Barry Goldwater

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


Barry Goldwater. |||

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.

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  1. Goldwater’s greatest legacy is that, despitebecause of 80 years of progressivism, a majority of Americans still want less, not more, government.


    1. Policies so good you need to shove it down the People’s throats. Government so glorious you need to fight their will every step of the way.

      1. Good and hard, Dweebston – good and hard

    2. I think Lee meant to say “despite 80 years of voting for progressivism, a majority of Americans are still such hypocrites that they say want less, not more, government.”

      1. Correct. If the Heritage dude is into Gallup polls, he ought to try reading this one.

        1. Libertarian tribalism is as delusional as the other tribes. They also claim that a majority of Americans want free-market healthcare because a majority opposes Obamacare. But 30% of them oppose Obamacare because it’s not a single-payer government plan.

          Thanks for the link. I’ll add it to my collection.

  2. larger-than-life sonofabitch

    This is so problematic I literally just can’t even.

    In seriousness, I read Conscience of a Conservative back in high school thinking it would explain modern Republicans (this was in the early years of Bush II: The Bushening).

    Oh, how I laugh at my naivety.

    1. Perhaps of somebody had read it to you? And if Bush II was Bushening, you tried to learn about modern Republicans from a book that was a few decades old. Would you study Bush I to learn about today’s GOP?

      “Oh, how I laugh at my naivety.”

      As well you should.

  3. Great article Matt. This helps since I’m currently working on a cover letter for a job at the Goldwater Institute.

  4. Question: was there really a ‘Goldwater Revolution’ that lead to Reagan?

    1. Goldwater’s forlorned run had two results:

      1. It significantly raised Reagan’s public profile since his “A Time for Choosing” speech at the GOP convention in 1964 was one of the greatest convention speeches ever

      2. His landslide defeat ironically dragged down a bunch of old-guard Republican candidates and incumbents, clearing the field for a younger generation of Republicans that would become Reagantites

      1. It cemented the 2 wings of the Republican Party.

    2. Yes and no. Reagan would have been our first libertarian President anyhow. What made him was not Goldewater, per se, by the brilliant speeches he gave on behalf of Goldwater. He was a far better salesman for liberty.

      There was also the timing of Milton Friedman’s PBS series, “Free To Choose”, in the late 70s, which also launched Thomas Sowell who was virtually a co-host. Friedman is the only true libertarian economist. He gets a bad rap because hos Nobel demolished the Gold Standard with a single question: Do we want stable prices or a stable money supply?

      The gold standard was a massive failure at price stability. As deflation forced worker wages lower and lower for over a century, Marx blamed it all on capitalism. The waqe cuts were real, and nobody then was pointing out that real PRICES were also going down.

  5. Mass immigration and changing demographics threaten “the intrinsic libertarianism” of America. As the New York Times’ Josh Barro recently said:

    “The rush to stand with Mr. Bundy against the Bureau of Land Management is the latest incarnation of conservative antigovernment messaging. And nonwhites are not interested, because a gut-level aversion to the government is almost exclusively a white phenomenon.”

    You know it’s true.

    1. Are you a fish-enthusiast? Or just fish-curious?

    2. I don’t completely buy this. The unstated assumption of this argument is that the American character doesn’t get instilled in families over time, that families retain the outlook and perspective of the first generation. Much the same thing was said of immigrants in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Yet, there is no shortage of libertarians and small-government conservatives among the ranks of their descendents.

      1. The founding stock of America were WASPs. Individual rights, the rule of law, the Magna Carta–it all came from the English. The melting pot worked when the ingredients were white. Within one or two generations, the descendents of European immigrants reached the middle class, identified as Americans, and bought into Don’t-Tread-on-Me heritage.

        That’s no longer the case. A huge number of immigrants today come from corrupt, tribalistic, despotic, poverty-stricken societies with no traditions of common law or limited government. They don’t “get” America, and they don’t do very well here. In many cases they seem to bear historical grudges against the people whose ancestors built this country.

