DEVLIN: 10 Quotes from “The Conscience of a Conservative” for College Activists


Monday, May 6, 2019

Last week, I took an evening to unwind and reread The Conscience of a Conservative, an insight on the beliefs of the movement written by Barry Goldwater in 1960. As the adage goes, there is nothing new under the sun, and the book is as prescient and perceptive as it was in 1960. While conservatives today may be battling a different iteration of the left than in 1960, Goldwater’s defense of conservatism endures and still speaks to contemporary issues. Here are ten quotes that are directly applicable to issues on modern-day college campuses and the country at large.

  1. “I have been much concerned that so many people today with Conservative instincts feel compelled to apologize for them… These formulations are tantamount to an admission that conservatism is a narrow, mechanistic economic theory… but cannot be relied upon as a comprehensive political philosophy.”

    The left has performed a sleight of hand that goes beyond calling the intelligence and morality of college conservatives into question. They have entrenched the notion that the federal government is an intrinsic good rather than a necessary evil. This puts Conservatives between the devil and the deep blue sea. Either Conservatives accept the left’s assumption and betray their ideals, or they must justify the perceived evils of curtailing federal power. When we fall for these clever traps, the left throws out labels of heartlessness and many conservatives quickly backpedal to appease.
  2. “The root difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals of today is that Conservatives take account of the whole man, while Liberals tend to look only at the material side of man’s nature. The Conservative believes that man is, in part, and economic, an animal creature; but that he is also a spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires.”

    On the left, the belief is growing that federally-implemented democratic socialism is the remedy for all societal ills. These proposed solutions ironically reduce the concept of identity to materialist terms. Conservatism believes how people act economically is rooted in intangible features that construct an individual’s identity. Therefore, the development of people and their identities are maximized when freedoms are maximized which in turn helps individuals find purpose in life.
  3. “Every man, for his individual good and for the good of his society, is responsible for his own development. The choices that govern his life are choices that he must make: they cannot be made by any other human being, or by a collectivity of human beings.”

    Evidenced by the left’s desire to limit speech and other such freedoms, many subconsciously see the law as the adjudicator of morality. For example, making hateful speech unlawful by construing it with criminally-punishable incitement is an effort by the left to make the state the ultimate arbiter of morality. Conversely, the right acknowledges that not all morality can be legislated, and personal, familial, or religious ethical principles stand as far more powerful restraints.
  4. “The framers were well aware of the danger posed by self-seeking demagogues – that they might persuade a majority of the people to confer on government vast powers in return for deceptive promises of economic gain.”

    The hard left believes their agenda can achieve social justice and equality, but in pursuit of that goal, they use the outrage of the mob to force people into adopting their positions rather than convincing them. The mob intimidates anyone they label as heterodox and makes intellectual deviation into a heresy. Using these tactics, the left has monopolized control over campus culture, promising they will reach optimum equity and inclusion only to curtail freedom in reality.
  5. “The collectivists have not abandoned their ultimate goal- to subordinate the individual to the State… The individual can be put at the mercy of the State – not only by making the State his employer- but by divesting him of the means to provide for his personal needs and by giving the State the responsibility for caring for those needs from cradle to grave.”

    Putting “Democratic” in front of socialism is how mainstream, progressive figures, like Senator Bernie Sanders, justify advocating for socialism despite its numerous failings. However, If we were to task the government with caring for our every need in life, not only will it fail miserably to do so, it permits the state to determine not only a life’s needs in between birth and death, but also when every life begins and ends. Regardless of whether or not we democratically choose our socialist leaders, ultimate control will lead to tyranny, which is what we see currently playing out before our eyes in Venezuela.
  6. “How can a man be truly free if he is denied the means to exercise freedom? How can he be free if the fruits of his labor are not his to dispose of, but are treated, instead, as part of a common pool of public wealth?”

    Leaders of the Democratic party claim they are Robin-Hood-like figures, taking from the rich and giving to the disadvantaged. This is foolishness. Robin Hood stole from a government expropriating wealth from its people and returned the wealth to its rightful owners. Conversely, the left reaches into the pockets of everyone, even those who have made their wealth purely through their dignified work.
  7. “The material and spiritual sides of man are intertwined; that it is impossible for the State to assume responsibility for one without intruding on the essential nature of the other.”

    Demands for Conservatives and students to keep their religious convictions out of the classroom and government are increasing. And yet, it’s not enough to keep one’s opinion to yourself; a baker or photographer must supply goods and services that are in opposition to their convictions. Our ability to supply and demand different goods and services based on our preferences is just as crucial as our right to free speech; to limit one is to limit the other.
  8. “Have you no sense of obligation? The Liberals ask. 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? The answer of this question is, of course, no. But a simple “no” is not enough. I feel certain that conservatism is through unless conservatives can demonstrate and communicate the difference between being concerned with these problems and believing that the federal government is the proper agent for their solution.”

    When conservative organizations have booths set up on campus inviting students to debate, many have been attacked verbally and physically. Conservatives are considered heartless, intolerant, bigoted, racists or even Nazis. It is incumbent on Conservatives to flip the script. Center the argument about the government’s role in solving problems. Depending on the issue, this can lead to a discussion about the Constitutionality of such programs, and then to the government’s effectiveness in addressing said problems.
  9. “For the American Conservative, there is no difficulty in identifying the day’s overriding political challenge: it is to preserve and extend freedom.”

    If you take one point away from this article, remember that maximizing freedom must remain the central tenet of conservatism. It is imperative to not only voice how freedom is the most ethical way of organizing a society, but how freedom yields the most net-benefit, for the individual and society alike.
  10. “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.”

    Authorities in statehouses and on college campuses seek to do good but too often expand their power in the process. The only way to slow or prevent further intrusion on our freedoms is to elect and support leaders that are aware of the corruptible aspects of power.


Follow Bradley Devlin on twitter: @bradleydevlin

Bradley Devlin is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Political Economics and serves as the President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Bradley Devlin

University of California, Berkeley

Bradley Devlin is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Political Economics and serves as the President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

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