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The Conscience of a Conservative: The beliefs of today's most controversial politician—tomorrow he may be the most powerful man in the world

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,657 Ratings  ·  156 Reviews

In 1960, Barry Goldwater set forth his brief manifesto in The Conscience of a Conservative. Written at the height of the Cold War and in the wake of America's greatest experiment with big government, the New Deal, Goldwater's message was not only remarkable, but radical. He argued for the value and importance of conservative principles--freedom, foremost among them--in con

1st Britain Edition
Published 1964 by Fontana (first published 1960)
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Jun 07, 2016 Lotz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana, politics
I don’t like discussing politics. Much too often it seems to be an exercise in futility; almost everyone is convinced they’re right, and virtually nothing can convince them otherwise. As a consequence, political debates are hardly debates at all—just pompous mudslinging.

The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of us don’t choose our political beliefs; we adopt our values and ideologies from our social milieu. Yes, many of us do attempt to justify our beliefs later in life, after our int
Aug 25, 2008 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 see ...more
Nov 22, 2011 Marius rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting book, a throwback to the earliest stirrings of movement conservatism. I am a liberal who has become increasingly curious about why modern conservatism has become much less of an ideology and far more of a religion.

This book does the job.

Senator Goldwater's prose is excellent and even inspiring at times. His primary thesis is that the expansion of individual freedom is the primary and only legitimate goal of government. The blueprint for the activities through which this
Barry Goldwater would have no place in the Republican party of today. His political thought here is far more in line with what most of us would classify as libertarian. To hear any modern republican claiming Barry Goldwater is a clear example of ignorance speaking or outright lies. The neocons and the religious right should read this book and either come clean about not being truly conservative, or straighten themselves out.This book is basically a statement of Goldwater's position on various to ...more
Feb 21, 2014 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when it was originally published in 1961, I think. I had the opportunity to work on the Goldwater campaign as a 16 year old volunteer specializing in passing out flyers, drinking beer and talking up Republican young ladies. Goldwater's ideas were characterized as radical at the time but he paved the way for Reagan's conservatism in 1980. He was a charismatic and inspirational speaker and leader and his ideas still resonate today.
Jul 01, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really opened my eyes to true Conservative principles-- unlike those that are presented by the modern Republican Party. Many of the ideas expressed in this book are very relevant to the problems we deal with today. That is, except for the last (and largest) chapter that dealt with the Soviet threat. I really appreciated all Mr. Goldwater put forth in this book and it will definitely shape the political decisions I will make in the future.
barry goldwater served alongside william f buckley as the father of a near unrecognizable conservativism by today's standards, and this book, the conscience of a conservative, functions as his manifesto. there's a lot to admire in here, not the least of which is goldwater's articulate and powerful defense of constitutional liberties and man's right to self-reliance and determination. his target is often the government itself, and the book's main thrust is that if the government can force relianc ...more
Alan   Mauldin
Dec 13, 2015 Alan Mauldin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I don't agree with much of what Goldwater has to say, he does say it in a straightforward and honest manner. And he does admit that Republicans even in his day were no more honest in cutting spending than they are today -- they just spend it in other ways.
He also pointed out that it is irresponsible to cut taxes before cutting spending.
"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 expendi
David Robins
Apr 28, 2010 David Robins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A true conservative, not like the perfidious neocons of late: for a strong defense, constitutionally limited government (anti-New Deal!), pro-labor (but against forced union shops), and against the welfare state and redistribution. What a massive improvement a Goldwater presidency would have been; how much better our country had he won in 1964!
Apr 15, 2015 Dionne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political
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 c
G. Branden
Feb 03, 2009 G. Branden rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: know-your-enemy
This book is not impressive given its near-scriptural reputation among conservatives, and is every bit the match of a contemporary political convention speech in terms of both puff and pabulum. There is practically no analytic depth on any of the numerous topics he (or, rather, his ghostwriter, L. Brent Bozell--see the front matter) forwards, and much of the book isn't even an argument, but just a recitation of assertions which are only weakly interrelated, if at all. Richard Posner (judge for t ...more
Robert Morrow
Mar 04, 2013 Robert Morrow rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I often read books written by people who have views that are vastly different than mine (I mean, what's the point of reading what you already agree with?). Still, I was hoping for at least a relatively intelligent presentation of the conservative viewpoint and was sorely disappointed. Everything pretty much boils down to "The Founding Fathers said it, so it must be right," which is as stupid as stupid gets. Conveniently ignoring that fact that we live in more complex society with somewhat more a ...more
Oct 07, 2008 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
George Will's latest compilation includes his foreward to this publication. His forward was compelling enough to motivate me to interrupt reading Will and take up this short piece.

