â€œI have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedomâ€¦..And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ “interests,” I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.â€
– Barry Goldwater, Conscience of a Conservative
Perhaps more than any other politician of the twentieth century, Barry Goldwater captured the essence of the American spirit – ferocious independence. This spirit depends upon the Constitution for its life and energy. Without our Constitution, our nation is nothing more than another geographic location; nothing but more real estate.
The Goldwater wing of the Republican Party has been asleep for decades, as the economists espousing Keynesian and Chicago School theories on the benefits of inflation became trendy and the American political aristocracy banished the Constitution to the wilderness, to be replaced with a holy mission to spread democracy with armed drones and replace civil liberties with state-managed dependency – what Barack Obama once referred to as â€œpositive rights.â€
Our nation is bankrupt; the unemployment rate is falling, not because people are finding work but because people are giving up and staying at home. While we still import millions of barrels of oil every day, we now export refined gasoline. As the Federal Reserve printed money to inflate the tech bubble, the housing bubble, five military conflicts, the bailout, the wealth conflagration referred to as the Stimulus, and the Treasury bonds sold to raise the money to pay the interest on the bonds sold to pay the interest on the bonds that were sold by Lyndon Johnson. The M2 supply (the number of dollars floating around out there) has more than doubled in the last ten years; as a result each individual dollar is now worth less. By doing nothing more than holding Canadian currency, the Canadian people now have the purchasing power to essentially outbid us for our own gasoline. This is what inflation looks like.
Prior to 1964 no American politician had ever referenced inflation in a political advertisement, and then Barry Goldwater did it. As Lyndon Johnson proposed to pay for a war in Vietnam and the Great Society programs of increased social spending, Barry Goldwater condemned the entire charade as a swindle, a hoax, and a fraudulent promise of perfect prosperity – if we print enough money, we will all be rich.
As the 1960â€™s gave way to the 1970â€™s, the bills began to fall due, and the government realized that its promises exceeded itâ€™s abilities. With little more than a speech, Richard Nixon took us off of the gold standard. As it turned out, William McChesney Martin (then the Federal Reserve Chairman) had printed so much money to pay for Johnsonâ€™s war on poverty that the gold reserves were no longer adequate to back it up. Bye-bye gold standard.
Hello fiat currency. Since 2001, the Fed has expanded our money supply by upwards of $6 trillion dollars. They distributed it to the government – to pay for social programs that are necessary, not perhaps for our national strength, but for the reelection of our politicians, as well as to banks so that they could write mortgages to people who couldnâ€™t pay them back. Nobody cared if the mortgages went bad; the banks had sold them to Fannie Mae, created by the government in 1939 specifically to buy mortgages from banks. Then, in 2008, the Federal Reserve printed the money needed to buy to bonds the Treasury needed to sell in order to fund the bailout of Fannie Mae and the banks.
In his pamphlet â€œConscience of a Conservative,â€ Goldwater blasted what he called delusional dreams of the â€œJacobins and leftists.â€ We in the conservative movement are not supposed to be allowed the luxury of idle utopian dreams, be they making the world safe for democracy, or making our domestic economy so wealthy (through housing and stimulus) that we simply wouldnâ€™t need to save money, manufacture things, or export anything other that Treasury bonds. These goals are fantasies; they have led us to quagmires of humiliation, poverty, and degradation.
Will anyone dare to ask Barack Obama why, when the United States was consistently running trade deficits in excess of $40 billion per month, he believed our problem was a lack of demand? Will anyone ask why he simply assumed that if we paid people to buy new (foreign-made) cars, then our economy would improve? A trade deficit, by simple, logical definition, is the consumption of goods in excess of your ability to produce. Stimulus accomplished nothing more than the further impoverishment of the nation. Who will challenge Barack Obama on this issue?
Enter our Republican candidates, most of whom seem to think that we desperately need to print money to pay for a war with Iran. Is this really the best we can do? A choice between inflationary games to pay for socialism, and inflationary games to pay for a war that we cannot otherwise afford and could easily be prevented? Only one candidate warned of the inflationary bubble in housing as early as 2001. Only one candidate understands the fundamental problem of our economy – too much debt; too little production. Too much urgent government initiative; too little freedom.
â€œExtremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.â€ Barry Goldwater was roundly condemned as an extremist for these sentiments. We live in an age of bankruptcy, fear, and disappointment. Candidates of firm conviction, shrewd talents, or competent judgment are frequently passed over in favor of the candidates with the darkest nightmares, the most delusional promises, or the most artificial of Cheshire Cat grins, with their insistence that spending borrowed money will make us rich and powerful, and if you disagree then you are clearly a cynical malcontent, playing politics at a time when action is required; that is American politics in the 21st Century.
The Goldwater wing of the Republican Party – fanatical adherents to the Constitution, ferocious nationalists, resolute defenders of liberty and individual rights- has been asleep for decades. Without our Constitution, the United States of America is nothing more than real estate. The Goldwater wing of the Republican Party is awake now; and they demand to be taken into account. So far, only one candidate has.
Photo Courtesy of Dave Davidson, his fabulous work can be viewed at http://prezography.blogspot.com/
â€œThe Conservative also recognizes that the political power on which order is based is a self-aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with eating. He knows that the utmost vigilance and care are required to keep political power within its bounds.â€ – Barry Goldwater
Evidenced by the fact that I recently finished re-reading Barry Goldwaterâ€™s The Conscience of a Conservative on a kindleâ€”much has changed since it was first published in 1960. However, by the staggering parallels that its content has to the political realities of 2011, one could say that not much has changed at all.
