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The Threat of Forced Labor Through Mandatory "National Service":

At the always fascinating Becker-Posner Blog, Richard Posner and Gary Becker each have excellent posts critiquing proposals for mandatory "national service." As Posner points out:

There are perennial calls for drafting all 18 year olds to serve in either the military or some civilian alternative. Congressman Charles Rangel has repeatedly introduced bills in Congress (the "Universal National Service Act") that would do this. The bills have never come close to passage, and are unlikely to in the future even with Democratic control of both houses of Congress. But universal national service is one of those seductive ideas that refuse to die completely.

Rep. Rangel is not the only supporter mandatory national service. Other advocates include prominent Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the center-left Democratic Leadership Council, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, and conservative icon Bill Buckley.

Becker and Posner do an excellent job of marshaling the consequentialist economic arguments against mandatory "national service." I would only add that advocates of this policy implicitly assume that whatever jobs the governments assigns to program participants actually will benefit the nation as a whole. That assumption is unlikely to be true, given what we know about the power of narrow interest groups to divert government resources for their own benefit.

Be that as it may, there is a deeper moral issue here: mandatory national service is not just an inefficient policy proposal, it is forced labor. And forced labor on a massive scale. Most proposals would require millions of young people to do compelled work at the behest of the government for one to two years each. Even in the unlikely event that mandatory national service could be shown to provide benefits that outweigh its costs, it would still be morally repulsive. It would still strike at the heart of the liberal idea that each person owns his or her own body, and cannot justly be compelled to work for others merely because it might be convenient to do so. Short of outright slavery or the murder of innocent people, it is hard to think of anything that violates individual liberty more clearly than forced labor.

The rhetoric of "national service" obscures the true nature of the idea, perhaps intentionally. It suggests that forced labor at the orders of the government ("national service") is somehow morally different from forced labor at the behest of other private individuals. But there is no intrinsic moral difference between the two. Yes, forced labor for the government might benefit the nation (though that result is by no means guaranteed). But so could forced labor for a private enterprise. Indeed, even outright slavery was regularly defended on the grounds that the labor of slaves produced valuable benefits to society as a whole.

As Posner points out, there is little chance that Congress will enact a forced labor program in the near future. In the long-term, however, I fear that constant advocacy of the idea will erode our moral resistance to it, and that some crisis may occur that will enable the proposal to go through. The fact that it continues to attract the support of savvy politicians like Emanuel, Rangel, and McCain, suggests that it has some legs. And once enacted, a forced labor program may be very difficult to repeal. Both government and (possibly) private enterprises will become dependent on these "low cost" (from their perspective) workers, and will lobby hard to avoid having to give them up. Moreover, government forced labor programs tend to target the young (usually 18-21 year olds), a group with very little political power; this factor also makes them difficult to abolish. For these reasons, among others, mandatory "national service" remains in force in France and Germany, despite the disappearance of the security threat from the Soviet Union that originally justified it.

We may not be able to completely eliminate the danger of forced labor. But we should at least recognize that forced labor is not only inefficient, but a great moral evil.

Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Ilya's position is reflective of a perfectly respectable libertarian tradition and one I have a lot of sympathy for.

But it should be noted that government conscripted labor is well-established historically. Communities required their residents to pitch in and build a road or a public works project. The international convention that bars slavery and most forms of forced labor contains an exception for this.

Also, of course, the military draft is a form of conscripted labor.

Indeed, in certain situations, the conscription of labor is a way to do public projects without creating a bureaucratic contracting process and empowering public-sector labor unions that many libertarians oppose.
9.23.2007 11:37pm
Truth Seeker:
Ilya's right the big problem is that 95% of the prople voting on something like this wouldn't have to worry about it. It's a lot easier to vote for bad things that wil never happen to you.

Communities needed people to pitch in to build a road before there were income, sales and gas taxes and ubiquitous construction companies, but that still didn't make it moral. A lot of immoral things were well-established historically.

