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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
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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

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  1,182 ratings  ·  125 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

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1st Britain Edition
Published 1964 by Fontana (first published 1960)
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James
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
G. Branden
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
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
Marius
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...more
Logophile
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
Andrew
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.
David Robins
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!
Aaron
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...more
Ed
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.
John
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
Jay
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...more
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...more
Nate Capone
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
Adam
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.
Stewart Sternberg
When one is reading this, I think it is important to place it in context, not just historical, but biographical. Goldwater would change his views tremendously through the years, and become far more socially progressive, to the point that he would be stoned today by many of those folks calling themselves Republicans.
Brendan Crowley
The start of modern conservitivism, reads like Ron Paul with a dollop of 1960 racial tension. This however is not the reason for the one star. The reason? The last two pages suggest policies which would expedite the distraction of the human race by nuclear arms. I finally understand the "Daisy" ad.o
David
Apr 14, 2009 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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.
Chris Mecham
Classical far-right lunacy. Utterly coherent and superficially sensible but extreme and antithetical to everything I believe. The granddaddy of the Tea Party.
Bryce Turner
I'm not a Goldwater (or any other type for that matter) conservative, but found this book very interesting and illuminating on how the modern conservative viewpoint developed. Goldwater delivers a conservative viewpoint that is concise and somewhat logical. Equally surprising is the fact that this conservative viewpoint feels fresh today. Given the nature of the modern political climate where James Dobson has equal influence as George Bush, a conservative viewpoint opposing prayer in school and...more
Steve Scott
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...more
Andy Sterkowitz
Note: I will not bother to waste time about interjecting my agreements/disagreements of political philosophy. I have more respect than that to waste anyone's time.

Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative is his carefully thought out philosophy and creedo of his conservative ideals. While I should state that I am not a conservative, I found his ideas to be clear and thought out. So bravo there.

And while I really detest political discussion these days because it’s become a pick-your-side battl...more
Jack
Goldwater's manifesto is surprisingly resonant with today's teaparty movement. At his core, Goldwater is a strict constitutionalist, not a historical "prototypical conservative" as he seems to claim. As he navigates various issues form states' rights, civil rights, agricultural aid, labor, and welfare, his guiding light is an unfailingly unimaginative and strict interpretation of the constitution. Goldwater hails the constitution as the end all be all of political beacons, and in doing so implic...more
Anna
Back in the day he was the man.

"Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival."

"There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when thre is no hope of victory, beause it is better to perish than live as slaves." Winston Churchill

"The first thing he (the...more
Peter
Goldwater (or Bozell, the ghostwriter) articulates a vision of conservatism that we now consider to be more along the lines of modern libertarianism. Ironically, the political philosophy espoused within this book was ultimately used as a platform for Reagan, who made pronouncements such as "government isn't the answer to our problems, government is the problem," while concurrently expanding government influence significantly.
I have to say that I admired the authors arguments for their strict co...more
Matthew
Berry Goldwater was an interesting character. But this book wasn't a biography for that I will point you to Wikipedia. This book, The Conscience of a Conservative, was written in 1960 when many shifts were taking place in American politics. The New Deal Coalition, though waning, was continuing their fight to bring about radical change to the country, the "conservative" Republicans were capitulating, and the Cold War was in full swing and here is Mr. Conservative fighting it and laying out why an...more
Jeff Carpenter
Published in 1960, this book is as relevant today as it was then. While reading this book, when not encountering dates or dollar amounts, it is easy to forget that this book is 51 years old. Mr. Goldwater comes across as a strict constitutionalist, although this is not the popular platform of the Republican party today, some people, myself included, believe it ought to be. Whether you call it conservativism, libertarianism, or Republican, it is basically common sense,imho.
Students of political s...more
Skylar Burris
When George W. Bush ran for the Republican presidential nomination as a “compassionate conservative,” I knew, without ever having read Conscience of a Conservative, that he did not understand conservatism as “a comprehensive political philosophy” (to use Barry Goldwater’s words). I suspected then that Bush’s so-called “compassionate” conservatism would bear little resemblance to the political philosophy I associate with conservatism. It is timely that this edition of Conscience of a Conservative...more
Sam Webster
I have studied far too much history to ever fall into the trap of saying that the politics of the past used to be better, and I will not do so here. The politics of the past were just a divisive and just a dirty as they are now, and it is a sort of folly to wish for a return to values and practices that we have idealized, but which never really existed. I will say, however, that Barry Goldwater was a different breed of politician. There were few like him in his day and there are few now, but eve...more
Kevin Bensema
Though wikipedia informs me that Mr. Goldwater was an Episcopalian, the first thing that struck me about his book was how *Catholic* some of his logic was. He references subsidiarity, talks about natural law, and makes the case for Conservatism as serving not only the material but spiritual needs of a man.

Barry Goldwater puts his philosophy of government in very simple, if not rigorously defined, terms - liberty should be maximized insofar as the preservation of social order allows. He then arg...more
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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.” 8 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.” 1 likes
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