        Take Hispanics, for example. They typically languish in the lower classes for four or five generations after coming to America. Latinos are 3x more likely to live in poverty, 3x more likely to drop out of high school, 3x more likely to have a child out of wedlock, and 3x more likely to commit violent crimes. About half (47%) of Hispanics say they consider themselves to be very different from the typical American. And just one-in-five (21%) say they use the term “American” most often to describe their identity. Hispanic Americans self-identity primarily by national origin (as Salvadorians, Guatemalans, Mexicans, etc.), rather than as Americans or Hispanics. Even the minorities do well in America–Jews and Asians–love big government.

        Only white people care about freedom.

        1. STFU and die Merican.

        2. And how large is your Klavern?

    3. Heeeeey, ‘murcan!

  6. Goldwater’s greatest legacy is that, despite 80 years of progressivism, a majority of Americans still want less, not more, government.


    1. Every few years they have the opportunity to get less government.

      1. Libertarians can be as self-delusional as anyone else. Reason has invented a libertarian era(which began 35 years ago and which we’ve squandered), then taken credit for it to sell magazines and raise money.

        One delusion is that people support free market healthcare because they oppose Obamacare. But 30% of them oppose Obamacare because it’s not single-payer government.

        Yes, pols show that people support smaller government in the abstract, bit only for somebody else’s freebies. It helps that libertarians have NO policy proposals at all, other than “git the gubmint out of it.”

        Back in the 70s and 80s, we had no think tanks, just thinkers. And a rule — never be anti-govennment, always be pro-liberty. I may have missed a few, but on that past 30 years I have not heard a single word on libertarian GOVERNANCE, except by the small minority of us who have actually achieved it.

        Hell, our libertarian society is the exact OPPOSITE of free society.

  7. a majority of Americans still want less, not more, government

    I have noted previously, and I will note again here – I. Do. Not. Buy. This.

    Look at the results, and the number of idiots who still support the current incumbent President (PBUH) despite his clear incompetence (RAAAAAAACIST!) and disregard for the constitution (RAAAAAAAAAAACIST!).

    There are fits and starts, and I see a bit more at a state and local level, although still not to a degree that leads me to believe “most” Americans want less government. I believe “most” Americans want more of “their” kind of gummint and less of “the other guy’s gummint”. Progderps are definitely worse than the TEAM RED maroons, but in both cases (and they comprise the majority of the country), they wants them some MOAR gummint cheese.

    So – abandon hope, all ye who enter. Have a nice day!

  8. Goldwater, wasn’t he the evil Conservative that wanted to Nuke the girl picking daisies? /smartprog

    1. That’s funny, but people may think you’re serious.

  9. Welch raises the key question but never addresses it. Is Goldwater libertarianism dead? Dead as a doornail. Barry would puke in his grave at being compared with an extreme social conservative like Ron Paul.

    REAL Libertarian Republicans, Goldwater and Reagan, were defending gays in the 70s, decades before it became fashionable. Goldwater was the first to defend gays in the military, urged real Christians to give Jerry Falwell a “kick in the a$$,” and believed the Moral Majority (extreme Christian right) would destroy his party. If they haven’t already destroyed the GOP, nominating Rand Paul will be the final nail … and for libertarianism.

    Reagan defended gay teachers in public schools — Google the Briggs Initiative. He was told that defending gay teachers would be political suicide to his Presidential ambitions, but he did it anyhow. His strong op-ed attacked the very core of the Christian Taliban: homosexuality is NOT a choice AND gay teachers were no threat because homosexuality is not a communicable disease. (KA-POW) Reagan was THE key factor in defeating the anti-gay initiative, which then caused the collapse of the nationwide anti-gay Anita Bryant Campaign. Compare that with Ron and Rand Paul, stalkers for the Christian Taliban.

    Extreme socons first infiltrated the GOP, now libertarianism. Ron and Rand Paul are a disgrace, to anyone who knows liberty’s TRUE history and values, and to anyone who understands TRUE federalism.

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