Hopefully if it eve gets passed the Supreme Court will have the guts to call it involuntary servitude.
9.23.2007 11:43pm
Hei Lun Chan (mail) (www):
So can we count on public-sector labor unions to do the hard work of actively lobbying against this if there's ever a possibility of it passing Congress?
9.23.2007 11:46pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
A one or two year term of 'forced labor' in the presumed benefit to a country is an extremely efficient way of deterring the free-rider who seeks to benefit from his/her nationality but would otherwise never return anything to it.

Whether the work itself would be performed most efficiently is another, lesser matter. The point of it would be the deterrence of free-riders.
9.23.2007 11:48pm
elliot (mail) (www):
It's slavery.

And a draft in time of existential threat is different in both nature and practicially than national service.
9.23.2007 11:59pm
jim:
I agree that mandatory national service is a bad thing, but a few points:

1) National service is different from the peculiar institution in the same way that a law is different from a bill of attainder - it is a generalized on society agnostic to who it is it takes under its purview, whereas slavery effects an individual or class of individuals that is not otherwise legally distinct from the general people.

2) The reductio absurdum of the logic that compelled state service is immorral is that taxes are also immorral. Clearly the collective must be able to extract something from the individual. It is unclear where the dividing line lies here, but I suspect that it all comes back to the morality being the lesser of two evils.
9.24.2007 12:06am
Lior:
Even though it's economically inefficient, I'd say that when there is a military draft in force, anyone who isn't drafted should be required to perform some other national service. My (Israeli) experience is that the alternative (some people serve, some don't) is very divisive.

This is not to say American kids wouldn't benefit from a "growing up" experience of having to change their surroundings, fend for themselves, and meet people from different walks of life. College partly fulfills this function, but at a cost to the academic goals. Perhaps admissions should favour those with post-highschool work experience?
9.24.2007 12:11am
Lior:
jim: Economically, forced labor is a form of taxation. But this tax is not paid in cash. An ordinary tax obligation limits your freedom only in the sense that you need to raise money to pay for it -- you are free to choose how you will do that. Forced labor does not work this way.

As an intermediate example, we should consider a "national service" in the form of a fixed capitation on all 18-year olds (call it "majority tax" or "citizenship tax").
9.24.2007 12:25am
Ilya Somin:
But it should be noted that government conscripted labor is well-established historically. Communities required their residents to pitch in and build a road or a public works project. The international convention that bars slavery and most forms of forced labor contains an exception for this.

I agree that government conscription of labor is "well-established historically." But so what? Slavery itself was "well-established historically" until the 19th century. So was dictatorship, laws against blasphemy, laws against criticizing the government, and so on. If infringements on liberty are OK so long as they have historical roots, we wouldn't have any rights left.

in certain situations, the conscription of labor is a way to do public projects without creating a bureaucratic contracting process and empowering public-sector labor unions that many libertarians oppose.

I'm no fan of public employees unions. But I would take them over forced labor programs any day. So, I think, would most other libertarians.
9.24.2007 12:35am
Ilya Somin:
A one or two year term of 'forced labor' in the presumed benefit to a country is an extremely efficient way of deterring the free-rider who seeks to benefit from his/her nationality but would otherwise never return anything to it.

Whether the work itself would be performed most efficiently is another, lesser matter. The point of it would be the deterrence of free-riders.


Taxation (as long as it funds programs that really do benefit the country) can prevent free-riding just as effectively, and without violating individual liberty to anything like as great an extent.
9.24.2007 12:37am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Well, we could try Heinlein's notion of national service as a path to the franchise.
9.24.2007 12:40am
Kazinski:
What is it about the left that favors authoritarian solutions to non-existent problems? I heard Bob Costas interviewing Ken Burns on his new series The War (WWII). When the conversation turned to the Iraq War, they came to swift agreement that Bush blew an opportunity after 9/11 by not raising taxes and instituting universal national service. According to their analysis it would have galvanized public opinion and mobilizied the national will. Pretty ironic from a couple of liberals, criticizing Bush for not being opportunistic enough in expanding the powers of the Federal Government. Not a hint of questioning whether or not it was necessary or even helpful in winning the war on terror. A tax increase would have deepened the recession, the national service proposal would have pissed off a lot of 18 year olds and provided a lot of fodder for anti-war protests. Oh, now I get it.

