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Book Notes: Conscience of a Conservative

Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater turned out to be a very good book wrapped in a small package. Many of the sections touched on some of the themes we have seen through out the Book Notes reading. Others brought new ideas out. The section on foreign aid has me reconsidering my entire position on foreign aid. It never dawned on me (though it should have) that foreign aid isn’t mentioned in the Constitution. How can the federal government legally tax U.S. citizens to give their property to other nations?

The section on education put in writing some of my own ideas. However, Mr. Goldwater expressed them better than I ever could have. He writes:

“In the main, the trouble with American education is that we have put into practice the educational philosophy expounded by John Dewey and his disciples. In varying degrees we have adopted what has been called “progressive education.” Subscribing to the egalitarian notion that every child must have the same education, we have neglected to provide an educational system which will tax the talents and stir the ambitions of our best students and which will thus insure us the kind of leaders we will need in the future. In our desire to make sure that our children learn to “adjust” to their environment, we have given them insufficient opportunity to acquire the knowledge that will enable them to master their environment. In our attempt to make education “fun,” we have neglected the academic disciplines that develop sound minds and are conductive to sound characters.”

As much as I agree with this, I think the most important part of this reading was the introduction. Goldwater writes about why he decided to put his thoughts on paper. Much of this section explains why we should be participating in the Book Notes project in the first place,

“Conservatism, we are told, is out of date. The charge is preposterous and we ought boldly to say so. The laws of God, and of nature, have no dateline. The principles on which the Conservative political position is based have been established by a process that has nothing to do with the social, economic and political landscape that changes from decade to decade and from century to century. These principles are derived from the nature of man, and from the truths that God has revealed about His creation. Circumstances do change. So do the problems that are shaped by circumstances. But the principles that govern the solution of the problems do not. To suggest that the Conservative philosophy is out of date is akin to saying that the Golden rule, or the Ten Commandments or Aristotle’s Politics are out of date.” {emphasis mine}

This last sentence should be the theme of the Book Notes project: Conservative philosophy is timeless. It applies to the problems of the day, and is as relevant as the Golden rule. This is the message we should be communicating to our fellow conservatives, our elected officials, and our friends and family. If this lesson is learned by the voters and by our representatives, the other issues will work themselves out.

For Next Week: I am going to go with a suggestion from a previous post and start “New Deal or Raw Deal” by Hillsdale College’s Burton W. Folsom, Jr. It has been a while since we have looked into history. I think this might be a good time to read about FDR since many of his policies are being re-examined today. For next week I want to cover Chapter One. Have a good week.

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