The root difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals of today is that Conservatives take account of the whole man, while the Liberals tend to look only at the material side of man’s nature. The Conservative believes that man is, in part, an economic, an animal creature; but that he is also a spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires. What is more, these needs, and desires reflect the superior side of man’s nature, and thus take precedence over his economic wants. Conservatism therefore looks upon the enhancement of man’s spiritual nature as the primary concern of political philosophy. Liberals, on the other hand, — in the name of a concern for “human beings” — regard the satisfaction of economic wants as the dominant mission, of society. They are, moreover, in a hurry. So that their characteristic approach is to harness the society’s political and economic forces into a collective effort to compel “progress.” In this approach, I believe they fight against Nature. Barry Goldwater, (The Conscience of a Conservative, 1960) p. 2-3
This description of liberal ideology can be illustrated in the science fiction depiction of the Borg. The Star Trek nemesis of the starship enterprise was a society of half-human half-machine beings that had no individual identity. They only saw themselves as part of the collective. Gone was any individualistic ideas, hopes, aspirations or achievement. Gone was any ethnic or cultural distinctiveness. They were all part of the collective. They were men and women without souls. Joining this collective was not optional, as they would always proclaim, “resistance is futile.” When you really listen to the proposals of the liberal democrats you can hear that same mantra in the distant background. Forced universal heath care, more taxation, government run schools and redistribution of wealth are synonymous with collectivism of the Borg.
Conservative ideology espoused by Goldwater understood the nature of man as both spiritual and material. He understood that it is the individual achievements of Man that gives meaning, purpose and material comfort to the society at large not the other way around. Goldwater based his ideology on the following principles.
First each human being is a “unique creature,” possessing a mortal soul and an immortal soul. Goldwater argued that the mortal soul established the differences between every other human being. Therefore each human being has different potential and must be seen in respect to their own unique abilities. This respect for the individual and the desire for individual freedom are suffocated in the collectivist ideology of liberals. No one can reach their fullest potential unless they are totally free to do so. Milton Friedman and Goldwater would agree that individual freedoms ultimately benefit society and the individual, not the collective will of society.
Second, the conservative understands that “the economic and spiritual aspects of a man’s nature are inextricably intertwined.” Man’s status of economic health is based on his political freedom. Mankind will never experience economic freedom as wards of the state. Free people require limited government in order to be productive to their fullest potential. Government control stifles creativity and asphyxiates industry.
Thirdly, “Man’s development, in both spiritual and material aspects, is not something that can be directed by outside forces.” Each individual is responsible for his/her actions and their own development. We are responsible for the choices we make in life, good or bad. Society cannot be responsible for the bad decisions people make nor should we try to shield people from the consequences of those poor decisions.
Intrinsic in these principles is that human beings are material and spiritual. One does damage to the spirit of Man if we ignore the spiritual and only focus on the material welfare of an individual. People learn by being free to make mistakes and grow from those mistakes. They are also encouraged by their successes. Hence the axiom “give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”
Collectivist liberals underestimate the need for individuals to achieve on their own, to be productive with their own hands, hearts, minds or whatever skill-sets they develop. They also underestimate the damage that government involvement can cause to the individual because they are no longer an individual but a number, a part of the collective, the Borg if you will. Liberals want to maximize government in an attempt to force change based on their ideas. Conservatives want to maximize individual liberty and minimize government believing that government impedes progress and freedom, that a free people will always out perform a government controlled people, who are ultimately slaves of the state. Goldwater makes this clear when he says, “that 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; that if we take from a man the personal responsibility for caring for his material needs, we take from him also the will and the opportunity to be free.” (p. 70) Implied in the opportunity to be free is the desire to stand on ones own two feet.
The poor are the ones who suffer the most from this problem. The welfare state takes away the freedom of the individual. It empowers the state when it over taxes those not on welfare then dictates to the recipients of the welfare what they can and can not do with the “charity.” As Goldwater warns, “it transforms the individual from a dignified, industrious, self-reliant spiritual being into a dependent animal creature without his knowing it.” It also breeds an attitude that the government owes the benefits it confers or that they are somehow entitled to such help. Thus cultivating dependence at the sacrifice of freedom.
Conservative ideology promotes freedom and rejects the collectivism of the Liberals. Though they may claim, “resistance is futile” we retort in the words of Patrick Henry, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
[Editor’s note: this article was published at least seven years ago but clearly has relevance in today’s political climate]