CAL THOMASby Cal Thomas on Jun. 02, 1998, under Editorial
Cal Thomas COLUMN
We’ve always known Goldwater was right
On hearing reports that former Arizona Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater had died, I reached for my original copy of ”The Conscience of a Conservative,” published in 1960, and reread it.
This 127-page book was the American equivalent of the Communist Manifesto and trumped every other political document in the world.
It remains remarkably fresh and reminds us of how ”Mr. Conservative” was the ideological godfather to Ronald Reagan and the entire modern conservative movement.
While Goldwater offended social conservatives with his libertarian views on abortion and ”gay rights,” he felt he was being true to his convictions that limited government ought to be, well, limited.
Goldwater began his book with a lament, still heard today, that not everyone who accepts the label ”conservative” is one. He then defined the term and stated what a true conservative is supposed to believe.
On the difference between conservatives and liberals: ”Conservatives take account of the whole man, while the Liberals tend to look only at the material side of man’s nature.
”The Conservative believes that man is, in part, an economic, an animal creature; but that he is also a spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires. What is more, these needs and desires reflect the superior side of man’s nature, and thus take precedence over his economic wants.
”Conservatism therefore looks upon the enhancement of man’s spiritual nature as the primary concern of political philosophy. Liberals, on the other hand – in the name of concern for ‘human beings’ – regard the satisfaction of economic wants as the dominant mission of society.
”They are, moreover, in a hurry. So that their characteristic approach is to harness the society’s political and economic forces into a collective effort to compel ‘progress.’ In this approach, I believe they fight against Nature” (italics his).
On limited government: ”(The Framers of the Constitution) knew from vivid, personal experience that freedom depends on effective restraints against the accumulation of power in a single authority.”
Goldwater opposed laws and programs that could not be justified by the Constitution.
On taxes: ”Government does not have an unlimited claim on the earnings of individuals. One of the foremost precepts of the natural law is man’s right to the possession and the use of his property. And a man’s earnings are his property as much as his land and the house in which he lives.”
On spending: ”Neither of our political parties has seriously faced up to the problem of government spending . . . . The root evil is that government is engaged in activities in which it has no legitimate business. As long as the federal government acknowledges responsibility in a given social or economic field, its spending in that field cannot be substantially reduced.”
It was about how to fight communism, however, that Goldwater was his most prophetic and profound. He outlined a nine-point program and concluded with a paragraph that accurately predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years later: ”The future, as I see it, will unfold along one of two paths. Either the Communists will retain the offensive; will lay down one challenge after another; will invite us in local crisis after local crisis to choose between all-out war and limited retreat; and will force us, ultimately, to surrender or accept war under the most disadvantageous circumstances. Or we will summon the will and the means for taking the initiative, and wage a war of attrition against them – and hope, thereby, to bring about the internal disintegration of the Communist empire.”
Which is precisely what happened in 1990 when the Berlin Wall and Soviet communism collapsed, just as Goldwater predicted, because Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II embraced much of Goldwater’s thinking and acted on it.
Barry Goldwater was smeared as a nuclear madman in the 1964 presidential campaign.
Unlike Lyndon Johnson, whose legacy was a lost war in Vietnam and failed Great Society programs, Goldwater’s legacy is the entire modern conservative movement which is bringing change not only to America but also around the world as millions are taking their first breath of freedom.
In our hearts, we really did know he was right.
Cal Thomas is an author, broadcast commentator and syndicated columnist. Write to him at the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, 218 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, Calif. 90012.