I must confess that I was disappointed to find the book lacking (in my opinion) much of the substance required to offer a sense of "conscience" to traditional conservative political philosophy. I respect the work for its thorough and concise treatment of a variety of subjects central to contemporary conservative though
Feb 24, 2013 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, politics
As concise and lucid a summation of the basic tenants of conservative thought as you are likely to find anywhere. Much of this book is extremely prescient, and I was shocked by how well the book addresses so many of the hot-button social and economic issues Americans face today. With his chapter on the pitfalls of government stimulus packages, it almost feels as though Goldwater is confronting George W. Bush and Barack Obama head-on. The only section that's dated is the stuff pertaining to the a ...more
Dec 10, 2009 Jay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Was given this gratis at a dinner at the Goldwater Institute with Mary Matalin, Art Laffer and Jonah Goldberg. It had been 20+ years since I originally read it and it was along overdue revisit.

After 12 years in San Francisco, I have found myself marginalized politically and reluctant to admit that I am a conservative. I'm amazed at how applicable Goldwaters thoughts from 1960 are to todays political discourse and find myself reinvigorated for debate and once again proud to admit my political vie
Nate Cooley
Jun 25, 2008 Nate Cooley marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
What utter apostasy that John McCain now occupies the Senate seat that Barry Goldwater once held.

"The Conservative looks upon politics as the art of acheiving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of the social order ... The practice of freedom requires the establishment of order.... But ... the political power on which order is based is a self-aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with eating. [The Conservative] knows that the utmost vigilan
Jan 01, 2015 James rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read and keep in mind your getting duped by a couple of smarmy Yale-boys with much bigger intentions than this thing lets on. Good for plebs.
Sean Camoni
If I was not certain before, I am certain now: I am not a Conservative. That is not to say that I disagree with everything in this book, I don't. There are some ideas here that I share. The core values, however, are not mine, and the thinking is largely focused on protecting the freedoms of people who have the means and wherewithal to exercise it. It also ignores all threats to freedom posed by individuals and corporate interests that amass economic power through hoarding of wealth. For example, ...more
Jul 29, 2014 Nate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is great and really should be read by anyone with even the slightest interest in how the pendulum of politics swings. That is was authored over 50 years ago makes this not so much a political book-although it could still be seen as that-but rather a historical timepiece for what it meant to be a conservative in 1960, and how that political history relates to today. From there you can reflect about the fundamentals of the belief system, how it handled the issues of the day, and about ho ...more
Tony Beard
Jul 02, 2015 Tony Beard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having been born only a few years prior to Senator Barry Goldwater leaving office, I must say that I was largely unfamiliar with him until the last few years. As I went deeper into my conservative/libertarian views on politics, I realized what an important forerunner he was to Ronald Reagan. I've watched Reagan's speech, "A Time for Choosing" from 1964 a number of times. As I looked into many of the early leaders of the conservative movement, Goldwater, Russell Kirk, William Buckley, etc., I kne ...more
Dec 26, 2011 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Feeling enlightened by my first ever reading of this book. There is plenty to disagree with like Goldwater's stance on civil rights but it's a thoughtful read for a conservative. Fav part for me was his narrative on labor, something that especially resonates w me. This is a real classic and I wish I had read it earlier.
Rusty Booth
Mar 29, 2016 Rusty Booth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's easy to forget while reading this, what year we are actually in and when this was first published.

It's small and fast to read, but greatly informative about one man's political philosophy that essentially started the Conservative movement.

The only updating that needs is the addition of thesignificance of radical jihadist movements instead of the Cold War Soviet threat.

it's scary how both sides of the aisle including our president have made us less safe, vulnerable and on the verge of collap
Apr 14, 2009 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes politics
Dated? Yes.
Full of ideas that I think range from crazy to mind boiling? Yes.

Important? Definitely.

