Matt Welch on Barry Goldwater: 'He may not recognize our world, but we can recognize his fingerprints all over it'


This Thursday, June 5, Zócalo Public Square and Arizona State University are co-hosting a debate event in Scottsdale (featuring former Reasoner Dave Weigel, among others) on the topic "Is Goldwater Libertarianism Dead?" In advance of the discussion, the public-affairs website has published a mini-symposium on "What Did Barry Goldwater Leave Us?"

My contribution is headlined "Believing in the potential of individual pursuits free of government meddling," and begins this way:

For a charismatic, larger-than-life sonofabitch, Barry Goldwater had a pretty humble view of his impact on politics and the world. "I don't think I've had the great influence that is attributed to me," Mr. Conservative told The Phoenix Gazette just after stepping down from his fifth and final term in Congress. If pressed, he might cough up a regional intra-party success: helping tilt the GOP away from the stuffy northeastern establishment, and toward the wide-open Sun Belt.

So it's left to us to chart the legacy strains of Goldwaterism. Start here with the obvious: In 2014, a half-century after Goldwater helped galvanize a new generation of self-consciously ideological young conservatives and libertarians into winning the GOP presidential nomination, another attractive upstart senator in his early 50s has vaulted himself near the top of the Republican field, on a message of constitutionalism, limited government, and fiercely independent thinking.

Go to the link for the full piece and others, including one from The Heritage Foundation's Lee Edwards, who writes in part:

Goldwater's greatest legacy is that, despite 80 years of progressivism, a majority of Americans still want less, not more, government. They still understand the senator's famous maxim that any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.

The intrinsic libertarianism of most Americans is confirmed in Gallup and other polls, in the election of small government senators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and governors like Scott Walker and Mike Pence, and in the Tea Party that has not faded away but continues to play an influential role in electoral politics.

Reason on Barry Goldwater here.