Anyone who chooses to invest the few hours necessary to read this book will become apprised of the historical context in which the political and ideological battles of our generation fit into the course of our Countryâ€™s history. Indeed it becomes clear that the rise of the Tea Party is not the first attempt to reconfigure our relationship with government, but is merely the continuation of a movement first given voice to by Barry Goldwater 51 years ago.
Written with eloquent clarity, its importance rivals, and perhaps even trumps, the documents surrounding our Nationâ€™s founding in importance based on its remarkable relevance to our day. While the theory behind the writings of Thomas Jefferson, The Federalist Papers, and Common Sense are inarguably still viable, Goldwater is able to make his case specifically against things that did not exist in the 18th century, but did both in the 1960â€™s and today. In fact, if you replace the word Communism with Terrorism, the entire list of topics that he addressesâ€”a growing federal government, National debt, the welfare state, The United Nations, the erosion of personal freedoms, and labor unionsâ€”all remain the exact flashpoints of our modern day political struggles. Here are just a few of the many examples.
â€œNow it would be bad enough if we had simply failed to redeem our promise to reduce spending; the fact, however, is that federal spending has greatly increased during the Republican years. Instead of a $60 billion budget, we are confronted, in fiscal 1961, with a budget of approximately $80 billion.â€ â€“ Barry Goldwater
It is slightly comical, and certainly sad, to read Goldwater bemoaning the entire federal spending for a year approaching, in his mind, the absurd level of $100 billion. The reaction of his contemporaries to his concerns on spending were much the same fare that we are fed from our political leaders todayâ€”a set of recommendations from the Hoover administration claiming that the government could save the taxpayers around $7 billion a year just by eliminating extravagance and waste. Sound familiar?
This was useless lip-service then, just as it is now, and prompted Goldwater to lay down a far different doctrineâ€”â€œThe root evil is that government is engaged in activities in which it has no legitimate business. . . . The only way to curtail spending substantially is to eliminate the programs in which excess spending is consumed. The government must begin to withdraw from a whole series of programs that are outside its Constitutional mandate . . . and all that can be performed by lower levels of government, or by private institutions, or by individuals.â€
â€œGovernment does not have an unlimited claim on the earnings of individuals. One of the foremost precepts of the natural law is manâ€™s right to the possession and use of his property.â€ â€“Barry Goldwater
Unlike todayâ€™s Republican who largely pins their argument for lower taxes on the received benefit of spurring economic growth, to Goldwater the issue was far more a moral one. He asks, â€œHow can he be free if the fruits of his labor are not his to dispose of, but are treated, instead, as part of a common pool of public wealth?â€ Not only does this argument seem superior to the present day Conservative one, so do his other thoughts on the subject.
While acknowledging that every citizen has an obligation to contribute a fair share to the â€œlegitimate functions of governmentâ€, he quickly does what politicians on the right nowadays fail to do effectivelyâ€”tie the size of governmentâ€™s rightful claim on our money to the definition of â€œthe legitimate functions of governmentâ€. Though it seems overly simple, telling a person what they have to gain financially by restricting government is much more effective than making broad Constitutional arguments. One canâ€™t help but think that advocates for eliminating federal agencies, and in general returning to only the expenditures authorized by the enumerated powers, would get much more traction by clearly making the connection that for every function of government that we can do without, you will keep more of your own money.
He also makes it clear that were he alive today he would be leading the charge for the flat tax, by calling our system of graduated tax rates â€œconfiscatoryâ€ and â€œrepugnant to my notions of justiceâ€.
The Welfare State
â€œThe effect of Welfarism on freedom will be felt later onâ€”after its beneficiaries have become its victims, after dependence on government has turned into bondage and it is too late to unlock the jail.â€-B. Goldwater
Among the most poignant and impassioned arguments Goldwater makes are against the continued creation of the welfare state. Largely due to the fact that when he wrote the book the programs that make up our welfare state were not yet insolvent, massively-unfunded liabilities, the nature of his resistance is mainly on moral grounds and the effect that he envisioned it having on the recipients psyche. Just as it remains today, he predicted that the emotional impulse of voters and the temptation it presents to politicians would combine to make it a deeply entrenched and ever expanding problem.
Though in its infancy at the time, he saw the building of a welfare state not only as a political strategy by the left to move the Country in a Socialist direction, but as a corrosive practice that placed the individual at the mercy of the State. It was his sense that this relationship would, over time, sap the welfare recipient of the sense of personal responsibility required to be anything but dependent.
His position is not that there be no welfare, rather that it be administered either voluntarily from citizen to citizen or through local institutions and governments. Indicating that the political perils of this position were just as present then as they are today he states, â€œI feel certain that 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.â€
Reading The Conscience of a Conservative is in many ways bitter-sweet. Sweet in that it gives such clear voice to our foundersâ€™ ideals, freedom, and Conservatism; but bitter in the realization one is left with that had these battles been fought and won in his time, they would not need refighting now. Perhaps the most important thing the reader takes away from this book is a sobering reminder of how high the stakes are in the upcoming election. Armed with the knowledge of what has transpired from 1960 until now, one shudders to conceive of the consequences of not winning the battle this time around.
In further illustrating how worthwhile and relevant this book remains in 2011, let me close with what Goldwater sees as being the moment that Conservatism will defeat Liberalism:
The turn will come when we entrust the conduct of our affairs to men who understand that their first duty as public officials is to divest themselves of the power they have been given. It will come when Americans, in hundreds of communities throughout the nation, decide to put the man in office who is pledged to enforce the Constitution and restore the Republic. Who will proclaim in a campaign speech: â€œI have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, for I intend to repeal them. It 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 upon the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is â€œneededâ€ before I have first determined if it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked f
or neglecting my constituentsâ€™ â€œinterestsâ€, I shall reply that I was informed their main interest was liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.
Goldwater in 2012 indeed.