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Why Mandatory "National Service" Proposals Target the Young:

One of the most interesting (and in my view sinister) aspects of proposals for mandatory "national service" is that they virtually always target only the young, usually 18-21 year olds. This might be understandable if the proposals were limited to military service. But most current proposals (including those by Charles Rangel, John McCain, Bill Buckley, DLC President Bruce Reed [not clear if the organization as a whole endorses his plan] and Rahm Emmanuel noted in my last post), incorporate civilian service as well. When it comes to office work and light menial labor, there are many elderly and middle-aged people who can do the job just as well as 18-21 year olds can, if not better.

Indeed, the moral case for conscripting the elderly for civilian service is arguably stronger than that for drafting the young. Many elderly people are healthy enough to perform nonstrenuous forms of "national service." Unlike the young, the elderly usually won't have to postpone careers, marriage, and educational opportunities to fulfill their forced labor obligations. Moreover, the elderly, to a far greater extent than the young, are beneficiaries of massive government redistributive programs, such as Social Security and Medicare - programs that transfer enormous amounts of wealth from other age groups to themselves. Nonelderly poor people who receive welfare benefits are required to work (or at least be looking for work) under the 1996 welfare reform law; it stands to reason that the elderly (most of whom are far from poor) can be required to work for the vastly larger government benefits that they receive. Middle-aged people are also not obviously inferior candidates for civilian "national service" than the young. I know I could do most kinds of service better today than when I was 18. To be clear, I am not arguing for imposing forced labor on the elderly or the middle-aged; but I do believe that doing so would be no worse than imposing that burden on the young.

Why then the focus on the young? I suspect it is because they are politically weak. Research shows that 18-21 year olds are less likely to vote, less likely to engage in political activism, and have lower political knowledge levels than any other age group (see e.g. - this book). Obviously, they also have less money, make fewer campaign contributions, and are least likely to actually hold positions of power in government. The AARP would crucify any politician who had the temerity to suggest that the elderly be required to do forced labor. Unfortunately, the young lack that kind of power.

At this point, I know some moralists will claim that the young "deserve" any political setbacks they suffer because they don't participate in politics enough. Such arguments overlook the obvious fact that many of the political disadvantages of the poor (e.g. - lack of money, lack of access to political office, lack of experience) are ones that they can't easily offset. And whatever the validity of the general view that the young should spend more time on political activity, I hope we can agree that forced labor is not a proper punishment for spending too little time on politics.

George Weiss (mail):
this is the first poltical rant ive heard consering 18-21 years olds in a long time that did not refer to them in one way or antoher..as spoiled brats

yay Ilya
9.24.2007 4:33am
George Weiss (mail):
btw..

the contituion provides for a military draft if congress wants...

it also prevents slavery in the 13th amendment

so wouldnt civilian service be blatently uinconsittuional?
9.24.2007 4:40am
Ilya Somin:
the contituion provides for a military draft if congress wants...

Actually, the Constitution does NOT provide for a draft. It merely gives Congress the power to "raise armies," which doesn't necessarily imply a draft. The Thirteenth Amendment bans all "involuntary servitude" without exception for a draft or anything else other than people required to do forced labor as punishment for a crime.
9.24.2007 4:48am
George Weiss (mail):
well then...clear that you agree with me on the civil issue

i think i should point out though:

Arver v US 245 US 366 {1918}
essentially holding
there is no protection from the draft by the 13th amendment (that is slavery is fine when its for the mailitary)

if thats the case...and congress has the power to raise armies..then it seems clear that they have the power to draft
9.24.2007 4:58am
Siona Sthrunch (mail):
Dicta by Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland allow the draft under the Necessary and Proper Clause.
9.24.2007 5:01am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I am still trying to figure out the basis for justifying this sort of thing.

And what is so magic about the youth? Most of the people in this country have benefited form it and have not done the type of national service envisioned by these proposals, regardless of age. After you count all those who have served in the military, whether voluntarily or not, you are still left with probably 90% of the men and 99% of the women who have never served their country as suggested here. To be fair, those behind this plan would send their mothers, wives, and daughters first before asking it of anyone else.

If the work being suggested needs doing, the taxpayers can fund it. Or, are those behind the national service just trying to get more federal programs without having to raise more taxes?

Let us assume for a minute that what is envisioned are WPA/CCC type construction jobs. Yes, esp. on the East Coast, we are still benefiting from such 75 years later. But where would those doing this sort of work be if not doing public service? Many, probably a majority, would be in college, ultimately learning valuable skills, like becoming lawyers. Ok, if the last wasn't persuasive, maybe engineers, etc. In any case, they are getting training. So, what you are really trading for minimally paid unskilled work is training for more skilled work, and then working at a more skilled level.

