conservative principles when they are in a congressional minority. This is a trackrecord that had better change soon if they want to avoid losing control of Congress -particularly since attempts to get power back with running on conservative principles will backfire when their opponents point out just how unconservative the Republican congresses of the past four years (with a Republican president) have really been. (Though in truth they accomplished next to nothing of an authentically conservative agenda since taking control in 1994 -their rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding.) However, as this is detracting from the purpose of this review and this writer is looking like the Libertarian he is not, a short summation is in order for the benefit of those who read this review and are considering acquiring this book.

In summary, this book is a good starting reference for the authentic conservative position on many subjects. And authentic conservatism is something that seems to escape most people today who refer to themselves as "conservatives." With the exception of the final chapter of the book (titled "The Soviet Menace": a good read for historical perspective in the post-USSR world if nothing else these days), the rest of the book with only the most minor of editing could be reissued and be as serviceable a work in 2005 as it was in 1960. The only question remaining is if those with pretentions towards being "conservative" are really ready to listen to these things in 2005 that they were (to a significant extent) unwilling to listen to in 1960, 1970, 1980, or 1990.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 1999
Don't be fooled by the brevity of this book. Goldwater managed to hit a home run with his synopsis of conservative values. Many of today's conservatives owe their involvement in conservatism to Barry Goldwater. He is a forgotten hero.
Goldwater was derided in the 1980s for turning off social conservatives. Yet, the 1980s revealed Goldwater for what he really was - a libertarian. He was consistent in his belief that government ought not to be involved in our lives in any way, shape, or form. That included our bedrooms as well as our wallets.
He was a visionary who had keen insight on virtually every topic imaginable. Reading his three-decade-old book today is like reading yesterday's news. It is still pertinent and applicable. And there is still much to be learned from what he said and did.
No conservative can possibly go without reading this book. It is historical - a building block towards the Reagan 80s and the GOP Congress 90s. It belongs on the shelf of every political scientist (or junkie) as a reference on the conservative governing philosophy.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2008
I must first make clear that I am NOT any type of conservative by any stretch of the imagination. However, even as I do come from another time(i'm currently in my early twenties) and another position i do believe that i can fairly and objectively review this artifact of political history.
Having an interest in writers like Allan Bloom(Closing of the American Mind) and Saul Bellow(and generally the U. of Chicago/historical neoconservative crowd), a older retired friend of mine suggested I take up a reading of classic conservative literature to gain perspective. I must admit, I was born into liberal perspective(born into a vegetarian interacial non-religious family does that to you), so i've always had to do a bit of work of understanding the other side. So here it goes...
I must admit being impressed with the lucid nature of the arguementation and reasoning, along with the strong will and character that Mr. Goldwater worked to present in facing the troubles of the time he was writing. While some of the arguements come off as quite antiquated(such as the "states rights" position on segragation), others are quite timely. What really struck me was the question of whether or not today Mr. Goldwaters positions would fly with the modern republican party. I'm a political junkie and I rarely hear a arguement for the rights of states anymore. I can't imagine a modern politican citing Aristotle either. I can go as far as to say, there are things he's says that I like the position of, but today I can't imagine that the republican party today would have much of anything to do with them. It's interesting to me to consider where American politics might be today if the conservative political arena had kept a clear libertarian tone and not moved toward the often bizzare culture war idenity movement it seems to have metamorphasized into today.
Overall the tone is easy to read, and moves along quite rapidly. I enjoyed alot of the writing on facing the Soviet Union. The SU came tumbling down when I was in kindergarden, so its a mindset that almost no one in my generation has a clear working memory of. So besides the historical, I liked that he had a clear moral sense that didn't reek of vanity and stubborness, but more of someone who refused to water down a platform of opposition to the cruelty of Statlinism.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2006
I had heard about former Senator Goldwater's book, and how it has been hailed as a seminal book on conservative thought ever since it was released in 1960. But I never expected this slim little volume to be so well-written, clear-headed, precise, and illuminating. It felt as if someone had put my own thoughts and feelings about America and the Constitution on paper: as if I had written the book myself. "THE CONSCIENCE OF A CONSERVATIVE" is prophetic in many ways, or maybe it's just that things haven't really changed all that much when it comes to the political landscape of this country. Goldwater's argument for conservative principles is based on common sense reasoning according to the Constitution, and a predilection for preserving individual freedom while re-asserting the power of State's Rights. But apart from emphasizing the philosophy of the conservative position, Goldwater goes on to apply these conservative principles to every aspect of domestic and foreign policy: the stranglehold of big unions on individual freedom, the damage done by the liberal takeover of our public school system, the necessity for a sane taxation approach that is fair to everyone, and the horrible results of a "welfare state" mentality that is detrimental to a man's heart, mind, and soul. "CONSCIENCE OF A CONSERVATIVE" is mandatory reading for all Americans regardless of your political stance. It is refreshing to hear a voice of (dare I say it again?) common sense reasoning instead of shameful elitist pandering to emotion or a sound-bite speech of glib talking points. With the continued disintegration of the Democratic party, it is more important than ever for die-hard conservatives to take a good, hard look at the state of the Republican party and to continue the fight for individual freedom, State's Rights, and a limited (and thus more effecient) federal government. A true Republic is the only saving grace of a Capitalistic nation. Or, as Henry Adams once said: "Since a capitalistic system was chosen then it must be run with capital and by capitalist." To try and force a Socialist and/or Communist system upon a free market society is ludicrous and bound to fail unless the entire Constitution is rewritten, amended to redundancy, or thrown out altogether. And unfortunately, there are plenty of idiots in this country who secretly desire to do just that. Here's hoping we never again elect such traitors to our democracy.
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