Goldwater warnings resonate
It seems long ago since we had a president with business experience. (It wasn't so long. George W. Bush, like his dad before him, was an oilman.)
But how's this for a vocational qualification to lead us all?
“I went to work part time in the store when I was in about the seventh grade, and to work permanently in 1929 (at age 20).”
The store wasn't your average mom 'n' pop shop. It was the major department store of Phoenix. Barry Goldwater put in 23 full-time years there (interrupted to fly planes in World War II) advancing from floor salesman to company president.
“I learned in my formative years,” the retailer who became a five-term United States senator and Republican presidential candidate wrote, “that the American economic system could only work well, and at its best, when unhampered by government and controlled only by the marketplace.”
The store grew to a chain of five, selling out to Associated Dry Goods Corp., onetime parent of Pittsburgh's old Joseph Horne Co. The boss got into local reform politics.
He had no illusions that the business world was peopled by saints. But liberals who'd put government in charge of industry “suffer from an absolute lack of knowledge of how this system works,” he said.
He never got to be president. Democrat Lyndon Johnson swamped him by 16 million votes in 1964.
But Goldwater, who died at 89 in 1998, comes across as uncannily prophetic in letters, speeches and diaries. (A tireless sort, he was a published photographer who exhibited in hundreds of shows; a travel lecturer; a lifelong ham radio operator; and an outdoorsman and whitewater rafter.)
Some of his best writings enliven “Pure Goldwater,” a 2008 book compiled by son Barry Jr. and Washington veteran John W. Dean.
“I don't think I ever felt so downcast walking home,” he said about talking to 25 young people at a war protest, “thinking of the ignorance of these kids. And I was even more worried about the lack of knowledge of their parents, and the reluctance of their schools to teach about the workings of the Constitution.” This was not 2013, mind you, after a 10-year war, in a weak economy, and with what he'd see as socialized medicine coming down the pike; it was 1971.
Goldwater saw the New Deal of the 1930s infecting both parties with unwarranted faith in big government as the solution to social inequities. He warned against the power of organized labor to swing elections, even before the full flowering of unions. Meanwhile, “businessmen have become nothing but weak-kneed, afraid to even voice their own opinions.”
He learned that “you can't run government like a business,” though good business practices could improve many a government program — “and we can balance the budget.” How he'd love trillion-dollar deficits.
In his view, politicians who “think only of what can be given to people that might gain them votes” are today's captains of industry — by default. And this in the 1970s: “American industry and business and American genius no longer speak out with the authority they did when they were making this country the greatest in the world.”
Can't say we weren't warned.
Jack Markowitz is a Thursday columnist for Trib Total Media. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Former Steelers LB Haggans to do time in Westmoreland jail
- Ex-Steelers QB Batch creates sports medicine startup at Pitt
- Crosby understands rule prohibiting him from playing, stresses he is hurt
- Pitt adds Texas wide receiver as 16th commitment to Class of 2015
- WVU frat pledge had fatal blood alcohol level more than 6 times legal limit
- Allegheny County assistant public defender charged for allegedly lying to court staff
- Supporters optimistic about passage of medical marijuana
- Pittsburgh cracks down on overcrowded houses
- LeBeau won’t join Cardinals coaching staff
- Owner of Italian Village Pizza stores gets house arrest for tax evasion
- Crosby banned from Jets game because he missed All-Star Game