Indeed, if you assume retirement at 70 for this group, what is traded is however many years committed to this program, off from their productive work lives. So, if the commitment is two years, and the person ultimately becomes a doctor, you are taking two years off his medical career. Traded for what?

You may think that my doctor example is a bit extreme. But the reality is that almost everyone ultimately works more productively at their career job(s) than they would at the national service jobs. And so, you will be sacrificing the difference between their journeyman productivity and their national service productivity for the length of time they have to serve. Yes, we are a rich country, buy why waste all this productivity?
9.24.2007 5:33am
Ilya Somin:
i think i should point out though:

Arver v US 245 US 366 {1918}
essentially holding
there is no protection from the draft by the 13th amendment (that is slavery is fine when its for the mailitary)


I'm aware of the case. But I think it wrongly decided because it goes against the plain text of the Thirteenth Amendment (which only allows one exception to the otherwise comprehensive ban on "involuntary servitude": "punishment for crime").
9.24.2007 5:34am
Cro (mail):
As for the Constitution and the draft... an awful lot of people have been drafted, and I don't see how an originalist could see the 13th Amendment as speaking to that issue. After all, the Civil War Union Army won partly because of a draft.

If we wanted to ban the draft I think there would be an Amendment saying so, since the first mass armies began in Europe at the same time we were writing and ratifying the Constitution.

That seems to me to be looking for a really faint penumbra.

As a policy issue, we do not need a draft and it is a bad idea. I can't think of a better way for the modern US to lose a war. Maybe that's why people keep proposing one.
9.24.2007 5:35am
George Weiss (mail):
i figured you knew of the case and disaggreed with it

i just thouhgt it would give readers of this thread a more thorugh picture to point out a suprem court decison 9-0 that hasnt been overturned in 80 years+ disagreeing with you thouhg ;)
9.24.2007 5:42am
Ilya Somin:
As for the Constitution and the draft... an awful lot of people have been drafted, and I don't see how an originalist could see the 13th Amendment as speaking to that issue. After all, the Civil War Union Army won partly because of a draft.

That draft occurred BEFORE the 13th Amendment and its constitutionality was controversial even under the original constitution. The 13th Amendment itself, by contrast, explicitly bans ALL "involuntary servitude" with only one exception (punishment for crime) that does not include a military draft.
9.24.2007 5:42am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Putting aside that McCulloch long predates the 13th amendment, that argument proves too much. The Constitution was intended to great a limited government of delegated powers, but anything can be claimed to be N&P with enough handwaving.

(Of course, the last 30 years ought to demonstrate that the draft isn't "Necessary.")
9.24.2007 5:42am
George Weiss (mail):
curious illya:

what were the consittuoional challegngesx to a draft before the 13th amendment was ratified?
9.24.2007 5:46am
Ilya Somin:
what were the consittuoional challegngesx to a draft before the 13th amendment was ratified?

That is a good question, and a comprehensive answer requires more knowledge of Civil War-era history than I can deploy here. But I think the main arguments were that it exceeded Congress' enumerated powers under Article I, and that some of the enforcement procedures violated civil liberties protections under the Bill of Rights. If I recall correctly, at least one Democratic judge in the North held the draft to be unconstitutional.
9.24.2007 6:14am
George Weiss (mail):
ok... but i mean...honeslty what is a rational meaining of "raise armies" in the meaning of a 1700's document

it must mean to raise arimise trhough conscription...the almost entirely universal way of rasing armies back then
9.24.2007 6:24am
Public_Defender (mail):
The reason proposals target 18-21 year olds is that they're modeled on military service, 18 year olds make better soldiers than 70 year olds.

I see two ways the proposal could consititutional. First, if the draft were reimposed and national service was made an alternative. (Ilya's protests aside, the Roberts Court will never rule his way on the draft). Second, if national service were made a condition for receiving certain government benefits (student loans, mortgage income tax deduction, use your imagination).

It's not involunary servitude if the governemnt is
9.24.2007 7:19am
ReaderY:
I imagine that educators prey on the young for the same reason. If the young were politically strong, they would be able to resist so many people -- not the least law professors -- making a living at their expense.
9.24.2007 7:36am
ReaderY:
The 4th circuit has already held that compulsory service as part of a high school curriculum isn't the kind of slavery and involuntary servitude the framers of the 13th amendment had in mind, either.
9.24.2007 7:38am
Brett Bellmore:
Another reason to target the young: They've just come off 18 years during which they were not possessed of the full rights of an adult, and haven't had the chance to get used to being free men and women, and so are less likely to rebel in the face of such an imposition. 'Ideally', (From the perspective of national service advocates.) they might as a result of this never get to thinking of themselves as free; An awful lot of the irrational impositions on minors, (Think zero tolerance.) appear to be aimed at programing them for life in an authoritarian society.
9.24.2007 8:14am
PersonFromPorlock:
Given the relationship between work and income, what's the difference between confiscating work (national service) and confiscating income (taxes)? Before WW2 it was possible here in Maine to 'pay' your property taxes by doing work for the town.

