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 o...moreThis 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 how much the conscience, for all sides, changes with time.
Initially I was surprised that Goldwater's lines aren't referenced more often in the conservative rhetoric today, for example "... man's political freedom is illusory if he is dependent for his economic needs on the State." What a poignant way to state a such a strong belief.
As you read on though, your head will tilt as all of the sudden you start to see complete contradictions of what are considered conservative values today. "I see no reason for labor unions-or corporations-to participate in politics. Both were created for economic purposes and their activities should be restricted accordingly." That only individuals "and individuals alone," should be able to make political contributions; that's not even left for today, that's far far left.
Read further and you'll see that although his insight on states' rights is strong, he uses civil rights as the crux (which, with the hindsight we now have, is probably about the worst issue he could have picked to use for his argument). That states should have the right to segregate, that the Brown decision was constitutionally wrong, that forcing integration won't work. As a reader with the luxury of decades of time away, you are able to analyze a constitutional purist from far more than just a philosophical perspective.
So that's why this book is great, it's not about who is right or wrong (although you'll find many ironies), it's about reflection. That these monolithic values all sides protest are not just pliable, but glacial: the more time passes, the more they move-albeit quite slowly.
You start to see the sides of politics as just people with simple views that are only mere reflections of the general public sentiment at the time. The last chapter, which spans nearly 1/3 of the book, is about how Communism is an enemy bound to destroy us and that we must take offensive action to eradicate it. If you want to skip that chapter due to a lack of relevance for today, just replace the word Communism with Immigration, or Terrorism from 10 years ago, and that should bring his words up to the 21st century.
Books like these can be polarizing though, so if you already have your 1 or 5 star rating ready after reading the title, it may not be for you. A level of neutrality and analysis is needed to appreciate this one.
For what it's worth, Goldwater would probably be considered more of a libertarian today, and if he could redefine (i.e. change) some of the values he wrote, he probably would; I would further guess that 54 years from now, in 2070, he'd probably want to do another re-vision of his conscience as well.(less)