The 60s are thought of as an era of progressivism – the hippies, the anti-war crowd, the civil rights movement. The 80s were of course seen as a decade of strong conservatism. Reagan owned the White House and ran America well; by lowering taxes he raised revenue which he used to build up our military into the most powerful Army on the planet, which hadn’t been the case since a few years after WWII. But if we go back a into the 60s, we see that what Reagan capitalized on was started 20 years earlier.
In 1960, Arizona Senator, Barry Goldwater, wrote his timeless classic, The Conscience of a Conservative. At the time, Goldwater was one of the only true conservatives in the Senate. He gave the guidelines of how to get America back on track. At the time we were a nation weakened tremendously by the days of the New Deal. People were being taxed as high as 90%. Government was growing and spending recklessly. The way back was to embrace the US Constitution and let the free market work.
Goldwater explains the problems with labor unions. He explains problems with the federal government encroaching on state’s rights. He spends considerable time talking about America’s foreign policy towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Showing strength and consistency are extremely important, and aiding the allies we have over the enemies we’d like to turn into friends is vital. Above all – our leaders must not be naive when dealing with people who do not intend to be our friends, and are only looking to destroy us.
Goldwater also makes the case for less taxation. People do not work to serve the government, and the government ought to live within its means. Our money is used most wisely when we use it ourselves, not when the federal government spends it for us. Furthermore, the programs that government spends it money on are often destructive – welfare in particular. There is nothing moral about taking by force from X to give to Y. Charity is best left to individuals, private organizations, and churches.
The principles that Goldwater taught – liberty, limited government, constitutionalism, individualism, and the free market – have impacted countless conservative politicians for decades. Goldwater’s book led him to an unsuccessful presidential run in 1964, but 16 years later, Ronald Reagan would apply his teachings and change America forever.