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Barry Goldwater Quotes That Inspire Us

A Project of the Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy

In 1952, Barry Goldwater leapt onto the national stage when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, representing his home state of Arizona. Over the course of his next 35 years in public service, Senator Goldwater made his mark on the nation—and the world—as a staunch defender of the U.S. Constitution and America’s founding principles. His principled leadership reshaped the Republican Party, set a conservative agenda for the nation, and laid the groundwork for the transformative presidency of Ronald Reagan.

The Goldwater Institute’s Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy is proud to continue leading the charge for the founding principles that Senator Goldwater fought to defend. Here, we share some quotes from Senator Goldwater’s seminal book Conscience of a Conservative, which inspire us to this day.

“The need for ‘economic growth that we hear about so much about these days will be achieved, not by the government harnessing the nation’s economic forces, but by emancipating them.”

“The currently favored instrument of collectivization is the Welfare State. The collectivists have not abandoned their ultimate goal-to subordinate the individual to the State, but their strategy has changed.”

Government Overreach and Property Rights

“Throughout history, government has proved to be the chief instrument for thwarting man’s liberty. Government represents power in the hands of some men to control and regulate the lives of other men. And power, as Lord Acton said, corrupts men. ‘Absolute power,’ he added, ‘corrupts absolutely.’

“This country has grown great and strong and prosperous by placing major reliance on a free economy…Private property, free competition, hard work-these have been our greatest tools.”


“We have encouraged the teaching profession to be more concerned with how a subject is taught than with what is taught. Most important of all: in our anxiety to ‘improve’ the world and insure ‘progress’ we have permitted our schools to become laboratories for social and economic change according to the predilections of the professional educators.”

“It is the fashion these days to say that responsibility for education ‘traditionally’ rests with the local community-as a prelude to proposing that an exception to the tradition in the form of federal aid.”

“We have forgotten that the proper function of the school is to transmit the cultural heritage of one generation to the next generation, and to so train the minds of the new generation as to make them capable of absorbing ancient learning and applying it to the problem of its own day.”

“We have forgotten that purpose of education. Or better: we have forgotten for whom education is intended. The function of our schools is not to educate, or elevate society; but rather to educate individuals and equip them with the knowledge that will enable them to take care of society’s needs.”

“We have forgotten that a society progresses only to the extent that it produces leaders that are capable of guiding and inspiring progress.  And we cannot develop such leaders unless our standards of education are geared to excellence instead of mediocrity. “

Constitutional Limits on Government

“Release the holders of state from any restraints other than those they wish to impose upon themselves and you are swinging down the well-travelled road to absolutism.”

“[N]ote that the very instrument by which these desirable ends are achieved can be the instrument for achieving undesirable ends- that government can, instead of extending freedom, restrict freedom.”

Standing on Principle

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

Ronald Reagan delivers his “A Time for Choosing” speech about Barry Goldwater and conservative principles of self-determination during the 1964 U.S. presidential election.

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