I should note that I am in principle against mandatory national service, but I do in fact have an 18 year old son at home. so I've reluctantly become a proponent, at least for the next year. Faster please.
9.24.2007 12:40am
Steve2:

Short of outright slavery or the murder of innocent people, it is hard to think of anything that violates individual liberty more clearly than forced labor.


That's something I disagree with. Or at least, it's very easy for me to think of things that violate individual liberty just as clearly but do more harm to the victim: rape, involuntary sterilization, medical experimentation without informed consent, etc.

Not saying I think national service is a good idea, or even a just but impractical one. Just saying I think it's easy to think of clearer violations of liberty.
9.24.2007 12:44am
theobromophile (www):

The reductio absurdum of the logic that compelled state service is immorral is that taxes are also immorral.

As stated above, one can fulfill a tax obligation in any manner one pleases. In many situations, he may be able to extract the same value for his labour if he works in an efficient manner. Furthermore, a person is also able to ask for whatever value for his labour that he desires; in a national service system, the government will determine both the manner, value, and time of labour.

Efficiency or the attainment of laudable goals are not moral sanctions. It is certainly more efficient to execute criminals without appeals, to search without warrants, to try without a jury, or the like; however, we recognise that the government, without any checks (i.e. friction-like inefficiencies), quickly turns to tyranny.

Forced service? Even if the government hasn't a clue of how to employ several million unskilled teenagers, it will find a way to do that - with the effect of creating a ridiculous amount of bureaucracy in the process.
9.24.2007 12:45am
Kazinski:
I just wonder what the problem is that is supposed to be solved by mandatory national service. I can think of three possiblitiies:


1) There are severe nationwide social problems that can only be solved by an untrained army of 18 year olds.

2) There are large packs of aimless 18 year olds roaming the streets living on garbage and camped out in parks, the national service proposal is designed to feed and cloth and teach them some marketable skills.

3) Some old fogeys with memories of how tough it was when they were young think that parents today are coddling their teenagers and have raised a generation of soft lazy slugs. They think that federal government needs to step in and take all the cell phones, Ipods and credit cards away from these kids and put then to work.


I think the answer is clearly 3. If the national service plan can indoctrinate the kids to believe in pervasive welfare state socialism, then that would be a added bonus.
9.24.2007 1:05am
UW2L:
I wonder if there's a xenophobic argument to be made in favor of this wretched idea: with all the nation's youth spending a few years doing work for nothing - save, I suppose, the pleasure of not being imprisoned for defying the law (remember, an 18-year-old boy's failure to register for Selective Service is a felony) - Uncle Sam could finally find a workforce to replace all those damn illegals who sneak into this country and are willing to work shit jobs for little to no pay, blah blah blah.

I don't know if the numbers add up, that is, whether there are roughly as many young persons of the right age as there are illegal immigrants in the U.S. Then again, it's not like hard numbers are needed to promote an idea when podium-pounding emotional pleas do just as well, anyway. Moreover, there's not a 1:1 correspondence between the value of the two parties (see below).

Forced labor by America's youth could be a dark solution to America's current wolf-by-the-ears, illegal immigrants, who, for all they are reviled by certain parties, comprise a significant percentage of the population and have become key to the American economy. I have heard anecdotally that Germany's policy of universal service, which permits the conscripted young person to choose civil rather than military service, is a boon to that country's economy. (It doesn't seem to solve Germany's problems of high unemployment rates and the subsequent xenophobia towards Turkish guest-workers, though...)

