Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Words of wisdom from "Conscience of a Conservative"

I just read the first nine out of ten chapters of "Conscience of a Conservative" today.

According to Wikipedia, this classic was published under the name of Arizona Senator and 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1960, ghostwritten by L. Brent Bozell Jr., brother-in-law of William F. Buckley, Jr.

I found almost every chapter worthy of reading by today's conservatives and libertarians, and those who love liberty, wherever they may be found.

David Ulin of the Los Angeles Times wrote about this book, "Goldwater held freedom as the highest value in American society: freedom from law, freedom from government, freedom from anybody else's vision but your own. You can argue with him on the particulars, but there's something compelling about his quintessentially American notion of self-reliance."

Following are some excerpts I found particularly apropos for lovers of liberty in this generation.

The economic and spiritual aspects of man's nature are inextricably intertwined. He cannot be economically free, or even economically efficient, if he is enslaved politically; conversely, man's political freedom is illusory if he is dependent for his economic needs on the state.

Thus, for the American Conservative, there is no difficulty in identifying the day's overriding political challenge: it is to preserve and extend freedom.

Release the holders of state power from any restraints other than those they wish to impose upon themselves, and you are swinging down the well-travelled road to absolutism.

The framers... knew that rules of government... would be no match for men who were determined to disregard them. In the last analysis their system of government would prosper only if the governed were sufficiently determined that it should.

Broken promises are not the major causes of our troubles. Kept promises are.

We have gone the way of many a democratic society that has lost its freedom by persuading itself that if "the people" rule, all is well.

The turn will come... when Americans... decide to put the man in office who is pledged to enforce the Constitution and restore the Republic.

I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size.

My aim... is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden.

I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is "needed" before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible.

The Tenth Amendment... means that the States have a right to act or not to act, as they see fit, in the areas reserved to them. The States may have duties corresponding to these rights, but the duties are owed to the people of the States, not to the federal government. Therefore, the recourse lies not with the federal government, which is not sovereign, but with the people who are, and who have full power to take disciplinary action.

If we condone the practice of substituting our own intentions for those of the Constitution's framers, we reject, in effect, the principle of Constitutional Government: we endorse a rule of men, not of laws.

The only way to persuade farmers to enter other fields of endeavor is to stop paying inefficient farmers for produce that cannot be sold at free market prices.... Most farmers want to stand on their own feet. They are prepared to take their chances in the free market.

The real evil in the labor field... is the enormous economic and political power now concentrated in the hands of union leaders. Such power hurts the nation's economy by forcing on employers contract terms that encourage inefficiency, lower production and high prices -- all of which result in a lower standard of living for the American people.

The natural function of a trade union... is perverted the moment a union claims the right to represent employees who do not want representation, or conducts activities that have nothing to do with terms of employment (e.g., political activities), or tries to deal with an industry as a whole instead of with individual employers.

As long as union leaders can force workers to join their organization, they have no incentive to act responsibly.... If unions had to earn the adherence of their members the result would be -- not only more freedom for the working man -- but much less dishonesty and high handedness in the management of the union affairs.

The American taxpayer... has lost confidence in his claim to his money. He has been handicapped in resisting high taxes by the feeling that he is... obliged to accommodate whatever need for his wealth government chooses to assert.

When the federal government enacts programs that are not authorized by its delegated powers, the taxes needed to pay for such programs exceed the government's rightful claim on our wealth... The government must begin to withdraw from a whole series of programs that are outside its constitutional mandate.

The effect of Welfarism on freedom will be felt later on -- after its beneficiaries have become its victims, after dependence on government has turned into bondage and it is too late to unlock the jail.

Conservatism is through unless Conservatives can demonstrate and communicate the difference between being concerned with these problems and believing that the federal government is the proper agent for their solution.

The state that is able to deal with its citizens as wards and dependents has gathered unto itself unlimited political and economic power and is thus able to rule as absolutely as any... despot.

One of the great evils of Welfarism [is] that it transforms the individual from a dignified, industrious, self-reliant spiritual being into a dependent animal creature without his knowing it.

If the objection [to private charity] is raised that private institutions lack sufficient funds, let us remember that every penny the federal government does not appropriate for welfare is potentially available for private use -- and without the overhead charge for processing the money through the federal bureaucracy. Indeed, high taxes... is the biggest obstacle to fund raising by private charities.

We have forgotten that the proper function of the school is to transmit the cultural heritage of one generation to the next generation, and to so train the minds of the new generation as to make them capable of absorbing ancient learning and applying it to the problem of its own day.

We have forgotten for whom education is intended. The function of our schools is not to educate, or elevate, society; but rather to educate individuals and to equip them with the knowledge that will enable them to take care of society's needs.

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