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The Conscience of a Conservative

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  2,051 Ratings  ·  191 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

Paperback, 127 pages
Published 1964 by MacFadden Capitol Hill (first published 1960)
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Roy Lotz
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 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
Oct 23, 2011 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
Logophile (Heather)
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
Jun 28, 2012 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.
Feb 21, 2014 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.
David Robins
Apr 28, 2010 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!
Alan   Mauldin
Dec 12, 2015 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
Rafael Eaton
Jul 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I rated this book as amazing not because of its content, but its ability to make me see how conservative thought makes sense to its practitioners. I've always had that, "how can they see it that way? They must be insane," kind of rationale, and this book succinctly sums up an alternative worldview, one I don't agree with, but better understand now. Every leftie/pinko/liberal bleeding heart should read this book.
Robert Morrow
Jan 16, 2013 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
G. Branden
Jan 05, 2009 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
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
Frank Randall
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short and a basic understanding of conservatism but well written!
Mar 20, 2015 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
Oct 07, 2008 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
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
Feb 20, 2013 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 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
Feb 07, 2008 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
Dec 14, 2011 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.
Apr 14, 2009 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.
Feb 19, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disagree with 90% of it but this is a well written book detailing the conservative ideology which has become prominent in the US over the last 50 years. More readable than it has any right to be.
Dec 24, 2014 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.
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.
Dec 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I disagreed with a lot of this book, but it laid out the conservative position of the 1960s quite well.
Gary Sudeth
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1960 its perspective is as valid today as then; unfortunately, too few people heeded the Senator's warnings and we stand on the precipice of a great nation lost.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb treatise on conservatism by the late Barry Goldwater, that while dated being 1960, still holds up today. Many of the themes Goldwater illustrates, from debt to education to fighting communism, still are relevant today, though some subjects have aged. His chapter on 'State's Rights' is mislabeled (the 10th amendment doesn't have the word 'rights' in it) and his objections to Brown vs. the Board of Education is misplaced, since that ruling was based that all taxpayers, regardless of race, m ...more
Saman Seifi
As I thought Conservatism is nothing but a regressive way of thinking in terms of civil liberty and social norms. Its claim of prosperity under wildly unregulated free market economy is based on no practical and experimental results (btw we know it has failed for some time now). And its horrendous foreign policy is based on interventionism and militarism approaches. However the degree of conservative politics, of which Goldwater discuss in this book considers moderate by today's Republican norms ...more
Josiah Aston
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting how many of the political issues we see today are simply permutations of the same issues back when this book was written. I appreciated the clear, no-nonsense writing that made clear the basis of conservative principles and the policies they support. The communism rhetoric was certainly outdated, but it does seem true, as he elaborated, that socialistic tendencies in today's interpretation of democracy is a more insidious and therefore more dangerous way of subverting conservative va ...more
Jun 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Interesting read. This compact read is a well organized and digestible summary of the fundamental doctrines of conservative philosophy.

Goldwater writes in a conversational tone (almost too conversational at times). His use of anecdotes as the primary means to support the principles of conservatism turns the text into a Republican infomercial, so while often gripping, its lacking supporting data.

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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.” 13 likes
“they propound the first principle of totalitarianism: that the State is competent to do all things and is limited in what it actually does only by the will of those who control the State. It is clear that this view is in direct conflict with the Constitution which is an instrument, above all, for limiting the functions of government, and which is as binding today as when it was written.” 3 likes
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