The Conscience of a Conservative, Part 5 Notes

Chapter 8: The Welfare State

Goldwater introduces this chapter by concluding that the primary threat to freedom in the United States is no longer the Marxist goal of “socializing the means of production” (68). Rather, given the free enterprise system’s success at eliminating cause for a revolution of the proletariat, doctrinaire Marxism is no longer “in”, rather the welfare state takes its place. Goldwater finds the welfare state insidious, as it curbs the freedom of a man by “divesting him of the means to provide for his personal needs and by giving the State the responsibility of caring for those needs from cradle to grave” (69-70). This is an adaptation to a democratic society by the left, as “Welfarism is much more compatible with the political processes of a democratic society” (70). This is a more sneaky approach, as outright nationalization would scare the majority of the public and such proposals would be likely be defeated outright.

Political promises of free goods are even more of a thing today than they were in the past from the left. Goldwater notes the collectivists can win victories this way on topics from housing, education aid, and hospitalization. He finds this form, he calls “Socialism-through-Welfarism” to be more dangerous as it is more difficult to combat than nationalization (70). Goldwater identifies the appeal of emotion to voters on this subject, and finds it difficult for conservatives to not look selfish or callous in the face of the emotional framing of the left. Such guilt-tripping in the name of statism can be found in the oft-asked questions Goldwater notes, “Have you no sense of social obligation? Have you no concern for people who are out of work? For sick people who lack medical care? For children in overcrowded schools? Are you unmoved by the problems of the aged and disabled? Are you against human welfare?” (71). There is always an implication out there that if you oppose federal action for a problem, you must have a personal problem with its sufferers. Goldwater’s ultimate complaint with the welfare system is its effect on moral character. He states that it “transforms the individual from a dignified, industrious, self-reliant spiritual being into a dependent animal creature without his knowing it” (73). With the provision of welfare, there comes the provision of attitude, and Goldwater notes that because these programs are considered by the government an “obligation”, that the government thus “owes” people said money that they have the “right” to. His solution? Make welfare a private matter…after all, higher taxes are highly detrimental for fundraising for charities.

Chapter 9: Some Notes On Education

Goldwater has already established himself as a staunch opponent of federal funding for education in previous chapters, and has a whole chapter for continued elaboration. We know that he believes federal involvement in education to be unconstitutional, but he also has normative reasons for his opposition. Goldwater thinks the focus on the issues with education is off. It is not a quantitative problem in his view, rather a qualitative one. He wants to raise standards instead of spending more money. The impetus for the push for federal education aid was the Eisenhower Administration’s Conference on Education in 1955, which was designed to build support for federal grants for education. The problem, the committee found, was not funding, but lack of political will. Goldwater considers it inappropriate for the federal government to intervene to motivate political will, rather believes that political will must be built up by the people of states and localities. Although proponents of federal aid to education have spoken of urgent need, according to HEW Secretary Arthur Fleming, only about 230 out of approximately 42,000 school districts are in financial trouble. Yet, Goldwater notes that the Eisenhower Administration and congressional liberals are pushing for a comprehensive program to address a problem that effects 0.5% of school districts. Contrary to his previous statement about state legislatures being forced to use federal funds, he cites his own state of Arizona turning down funds under the 1958 Defense Education Act as evidence that states can raise the needed money. Perhaps, then, resisting federal aid is difficult but not impossible. What’s more, he finds that given the increase in classroom construction since World War II that school funding has met postwar population needs.

Goldwater sees two more problems with federal education. First, it promotes the idea that federal aid is free money when in truth it comes out of taxpayer dollars, and second, it leads to increased federal control of education as the federal government can slap on conditions for the states to meet to receive the money. He also decries the Dewey method of education, which focused on how a subject was taught rather than what and de-emphasized character education. Goldwater ultimately wants the concept of “federal” in education to be gone as he believes in communities. This notion is rather unthinkable today given the growth of federal involvement in education since 1965, and even Republicans surrendered on this question with No Child Left Behind in 2002 despite including the shuttering of the Department of Education in their campaign platform six years earlier. Although Goldwater would have approved of the motive of the legislation to improve education on the quality end, he would have opposed the entire federal nature of it, from federal standards to increased federal spending.  When it comes to how the book has aged with time, this chapter is the second oldest part of it, the first of course being civil rights.


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