I think the real objection has to be to the government's casual assumption of as much right to usurp peoples' lives as it cares to assert, whether the 'tax' is in cash or time. The politicians do tend to forget who's the boss.
9.24.2007 8:31am
newshutz (mail):
Another reason for picking on 18-21 year olds:

It will take some time to get such a program up and running, and such a bill would be passed some time after a congressional election.

It is probable that the 18-21 year olds effected would not have been eligible to vote on the congress critters that would pass such an act.
9.24.2007 8:32am
Ilya Somin:
I imagine that educators prey on the young for the same reason. If the young were politically strong, they would be able to resist so many people -- not the least law professors -- making a living at their expense.

Law professors are guilty of many sins. But imposing forced labor on people isn't one of them. Our students can drop out at any time, and some actually do:).
9.24.2007 9:14am
Ilya Somin:
ok... but i mean...honeslty what is a rational meaining of "raise armies" in the meaning of a 1700's document

it must mean to raise arimise trhough conscription...the almost entirely universal way of rasing armies back then


Actually, conscription was NOT the "almost entirely universal way" of raising armies in the 18th century. Volunteer and mercenary forces were just as common, or even more so. And the US military never had a draft until the Civil War. The Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, etc., were fought entirely by volunteer forces.
9.24.2007 9:18am
A.C.:
One of the positive reasons often cited for a program like this is that there aren't a lot of school-to-work tracks for people who don't go to college. I don't think this is much of a problem when the economy is running at full employment -- employers want new workers and will train them.

The problems come up when unemployment is high. Many new workers don't find jobs and get into all sorts of trouble as a result. Established workers fear that too much competition for jobs will drive wages down. Keeping the young folks out of the labor market therefore appeals to a lot of people. In addition, you have more blighted areas that in need of a good cleaning when the economy is bad. When it's good, these things usually get dealt with even in the absence of a service corps.

I'd much rather see young people in real entry-level work, even in food service and landscaping (or in government departments that actually need staff!), than in make-work. I'm not sure if the social problems in this country would benefit from vast amounts of unskilled labor, but someone who can bus tables well is performing a valid service.
9.24.2007 9:22am
Avatar (mail):
What about the practical effects of instituting a national service period?

For one, military enlistment would skyrocket. If you've gotta go anyway, why not go to the institution that pays you, feeds you, gives you huge college and medical benefits, respect, advantages to later federal employment, and not incidentally hands you guns? Wouldn't a lot of people pick the infantry over teaching a basket-weaving class or cleaning garbage off the side of a highway or whatever?

Second, the government then has to pay and house all these people doing their national service. They'd have a hell of a time forcing people into dormitories, too, so we're talking enough pay to actually live where they are. And you can't make them commute, because an awful lot of 18-year-olds aren't going to own a car (and you sure as hell aren't going to pry the cash loose to make them afford to buy one!) An employer can take a "getting here is your problem" attitude, because you're employed there voluntarily; national service must provide the means.

Also, why in the heck would anybody do a good job at their service? With the military, there's at least a minimum incentive of becoming a good soldier even if you've been drafted - you are going to be shot at either way, so you might as well be a good veteran rather than a corpse. That doesn't apply if your term of service is spent manning the counter at a DMV or reading books to disabled kids or whatever. So what happens when you recruit kids who refuse to do any work? Or who don't outright refuse, but do so in order to intentionally piss off their supervisors? ("You mean it took you all day to pick up one piece of trash?")

What happens the first time some girl is put into the inner city against her will and gets horribly raped/killed? I dunno what congressman wants his picture being run 24/7 on CNN with a "this is your fault" attached to it...

Seriously, though, actually imposing involuntary service involves a lot more in the way of restrictions on civil rights than just saying "go here and work"; you essentially have to suspend all civil rights in order to compel people to actually do so. The military gets away with this because it's the military, there's a long tradition of drafting, and because soldiers are inherently not civilians entitled to "civil" rights in the first place - but even they have military rights. How do you compel a civilian in the same fashion? Will you give his supervisors the right to beat him if he doesn't comply? To imprison him (realizing that such power will be used capriciously, and for immoral purposes?) To have him shot?

Hell, we don't even have a universal draft yet. If national service is so important, stop granting a draft exemption to people with XX chromosomes. Then we'll talk.
9.24.2007 9:24am
Waldensian (mail):
A bit off topic, perhaps, but this discussion makes me ponder the fact that most (all?) suicide bombers are fairly young. Perhaps this is because young people are, in general, more easily influenced by calls for self sacrifice -- figuratively in the "national service" context and quite literally in the case of terrorist attacks.

