Barry Goldwater is one of my great political heroes. I might even rank him above Ronnie--I haven't decided. He wrote The Conscience of a Conservative almost 50 years ago, and while the political context may have changed, I find much of what he says very relevant to today.
Goldwater bemoans a Republican Party that in practice is almost indistinguishable from the Party it opposes. The Gentleman from Arizona warns that the cavalier disregard of the Constitution replaces the rule of laws with the rule of men. He fears the expanse of government because the natural course of government is to oppress the governed.
State power, considered in the abstract need not restrict freedom, but absolute state power always does. The legitimate functions of government are actually conducive to freedom. Maintaining internal order, keeping foreign foes at bay, administering justice, removing the obstacles to the free interchange of goods--the exercise of these powers makes it possible for men to follow their chosen pursuits with the maximum of freedom. But note that the instrument by which these desirable ends are achived can be the instrument for achieving undesirable ends--that government can, instead of extending freedom, restrict freedom. And note, secondly, that this "can" quickly becomes "will" the moment the holders of government power are left to their own devices. This is because of the corrupting influence of power, the natural tendency of men who possess some power to take unto themselves more power. The tednency leads eventually to the acqusition of all power--whether in the hands of one or many makes little difference to the freedom of those left on the outside.
Such then is history's lesson . . . : release the holders of state power from any restraints other than those they wish to impose upon themselves and you swinging down the well-travelled road to [government] absolutism. (Emphasis supplied)
Allow me to help establish some cred for Barry among my gay readership. In a 1994 op-ed entitled "The Politics of Gay Bashing" or "Protecting Gays from Job Discrimination" or some variant depending upon the newspaper in which it appeared, Sen. Goldwater wrote:
Gays and lesbians are a part of every American family. They should not be shortchanged in their efforts to better their lives and serve their communities. It's time America realized that there is no gay exemption in the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in the Declaration of Independence. Job discrimination against gays - or anybody else - is contrary to each of these founding principles.
Some will try to paint this as a liberal or religious issue. I am a conservative Republican, but I believe in democracy and the separation of church and state. The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live as they please, as long as they don't hurt anyone else in the process. No one has ever shown me how being gay or lesbian harms anyone else.
And in case you don't just love him yet, when Jerry Falwell charged that "every good Christian should be concerned" by the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, Barry Goldwater responded:
"every good Christian should line up and kick Jerry Falwell's ass."
Read his book.