Of course, there would be costs if (chas vechalilah) such a plan were ever to be adopted here. Employers who now employ undocumented immigrants in unsafe working conditions would have to shape up and toe the OSHA line, as well as provide health care plans (though at least a healthy young person's probably cheap to cover), see the kids unionize and demand more benefits whereas the illegal immigrant workers would never dare talk balk to the employer, etc. Free (as in beer, at least) legal labor could prove false economy compared to low-paid illegal labor.

Whether it would prove pragmatically advantageous or not, the idea is repellent to the core. May it never come to pass.
9.24.2007 1:12am
Mike Rentner (mail) (www):
There are times when conscription is necessary to national survival. This is without question. If WWII had gone even worse in the beginning than it had, with massive deaths, it may have been quite difficult to pay a wage high enough to recruit suitable numbers of people. Yes, it is a form of slavery, but sometimes national survival requires extreme actions.

That being said, I don't recommend national military service now or in any forseeable future. If we can't convince Americans to defend our country, then it may not be worth defending. We have had no problem filling the ranks of our military, and even if we were to return to the size of our 1980's military or larger there is no indication that conscription is necessary or desirable.

As for civilian service, it is immoral for many reasons, slavery being wrong is just the most obvious. The other is that civilian national service takes away jobs from people who would otherwise be paid for that job. If I were in the business of construction houses and other buildings and the government put a bunch of slave wage civilians in my market area, I'd be out of work. This is immoral as much as the slavery of the poor individuals.

Just like with other big government oppressive ideas, the first thing is to ask why those in favor of it feel a need to wait for the government to start? If they think that slavery is such an uplifting and character building experience, they should all start immediately to work that way. They need not wait for the rest of us. If it's such a good idea, they should get enough people to volunteer for it. Just keep them from doing anything economically beneficial, because others should not pay for their immorality.
9.24.2007 1:24am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
As far as whether constant mention of such a program will erode our resistance to it:

I may be dating myself, but a proposal for universal national service was the high school debate topic back in 1968, if I recall correctly.
9.24.2007 1:27am
Truth Seeker:
I know how to get liberals to give up on the idea of national service. Be sure it includes a provision that any 18 year old can buy his way out of it by paying the government for his work time at the minimum wage!
9.24.2007 1:29am
CaDan (mail):

I may be dating myself, but a proposal for universal national service was the high school debate topic back in 1968, if I recall correctly.


It was the 2006-07 topic as well.
9.24.2007 1:41am
SFBurke (mail):
I actually am not opposed to a draft per se; in moments of emergency it can be justified and it certainly is not outside of the Constitution.

What I find particularly galling is the justification for it. Most leftists justify the draft on the basis that the "poor" or "minorities" are fighting our wars and that the "elite" is not bearing the burden. Of course, these leftists have spent the last several decades driving ROTC off of most Ivy League and other "elite" campuses and generally creating an anti-military sentiment amongst the elite (not merely a "let's not go to way too hastily" sentiment but a true "the military is evil" sentiment). After doing all of this, they are surpised that the children of the "elite" are not entering the military? I know a number of well-educated members of the "elite" who have in fact served in Iraq (and not always as officers), BUT most people I know have not seriously considered the military option. If the left truly believes that it is important that all levels of society participate in the military, then maybe they should stop doing everything in the power to drive the "elite" away from the military.

SFD
9.24.2007 3:29am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"If the left truly believes that it is important that all levels of society participate in the military, then maybe they should stop doing everything in the power to drive the 'elite'"

"IF" being the operative word here. I think many of the proposals are either ironic, or stem from frustration with what often appears to be a lack of seriousness coming from the other side.
9.24.2007 3:50am
David M. Nieporent (www):
What Ilya doesn't mention -- though I agree with his post wholeheartedly -- is that we're getting a National Service Lite through the backdoor, as school districts and even entire states (Maryland) are beginning to require mandatory service as a condition for high school graduation.

