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The Conscience of a Conservative

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  2,945 ratings  ·  295 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 ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Princeton University Press (first published 1960)
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Roy Lotz
Jan 14, 2015 rated it liked it
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 i
This book was originally published in 1960, and it made Goldwater a lightning rod for everyone’s opinions on the state of the nation. Looking at his thinking from the distance of fifty-seven years, I think we can state unequivocally that he benefitted from the one-way megaphone a book provides. What astonishes me now is how Goldwater is looked at in some circles as the gold standard for rolling back government. His argument is completely specious, and what’s more, has been debunked in practice

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
Patrick Peterson
7 July 2019 - I remember reading this book my freshman year in college and liking it very much. It impressed me that Sen. Goldwater understood that the Federal Government was not Santa Claus and that whatever it provided some people was at the expense of those who paid the price in taxes.

Some years later, not many, I found out about the real meaning of "liberalism" as coming from the word "liberty" (freedom from coercion, primarily governments, but also from slaveholders, mafia, thieves, murdere
I first read this book when it was published in 1960. At that time Goldwater was considered the far-right wing of the republican party. I found it fascinating to reread this considering all the changes that have occurred since 1960. Goldwater is now considered too liberal for the conservative party. Many of the methods Goldwater sited for reducing government were found over time not to work and many of his other ideas and beliefs were proven not workable. To be fair some ideas did work successfu ...more
Aug 25, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Rafael Eaton
Jul 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. ...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.
David Robins
Apr 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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!
Logophile (Heather)
Apr 13, 2010 rated it liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Alan   Mauldin
Dec 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was an annoying book, and I expected that. I still thought it would be valuable for understanding the state of the conservative party now, and it was, but that just made it more frustrating.

Goldwater (I know the book was mainly assembled by Bozell, but he did so basing it on Goldwater speeches) claims everything is about freedom, but when you look at the actual follow-through, it becomes the freedom of those who have money to keep it and make more. This is not terribly surprising from a man
David West
Clear, concise, and bold. I don't know much about the man, but the conservative principles in this book are great and much needed again.

I found myself agreeing with almost everything he said (almost). The book is dated (lots about the Cold War with the Soviet Union) but the principles are timeless.

Goldwater deals with the difference between conservatism and socialism, communism, and Republican pragmatism. He speaks to education, military, labor unions, welfare, taxation, and the United Nations.
Apr 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes politics
Shelves: 2008-reads
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.
G. Branden
Jan 05, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Brandon R
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Easy read. He argues very basic principles as to why Conservatives believe that it is morally right that government exist to expand, not diminish, freedom of the individual.
Skylar Burris
Nov 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: libertarian, politics
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
Blake Rozendaal
Mar 29, 2020 rated it did not like it
I rate The Conscience of a Conservative a one star not because I disagree with the arguments of limited government (which I do disagree with), but because Barry Goldwater uses this book to move many themes of hate and discrimination.
The book is extremely dated. It shows its age when he only refers to men as proper stewards of freedom, to recipients of welfare as animals, to black children as equal in God's eyes but not any others. The list goes on. At times, his arguments for limited government
Robert Morrow
Jan 16, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, favorites
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
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.
May 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is a book that is highly engaging and has more than a few poignant moments. However, overall it has mostly served to make me very happy that Barry Goldwater was never elected President of the United States. Additionally, while I say this as a liberal, I feel this is one of the worst representations of honest and thoughtful conservatism that I have ever seen.
Sep 03, 2020 added it
I don't want to "rate" this book since I wasn't only reading it as a primary source. ...more
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
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Barry Goldwater was a senator from Arizona from the 50's to the late 80's, and the 1964 Republican candidate for president. He and his following of "Goldwater Republicans" were largely credited with the resurgence of modern American conservatism.

Since this was one of my first readings into conservative political philosophy, I found the ideas presented in this book to be very interesting and clearly presented. It gave me a good view into some underlying ideas which have guided the evolution of th
Oct 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 20, 2016 rated it liked it
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
This book is unrateable. Since it's basically an extended campaign speech, there's no point in pointing out misleading arguments or logic gaps. I could rate it on persuasiveness, but it's already proved itself to be a classic among conservatives. I will say it's fascinating to read this with 2019 eyes. Most of the limited-government philosophies in this book are still being espoused by conservatives today (not so much during the current administration, but certainly whenever democrats are in pow ...more
Nate Cooley
Feb 07, 2008 marked it as to-read
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
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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 political movem

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