One of the Deadliest Enemies to Liberty that Has Ever Been Devised

Quote of the Day for Monday, Nov. 22nd, 2010:

A double-quote day.

First, in honor of John F. Kennedy on the 47th anniversary of his assassination:

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

Second, J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) testifying before the joint Senate Committee on Education and Labor, and House Committee on Education, February 25, 1926, on the proposed establishment of a Department of Education, specifically here addressing the alleged benefits of national educational standardization that would result from such an establishment:

I believe that in the sphere of the mind we should have absolutely unlimited competition. There are certain spheres where competition may have to be checked, but not when it comes to the sphere of the mind; and it seems to me that we ought to have this state of affairs: That every State should be faced by the unlimited competition in this sphere of other States; that each one should try to provide the best for its children that it possibly can; and, above all, that all public education should be kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free competition of private schools and church schools. A public education that is faced by such competition is a beneficent result of modern life; but a public education that is not faced by such competition of private schools is one of the deadliest enemies to liberty that has ever been devised.

[…]

As I say, I think that when it comes to the training of human beings, you have to be a great deal more careful than you do in other spheres about preservation of the right of individual liberty and the principle of individual responsibility; and I think we ought to be plain about this — that unless we preserve the principles of liberty in this department there is no use in trying to preserve them anywhere else. If you give the bureaucrats the children, you might as well give them everything else as well.

Given the mock horror and contemptuous sneers with which the political & media establishment greeted Sharon Angle’s suggestion during the latest election cycle to dismantle the Department of Education, what do you suppose they would have made of this guy? Of course, he was a New Testament scholar, which probably would have disqualified him from addressing the Congress under 1st Amendment principles in our day. The whole (fairly brief) testimony is worthwhile reading; I’m not sure how stable the link will turn out to be…