Of course, this is very light compared to the proposals Ilya is condemning, in that it's only required to obtain a diploma, and that it requires a relative handful of hours compared to a full year or two. But it stems from the same basic impulses. And in some ways it's even more morally repugnant, because it's often Orwellianly labelled as "volunteering," (when it isn't bureaucratically labelled as "service learning") and it's insidiously designed to get parents to sign on by telling them it will help their kids get into college.
9.24.2007 5:36am
Grant Gould (mail):
But hey, no need to worry, the plain text of the 13th Amendment entirely rules this out. All we need are some good conservative justices who will read the text as it stands rather than to the benefit of the government or in light of "historical precedent" or "prevailing standards," right?

Right?

...anyone?
9.24.2007 7:14am
davod (mail):
Just thonk of the additional permanent government employees required to manage these programs.
9.24.2007 7:20am
Kingsley Browne (mail):

David M. Nieporent: What Ilya doesn't mention -- though I agree with his post wholeheartedly -- is that we're getting a National Service Lite through the backdoor, as school districts and even entire states (Maryland) are beginning to require mandatory service as a condition for high school graduation.

That's exactly right. Below is a letter to the editor of mine that was published in my local paper. The governor of Michigan had announced a public-service requirement for recipients of certain state scholarships, and our local paper (the Ann Arbor News) editorialized in favor of imposing the requirement as a condition of graduation.


September 2, 2004

Forcing Students to Give Service Is not Justified

To the editor:

"Community Service Order Should Expand" (Aug. 24, 2004) provides two inadequate justifications for requiring all high school students to provide 40 hours of community service as a condition of graduation.

The first justification is that "shrinking revenue streams" make the state "unable to support not-for-profit groups at previous levels." In other words, the state government lacks the political will to raise taxes to what some apparently think are needed levels, presumably because of fear of voters. The suggested response is to conscript the labor of a nonvoting subgroup of the population. However, if the state wants to subsidize these nonprofit groups, it should do so out of general revenues rather than imposing the burden on a subgroup of the population simply because it has the power to do so.

The second justification is that the service requirement will, in Governor Granholm's words, result in "young people who embrace service to others as a way of life." It's an empirical question whether forcing people to do something now will make them more likely to do it voluntarily later, but it seems doubtful. The reasoning amounts to "let's tax the heck out of them now so that they will voluntarily give to charity later." Don't hold your breath.

Kingsley Browne
9.24.2007 9:05am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
John Burgess-

A one or two year term of 'forced labor' in the presumed benefit to a country is an extremely efficient way of deterring the free-rider who seeks to benefit from his/her nationality but would otherwise never return anything to it.

What do citizens owe to the country besides their taxes? (Assuming legitimate taxes, not discriminatory, racist, confiscatory, or illegal ones.) If someone pays their taxes but doesn't do anything else are they a "free rider"? If so, by what raionale?
9.24.2007 9:46am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
American psi.

Of course they are. Due to circumstances, almost every citizen in this country gets more than he or she gives. In part, the fees were paid by earlier generations. In part, by a minority who work at national improvement in a million ways, large or small, organized or individual, and the free-loader enjoys the incremental improvement in circumstances without paying additional costs.

The other problem with free-loaders is that they think themselves superior--and they'll tell you how superior they are--for having figured out how to free-load. That's annoying as hell. So if a free-loader were to suffer some misfortune on account of having been a free-loader, I'd instantly go out and mow my lawn. Or something.
9.24.2007 10:32am
Eli Rabett (www):
I take it everyone is against homework also.
9.24.2007 10:59am
Orielbean (mail):
I thought Rangel wanted it because it would get more young people to be more vocal against the war when they would end up with their butts in Iraq... There is very little risk for me as a 26 year old healthy male with a good education and good job to vote for or against the war, in terms of possibly being shipped over to Iraq

With a draft in place, I would have to be more personally invested in my ideals for or against the war. Me being against the war would have a very real outcome if I worry about being blown to bits, and would encourage me to protest in a more direct manner if I opposed it.
9.24.2007 11:02am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Rep. Rangel is not the only supporter mandatory national service. Other advocates include prominent Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the center-left Democratic Leadership Council, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, and conservative icon Bill Buckley.


