Barry Goldwater

Top 10 Quotes of Barry Goldwater (Plus a Bonus: My Favorite Quote Used in My Speeches)

Craig HueyCulture Wars, Politics 3 Comments

Barry Goldwater changed America.

Most readers may not know much about Barry Goldwater if anything… But he had one of the greatest impacts on politics, that’s still being seen today.

He lost the presidential race in 1964 but set into motion powerful and philosophical changes still being felt today.

Personally, it was Barry Goldwater, his books, his appearance at the Republican convention in San Francisco, his speeches… And the incredible hatred of the big-government Republicans and Democrats drew my attention when I was in junior high school.

It was around this time when I wandered into Goldwater’s campaign headquarters, picked up his reading materials, and paid close attention to his nominating speech by Ronald Reagan.

It had a profound effect on me, and I’d like to share with you 10 of my favorite quotes and a special bonus—The one quote I often use from Barry Goldwater (that he was often criticized for), that I use in my speeches, especially speaking to young people.

Goldwater’s 1964 presidential candidacy launched the conservative revolution within the Republican Party, fighting back against big government Republican-in-Name-Only (RINOs) that control the party. And although he lost, he paved the way for Reagan and the Conservative/Libertarian movement today.

Goldwater served 30 years as Senator from Arizona, retiring from the Senate in 1986.

Here are 10 quotes (and one bonus) from Barry Goldwater that I think you’ll like…

They are as true and insightful today as they were when he said them.

  • “We have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is “needed” before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents “interests,” I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause, I am doing the very best I can.”
  • “The legitimate functions of government are actually conducive to freedom. Maintaining internal order, keeping foreign foes at bay, administering justice, removing obstacles to the free interchange of goods—the exercise of these powers makes it impossible for men to follow their chosen pursuits with maximum freedom. But note 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.”
  • “They propound the first principles of totalitarianism: that the State is competent to do all things and is limited in what it actually does only by the will of those who control the State. It is clear that this view is in direct conflict with the Constitution, which is an instrument, above all, for limiting the functions of government, and which is as binding today as when it was written.”
  • “Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed. Their mistaken course stems from false notions of equality, ladies, and gentlemen. Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism. Fellow Republicans, it is the cause of Republicanism to resist concentrations of power, private or public, which enforce such conformity and inflict such despotism. It is the cause of Republicanism to ensure that power remains in the hands of the people.”
  • “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.”
  • “You know, once before, a great and self-governing people gave up their liberty—A liberty far less than ours. They put themselves in the hands of their leader, asking only to be fed and entertained. They traded their votes for ‘bread and circuses.’ They traded their Senate for an emperor.”
  • “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.”
  • The good Lord raised this mighty Republic to be a home for the brave and to flourish as the land of the free-not to stagnate in the swampland of collectivism, not to cringe before the bully of communism.”
  • Never forget there was only one freedom—only one freedom—on which this nation was founded. That was freedom from government—from too much, oppressive government.”

10) “The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live life as they please as long as they don’t hurt anyone else in the process.”

And finally, here’s my special bonus quote. It’s my favorite quote and one that I often use in my speeches.

Be sure to read it several times and think through what is being said.

I think you’re going to agree with it—If not let me know why.

Bonus Quote:

“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!”

A quick clip of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 speech: “Extremism in the defense of liberty…

Tell me what you think. Email me at or post a comment below.

You may read this also: Reagan’s Top 10 Quotes: Timeless Wisdom [Video]

Comments 3

  1. thank you Craig !

    I was there in the Cow Palace in 1964 when Senator Goldwater made that speech— thanks for keep that key quote alive !

    On top of all those key truths that he spoke, we believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and our Lord Jesus have His Word to heal a nation if we would only take time on a given Day to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face and turn from our wicked ways. The last such Day nationally was in 1918; join me in praying that someone with a national voice will call as soon as possible again for such a Day—we need a spiritual solution on top of a political solution.

  2. Wow! All I remember is when my dad–who rarely said anything about anything besides our grades from school–said when asked about voting that year, “I think I just voted for the wrong person. I should have voted for Goldwater!” I was just 7 years old.

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