Conscience of A Conservative, Chapter 2

Continuing in my Challenge from Rush, I am reading through “The Conscience of A Conservative.”  Here are my notes:

In Chapter 2, entitled “The Perils of Power,” Senator Goldwater* wrote about two books of the days.  In one, the A Democrat Looks at His Party, the New Deal was seen as all of the people working together to accomplish what needed to be done.  In the other, A Republican Looks at His Party, all the work is determined and whatever no one else can do, the government will.

Neither book represented an understanding of limited government nor looked at the role of the Constitution.  In both cases, the state determined what needed to be accomplished and the people were only the means by which to achieve it. 

The chapter very clearly is reminiscent of Mark Levin’s current thoughts in Liberty & Tyranny and the role of the Statist.  In fact, it’s difficult to talk about this present chapter because Levin’s thoughts are so completely in alignment, but I digress.

Goldwater points us back to the U.S. Constitution and why the Founding Fathers supported a limited government.  They knew that government is one of the biggest obstacles to liberty because it allows one man to control another.  Limited government, therefore, was the optimum form of government.

He does not think that all government is bad, however.  In fact, Goldwater makes the argument that proper use of government makes for a better society:

“The legitimate functions of government are actually conducive to freedom.  Maintaining internal order, keeping foreign foes at bay, administering justice, removing obstacles to the free interchange of goods – the exercise of these powers makes it possible for men to follow their chosen pursuits with maximum freedom.”  

Of course, once the people give that power to the government, they have unleashed the floodgates.  “…that government can, instead of extending freedom, restrict freedom.”  And as the leaders have some power, they always reach for more. 

Based on the Founding Father’s experiences that proved these beliefs, they designed a government around the Constitution which was:

“…a system of restraints against the natural tendency of government to expand in the direction of absolutism.”

Because of the Nature of Man, they knew that it was a tenuous form of government, this Republic, and it would only be maintained as long as the consent of the governed remained intact. The system called for active citizens, although they knew many would not participate; it called for honest leaders, although they knew most leaders only crave more power. 

Over time, the system has fallen into disrepair, Goldwater wrote.  Jurisdictional boundaries have been ignored or forsaken.  The executive acts to thwart the judiciary, while the judiciary seeks to overthrow the purpose of the legislature.  Normal politics today, but this is not the way of the Constitution. 

“The result is…a vast national authority out of touch with the people, and out of their control.  This monolith of power is bounded only by the will of those who sit in high places.”

How can we determine the size of the government?  Goldwater points to four ways:

  1. The size of its financial operations.  (He bemoans the $100 billion a year budget.  Isn’t that more like one day in 2009?)
  2. The scope of its activities.
  3. The portion of money the government takes from the people in taxes.
  4. The extent of government interference in daily lives. 

How did we get here?  We’ve either elected people who promised limited government and then went astray once in office or we elected people who actually promised increased intervention to solve problems.  Either way, we come to the same result. 

How can we go back to the founding principles of this great nation?  Goldwater urged the support and election of people who would turn their back on the power once they had it. 

“It will come when Americans, in hundreds of communities throughout the nation, decide to put the man in office who is pledged to enforce the Constitution and restore the Republic.”

These leaders must first look to see if legislation is Constitutional, rather than just needed.  Goldwater pledged to do this. 

“And, if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ ‘interests,’ I shall reply that I was informed their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”

*Ghostwritten by Brent Bozell (h/t Erick Brockway)