I call bulls*** on this one. I tracked down the quote from the Freedman article that Illya linked to and it was taken from a piece written by Senator McCain in which he was clearly calling for voluntary national service by expanding AmeriCorps program and encouraging the military to try to recruit more volunteers to fulfill some of the non-military roles that our servicemen and women are fulfilling.
9.24.2007 11:31am
exhelodrvr:
What is the difference between national service and paying taxes?
9.24.2007 11:36am
Eric Blair (mail):
I suppose taxation can be thought of as scutage, that is, pay the Govt to do things that you, as an individual, don't have the time, inclination, wherewithal, etc. to do, or to get out of doing something otherwise obligated.

Typically it looks like this has all evolved into the various things that govt does today, infrastructure and the various social programs that the govt administers and pays for.

Going back to national service: The whole thing has to go back to first principles.

What does and individual owe society? Anything?

And more specifically: What do Americans owe our respective levels of government, from the local to the national? Is there an obligation there? Is there an obligation even implied?

It ain't slavery if you owe it.
9.24.2007 11:55am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
American Psikhushka: As others have noted, compulsory national service would be an tax, directed at a particular set of the population. Rather than being collected in currency, the tax would be collected in labor.

Rather than seeing it as akin to slavery, I see it as part of the cost of being a citizen of a given country.

This assumes, as you do for taxes, that it be equitably distributed, with extremely few waivers. ADA, for instance, would not excuse most of the physically handicapped from national service, though it would delimit exactly which kind of services might be performed.

Investing in the idea of one's country--even if forced to do so--really does not offend my sense of propriety.
9.24.2007 12:06pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

I take it everyone is against homework also.


School kids get way too much homework. It starts way too young as well. Most is just busy work.

So, yes, I oppose homework.
9.24.2007 12:21pm
Lugo:
The reductio absurdum of the logic that compelled state service is immorral is that taxes are also immorral.

Not a Reductio ad absurdum at all. Taxes are immoral - and so is the idea of "national service" or "community service" or whatever they call the compulsory voluntarism flavor of the month. Calling national service and taxation an "investment in the country" doesn't make them any less immoral.
9.24.2007 12:25pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
There is a big difference between levying taxes and compulsory service.

Taxes are not good, but no one has come up with a better way to provide for a common defense and maintenance of courts and other requirements of civilization. That tax money is used for ignoble purposes is common and hardly avoidalbe.

Compulsory service does more, though. Money has no ideology and taking a cut of one's money is injurious and perhaps painful depending on the tax rate, but taking one's time is an entirely different animal.

I can pay taxes and still pursue my own planned life goals (absent some money), but with compulsory service I would have to stop all my plans and conform my life to the whims of the government. This is far more intrusive on freedom than just providing money.
9.24.2007 12:29pm
Ken Arromdee:
Of course they are. Due to circumstances, almost every citizen in this country gets more than he or she gives. In part, the fees were paid by earlier generations.

This is nonsense.

If my parents pay for something of mine, I don't owe a debt for it. That's the whole point of them paying; it needs to be treated as if I paid myself.
9.24.2007 12:31pm
Lugo:
Money has no ideology and taking a cut of one's money is injurious and perhaps painful depending on the tax rate, but taking one's time is an entirely different animal.

I don't know about you, but I have to work for my money. I spend over 100 days a year working for the government rather than myself. In short, money and time are identical.
9.24.2007 12:41pm
ken O:
Let me guess. The kids ho do well and go onto college ill get exempted. Unless the fail out of college. Giving professors more power over their student. Then they should have.

