All Commentary
Wednesday, December 1, 1993

An Ancient Principle

The reason I am opposed to the Federal Department of Education is that it represents a very ancient principle in the field of education, which, it seems to me, has been one of the chief enemies of human liberty for several thousand years—the principle, namely, that education is an affair essentially of the State, that education must be standardized for the welfare of the whole people and put under the control of government, that personal idiosyncrasies should be avoided. This principle of course, was enunciated in classic form in ancient Greece. It is the theory, for example, that underlies the Republic of Plato. But the principle was not only enunciated in theory, it was also, in some of the Greek states, put into practice. It is a very ancient thing—this notion that the children belong to the State, that their education must be provided for by the State in a way that makes for the State’s welfare. But that principle, I think you will find if you examine human history, is inimical at every step to liberty.

—J. Gresham Machen

Education, Christianity and the State

The Value of Families

Separation, divorce, and failure to marry, rather than lack of economic opportunity, are responsible for many of the economic problems experienced over the past two decades.

The breakup of the traditional American family largely accounts for the anemic increase in median household income, the failure to reduce the poverty rate more quickly, and an increase of 10 percent in the income disparity between rich and poor households since 1970.

In 1969, 70 percent of all households were married couples, 11 percent were single-parent families and 19 percent were non-family.

By 1989, only 56 percent of households were married couples, while the single-parent households had increased to 15 percent and nonfamily households had mushroomed to 29 percent.

Had it not been for this change between 1969 and 1989:

Real median family income, which increased by only 2 percent, would have increased by 13 percent.

The poverty rate would have dropped from 14 percent to 10 percent instead of 12 percent.

The income inequality between rich and poor households, which grew by 10 percent, would have increased by only 5 percent.

—Executive Alert

The Sins of the Intellectuals

The intellectual leaders of the peoples have produced and propagated the fallacies which are on the point of destroying liberty and Western civilization. The intellectuals alone are responsible for the mass slaughters which are the characteristic mark of our century. They alone can reverse the trend and pave the way for a resurrection of freedom.

—Ludwig von Mises

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to “Vietnam: A Fate of Its Own” (May 1993).

In Vietnam, a cab driver had to bribe a policeman $3 to avoid being arrested while transporting foreigners for hire. In America, you have to pay an investor $100,000 for a medallion before going into business, or police will arrest you for cutting in on an unconstitutional, government-protected monopoly.


Tom Alciere

Historic Quotes

Edmund Burke said, “Men qualify for freedom in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power is put somewhere on will and appetite, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

Profligacy Hits the Jackpot

With compulsory taxes absorbing so high a proportion of income, it may appear paradoxical to speak of voluntary taxes. But what is a government lottery, if not a voluntary tax? Certainly, a person may avoid the tax by not participating in the lottery.

The state of New York spends millions of dollars each year to try to prevent illegal gambling. One might conclude that the lawmakers believe gambling is an evil which should be suppressed. But no; we find the state permitting and even encouraging certain types of gambling. Bingo is permitted under certain conditions, and betting at racetracks where the state gets a heavy “cut” is encouraged.

And now, the statewide lottery to raise money for “education”! The state felt it needed more general revenue than it could raise through its many tax sources. So, why not try a “voluntary” tax like a lottery, and call it “education”? This might remove the onus for some who think gambling is a little bit evil and who do not realize that this is just another way of swelling the general revenues of the state.

Regardless of how one may appraise the moral aspects of gambling, there seems little doubt that a state lottery operates as a regressive tax, taking heavily from the poor, even though voluntarily. Historically, governments that have resorted to lotteries have had in common a tendency toward decadence. The state lottery feeds the idea of “something-for-nothing” already far advanced in this country. From the standpoint of the lawmakers, it is a “last resort,” desperation effort to fill the coffers of a profligate state.

—W. M. Curtiss, “Taxation Theory,” reprinted in Taxation and Confiscation (FEE, 1993)