The Coming Breakpoint, by Barry Goldwater, New York: Macmillan Co., 1976, 184 pp., $8.95.
After all these years, after the times of grand struggle when he was reviled by the press, after a spectacular nomination for the presidency and an equally spectacular defeat at the polls, after the recent and unfortunate disagreement with the Young Americans for Freedom over the Ronald Reagan campaign…after all these things, the name of Barry Goldwater still carries the weight it always did—strong, tough, assertive.
The Coming Breakpoint is his latest book, published at a time when Goldwater has become the darling of the same press that treated him so shabbily in the past. Despite the passage of time and the different context (when even CBS has learned to respect Goldwater's integrity) this book is still good old solid Goldwaterism, highly recommended.
The title refers to that moment when the United States will collapse, a hybrid creature of the mixed economy attempting to live off its own blood as it grows more emaciated with each passing hour—a vampire that is its own victim. The "breakpoint" is old stuff, of course, the nub of free-market doctrine. But Goldwater gives it new life, as he always does, with his forceful language.
There is nothing fancy about this book. It is basic. Work is its theme. How much of it, or how little, can support the American nation-state? Goldwater fears that we are reaching a point where the private sector (those who create wealth) will be so small that it can no longer support the public sector (those who govern and those who toil not). Some free-market theorists tell us this has already happened and we just haven't noticed yet, like the brontosaurus requiring a day's notice before he realizes that he's dead. Goldwater is an optimist, giving us at least a decade before the breakpoint—if we're lucky.
He stresses that our system of checks and balances is a contrivance of honor. Being an honorable man, Goldwater is disheartened by the growing number of people in all walks of life (especially bureaucrats) who seem dishonorable. There's no reason to wonder about this. Honor is out this year. No one knows what exactly has taken its place—some amalgam of expedience and bad taste too disreputable to have a label.
But, alas, as one reads about the dictatorial power of a sinister federal agency known to its friends and enemies alike as the FCCFDAEPACPSCOSHA, there is the nagging feeling that you're alone in reading this new Goldwater book; that those who need to read it won't, and those who already agree won't read it either. Wasn't that a young conservative the other day who said one Goldwater book is like another?
Goldwater doesn't write theoretical works but grants the right assumption, then proceeds to illustrate with case histories the loss of liberty in the red-tape swamp. Breakpoint's only drawback, in this reviewer's opinion, is that it doesn't deal directly with Goldwater's distaste for aggressions by the state that sometime receive "conservative" sanction. A chapter outlining the bad manners of the vice squad would have been appropriate here, along with a reiteration of Goldwater's support for the decriminilization of marijuana.
Stylistically, each of his books adopts a conversational tone, and this latest one is a fine example of this. In the introduction, he writes, "In rereading the preceding and following pages, I find that I have occasionally repeated myself. I have allowed these slips to remain because I believe in the power of repetition to stress certain points." One can imagine the composition teacher smiling somewhat patronizingly and nodding her approval. Or: "The do-gooders who believe labor unions can do no wrong and corporations can do no good make me downright sick to my stomach with their righteous, double-standard politics."
It is this informal approach that endears him to us; it is not enough to share values if we cannot also (forgive the liberal twinge) communicate! The Coming Breakpoint deserves to be widely read, especially by us.