But the Kid who are failed by the system and have wasted 12 years in schools. That didn't teach them what they needed to know . Get put into slave labor. Well i mean at least the one who don't end up in jail .

That as bad as making it illegal to hire anyone. Who doesn't already have health insurance .

So when do change the counties name to the "American socialist republic ? "
9.24.2007 12:44pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

What is it about the left that favors authoritarian solutions to non-existent problems?


The same thing that makes them favor authoritarian solutions to real problems?
9.24.2007 12:57pm
Seamus (mail):
Communities needed people to pitch in to build a road before there were income, sales and gas taxes and ubiquitous construction companies, but that still didn't make it moral.

So the moral thing would have been to go roadless? Or to allow freeloaders to enjoy roads they hadn't contributed to. (Please don't suggest that the alternative was to make the road a toll road. Any society so underdeveloped that it had to rely on corvee to build a road is unlikely to have had the resources to pay toll collectors to stand at a tollboth all day and turn away anyone who didn't throw a couple of clamshells into the basket.)
9.24.2007 2:19pm
Spartee:
Fascinating how so many people here want young people to do things "good for the nation" but have to use force of law (i.e., policeman's bullets in a gun) to make them contribute in that way.

Isn't that what totalitarians do?

Imagine those same "do-it-because-I-say-so" supporters having to convince these young but quite rational adults that their service is important and worth the time we ask of them? We would have to actually engage them like free people, rather than dehumanize them as soft, stupid and coddled heirs to a great fortune, which many seem to want to do.

So far, the arguments in support seem to be (1) because kids today need that toughening experience and (2) the kids owe it to the older people who currently manage the inherited asset called civilization.

Query how exactly does service make you better? This is a situation aptly mocked by South Park's gnomes whose plan was "Step 1--steal boys' underpants, step 2--?, step 3-profit." The presumption is forced service is some soul-enriching experience. Hmm... I see step 1 and 3 in that plan. Looking for step 2 explanation here, you slavers, er, service supporters.

As for argument (2), every generation inherits benefits from the prior generations, and hopefully passes those along to the next. If we now say young people owe living members of prior generations service in return for passing civilization along, young people get to question whether the living generations are actually "value add" generation or not. Right?

I mean, I only owe the boomers service if the boomers added to what the Greatest Generation gave them to give to me. And if the boomers messed things up, and I'm going to get less in terms of civilization than was left to them, don't they owe me service? (Oh, and we apparently cannot measure the bequest between generations using GNP, since such economic measures are dismissed by mandatory service supporters as not capturing the full benefits of mandatory service. So only moral arguments need apply for this going-nowhere debate, it seems.)
9.24.2007 2:26pm
Seamus (mail):
Most leftists justify the draft on the basis that the "poor" or "minorities" are fighting our wars and that the "elite" is not bearing the burden.

This leftist claim is wrong as a matter of fact. (The article is from 2003, but as far as I can tell, the only thing that's changed is that the number of casualties has gotten bigger.)
9.24.2007 2:41pm
luagha:
Since 'A well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state' I do believe that all physically able citizens should learn sufficient firearms safety and technique to qualify in case of emergency. Emergency medical training and other such things would also be a bonus.
9.24.2007 3:26pm
Smokey:
The conflating of ideas that forced government service is the same as taxation is easily refuted. If you mistakenly overpay your taxes, you can get a refund. How do you get a refund when your 18-year old is killed fighting a forest fire, or doing any other forced national service?
9.24.2007 3:42pm
Smokey:
luagha-

You only quoted the predicate in the 2nd Amendment. Why did you omit the conclusion?
9.24.2007 3:45pm
red (mail):
Speaking as a former military member, the draft is not wanted by the military. The quality of citizens drug in by the draft is exceedingly low and morale and performance will slip from the present high levels.