Even if you disagree with everything Goldwater stood for, it's still arguably one of the more important books about the United States and US Politics.
Matt Griffith
I read this book in an effort to challenge my own viewpoints. While I empathize with some of the senators views, I believe that most of his ideology is very impulsive, and reactionary. The conscious of a conservative hits a chord with some people because it plays on seemingly dogmatic laws of economics, and freedom. If you accept that the free market and a conservative reading of the constitution are God given laws of the universe, then Goldwater makes some sense. I also respect that his convict ...more
Robert Brightwell
This book is getting a little long in the tooth but there are still some very good points being made. It is interesting how many issues from 1960 are still issues today.
Michael Stumborg
Aug 08, 2015 Michael Stumborg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: liberals, conservatives
Since Mrs. Clinton was a Goldwater Girl when she enrolled in college, I couldn’t write Hillary Clinton's Village without exploring Conscience of a Conservative . Compact and concise, you can finish this book over one big cup of coffee (OK, you may need one refill). It is a remarkably straightforward articulation of why local solutions are superior to federal programs. It leaves you to wonder how much better off America would be today if Senator Goldwater had beaten President Johnson in 1964 ...more
Jul 15, 2015 Ryan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Goldwater's ideas are sound for the most part. He puts forward his reasoning for being a Conservative, which basically hinges on an inherent freedom to keep decision making and contributions to society in the hands of individuals.
He recommends doing this by keeping the federal government small and uninvolved, so as to preserve the "soul" of an individual.
Good ideas, but a little dated. The last third of the book deals with the "Soviet Menace" and is mostly a historical look at reasons that som
Brett Thomasson
The Barry Goldwater/L. Brent Bozell collaboration The Conscience of a Conservative sits with Ronald Reagan's 1964 speech nominating the Arizona senator for president as one of the twin pillars of the modern conservative movement. They gave conservative thinking an energized new direction -- in addition to talking about all of the things that conservatives didn't want changed, they began to explain why.

Goldwater's 1960 book made one of the strongest and clearest connections between conservatism a
I have read this three times, it is amazing it was written in the l ate 50's, it is so correct

This book is one of the best I have ever read period!
As you work your way through it you will be blown away at how Senator Goldwater could have correctly predicted the events of our nation today, and write this in the lat 1950's.
Chapter 9 alone on Education is eye opening as he nails us going down the wrong path in 2014 more then 50 years ago.
This book is on my must read yearly list
Steve Scott
Aug 13, 2014 Steve Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Goldwater's 1960 work could, with little modification, be a manual for the modern Tea Party movement. If one modified his chapter on the threat of communism and replaced it with the threats of militant Islam, it would fit their agenda perfectly.

Goldwater was a military hawk, believed that the federal government had no place in education, was anti-union, and decried the welfare state. The work isn't buttressed with footnotes or data, and he does nothing to defend or support his statements. I foun
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American business man, Senator for Arizona & Republican presidential candidate.

Goldwater was Senator for Arizona from 1953–65 & 1969–87.

In 1964 he ran for president for the Republican party, his campaign was based on states rights, fiscal conservatism and militant anti-communism.

Goldwater is the politician most often credited for sparking the resurgence of the American conservative politic
More about Barry M. Goldwater...

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“‎"I feel certain that Conservatism is through unless Conservatives can demonstrate and communicate the difference between being concerned with [the unemployed, the sick without medical care, human welfare, etc.] and believing that the federal government is the proper agent for their solution.” 11 likes
“Surely the first obligation of a political thinker is to understand the nature of man. The Conservative does not claim special powers of perception on this point, but he does claim a familiarity with the accumulated wisdom and experience of history, and he is not too proud to learn from the great minds of the past. The first thing he has learned about man is that each member of the species is a unique creature. Man’s most sacred possession is his individual soul—which has an immortal side, but also a mortal one. The mortal side establishes his absolute differentness from every other human being. Only a philosophy that takes into account the essential differences between men, and, accordingly, makes provision for developing the different potentialities of each man can claim to be in accord with Nature. We have heard much in our time about “the common man.” It is a concept that pays little attention to the history of a nation that grew great through the initiative and ambition of uncommon men. The Conservative knows that to regard man as part of an undifferentiated mass is to consign him to ultimate slavery.” 3 likes
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