If the liberals really need to have a draft so they can push people around, how about drafting young people to work in schools as teachers aides. Fify percent of draftees would probably have better skills than the teachers and one on one attention to the students would probably do wonders.
9.24.2007 4:43pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"I take it everyone is against homework also."

Homework appears to be steadily increasing, with some elementary school kids doing two hours per night. However, I don't see a corresponding increase in test scores. Nor do I see any corresponding increase in the quality of the folks the schools are sending into the workforce.

A small subset of the population can write a coherent sentence. An even smaller number can weave them into a paragraph. And even those numbers appear to be shrinking.
9.24.2007 5:15pm
jim:
to be clear, when I likened taxation to compulsory service, I was not claiming an absolute equivalency. Taxes are less onerous a burden than national service, and there is no reason to think that in current circumstances the less onerous of the two burdens will not suffice to fill our needs. But the thing that separates the two is a matter of (consequentialist) circumstances, not a matter of inherent immorality.

If we all lived in a small medieval city-state and there was an army on the horizon threatening to kill us all, "national" service in the form of drafting some citizens into a militia and making others do service like fortifying walls, etc. might be required over mere taxation.

My point is that Illya seemed to be making a categorical distinction against forced service, apart from consequentialist concerns, and in my mind the consequentialist concerns are paramount in the immorallity of forced service.
9.24.2007 7:01pm
Hale Adams (mail):
Funny, but no one's mentioned the Thirteenth Amendment and its prohibition of involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime.

That right there should put a stake in the heart of the argument for "national service", and even the draft.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is AWOL on this, as well as the War on Drugs, but that's a rant for another day.....
9.24.2007 8:26pm
luagha:
Smokey -

I omitted the main clause as a jest. Normally pro-gun types (of which I am one) try to emphasize the main clause and gloss over the predicate explanatory clause. The gun-grabbers seize on the predicate explanatory clause, misdefine 'well-regulated', and try to use it to destroy the nature of the right to keep and bear arms as listed.

I wanted to emphasize how the predicate explanatory clause could and should be used to guarantee a pro-gun desired effect - requiring that everyone physically capable receive basic firearms training.
9.25.2007 1:45pm
markm (mail):
Lior: Even though it's economically inefficient, I'd say that when there is a military draft in force, anyone who isn't drafted should be required to perform some other national service. My (Israeli) experience is that the alternative (some people serve, some don't) is very divisive.

In some ways that was the American experience, too, but what makes a draft less divisive isn't just that it's universal, but that there is near universal agreement about what young people are being drafted for.
In WWII, when the draft took virtually every young man who wasn't disabled or uniquely qualified for a job more important to the war than serving in uniform, it wasn't controversial - but Pearl Harbor left no reasonable grounds to argue against fighting the war in the first place, and this was the peak of the era of huge mass armies, so we needed one, too. In the Civil War, I'm not sure what percentage of young men entered the army through the draft or as volunteers, but in the parts of the North where the war itself was most controversial before the draft started, draft resistance turned into some of the worst riots this country has ever seen (NYC, for instance).

The Vietnam War was, AFAIK, the first war fought with a draft but with only a small portion of our young men in the military (including volunteers as well as draftees). As it went on and on it became very divisive - but I don't think that drafting everyone would have made the potential draftees any happier. The basic problem was that this was not a war that we had to fight, it was fought in a way most Americans didn't understand, and it certainly gave the appearance of - and IMO, really was - lacking a strategy with a realistic chance of winning. It might have been good policy to oppose Communism there (either with a better strategy or with the intent of bleeding the Soviet economy in a war of attrition), and it certainly was a way to keep our officer corps in practice, but doing this on the bodies of draftees was simply unacceptable.

And that's the biggest problem with a draft, absent a WWII-like situation: it erodes the morale and skill of the military, and encourages politicians and politically-oriented generals to mis-use our forces.
9.25.2007 2:29pm