After all, if you think about it, wouldn't it be more logical for very OLD people to be suicide bombers?

If you want to look for moral bankruptcy, a good place to start is the middle-aged or senior crowd that happily encourages and/or requires young people to perform "services" like these.
9.24.2007 9:30am
Freedom, Soar! (mail):
It's not just that the young are politically weak that makes them the target, it's because going after the low-hanging fruit first makes it easier to get the whole tree. Establishing the principle of servitude is the objective, from which all horrors then follow.
9.24.2007 9:38am
youngkayone:
The pertinent issue regarding national service is investment in the nation and its citizens rather than one of free labor. The total group of 18-21 year olds might learn much more through national service (very short--1 yr) rather than most other interests at that age including college. A national service would be a very effective source of job research for those individuals as well. If one wishes to go into health care--serve in a VA hospital as an orderly; law--serve in a public defender office; engineering--work in a WPA/CCC type roganization. Obviously some training would be a pre-req so perhaps one year after training. Incentivize the service with a scholarship at the end of the year for either college, trade school, or a stipend payable in some reasonable set of years (upon reaching 35 yrs old?)

Individuals would get invested in the nation through service. If done right--absolutely no deferments--the 18-21 yrs olds will have met at the end of that year a huge cross-section of other national servers from accross the nation's socio-economic strata arguably reinforcing the ties that link Americans--reducing the current trend towards Balkanization. An added side product: the 18-21 yrs olds would very quickly be interested in the future politics of the nation enabling a better educated and experiened electorate.
9.24.2007 9:43am
Horatio (mail):
If you're not prepared to defend the nation-state called the USA - with your life if necessary - why should you have a say in its policies.

Only honorably discharged veterans should be able to vote, which would leave me out as I didn't serve in the military. Like a lot of my fellow boomers, I was exempt with my student deferrment, and then the lottery came and my number was too high.
9.24.2007 9:55am
blcjr (mail):
While a number of legitimate concerns have been raised, it wasn't until the last post (at the time I write this) by youngkayone, that I read anything relating to what I thought was the primary reason for the proposal: to put in youngkayone's excellent words, "Individuals would get invested in the nation through service." This is why it targets the young. Us old fogeys -- if we're gonna be -- are already invested in the nation. We are more likely to vote, and stay apprised of current affairs. The young are notoriously ignorant of current affairs (I exclude the current affairs of the Britney Spears ilk) and of their nation generally. The idea behind national service is to serve the nation. The young stand more to benefit, in terms of appreciation of the homeland, than the elderly.

As for the latter, there may be good reasons to enlist them in various forms of community or national service. But not to get them "invested in the nation through service." It is past time for that, and they are far less likely to need this than the young.

To those who oppose on libertarian grounds, what would you say to a kind of Heinleinian proposal -- no right to vote until you've served (i.e. don't limit it to the military, but to all forms of national service)?
9.24.2007 10:03am
blcjr (mail):
Well, Horatio intervened while I was writing. Why limit the vote to military service? I tried to enlist in 1964, but flunked the physical. Why should physical limitations deprive me of the right to vote, if I'm willing to serve in other ways?
9.24.2007 10:06am
Horatio (mail):
Starship Troopers - Robert A. Heinlein, 1959

History and Moral Philosophy

http://www.magma.ca/~yeti/troopers.html
9.24.2007 10:08am
Horatio (mail):
Well, Horatio intervened while I was writing. Why limit the vote to military service? I tried to enlist in 1964, but flunked the physical. Why should physical limitations deprive me of the right to vote, if I'm willing to serve in other ways?


Because the notion of a physical in military service should only be used to determine who is on the "front lines" - you could have been a clerk, truck driver, cook, janitor, etc...but would have been a last resort defender of the nation-state.

There is some discussion about what Heinlein thought of non-military service..I'm not certain if he ever expounded upon the theme...I'll see if I can find anything.
9.24.2007 10:12am
Curmudgeon:
Politically, this idea is doomed. The public employee unions are not going to accept competition with forced, domestic laborer.
9.24.2007 10:15am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The dimmest soldier gets the idea that his unit depends on him. For their lives, come to combat. Or come to using heavy equipment, or whatever. So the least patriotic draftee is likely to be more motivated than the drafted trash picker-upper.
The military has a supervisory ratio of about 4-1. And the one is always around. That's because the work is complex and frequently dangerous and young guys have short time-horizons. Training now for potential deployment--when none is actually happening, unlike now--can be put off. Motivation has to be constantly reinforced. Where do the supervisors come from?
What work is not currently being done? Is there a plan to replace work currently done by employees with National Service folks? What about the jobs of the former?
All of the ideals supposedly residing in national service can be reached by voluntarily serving.
Involuntary servitude may be a horror but in the western tradition conscription has been an exception. Those swept up are frequently honored for their service, and will, as Henry said, pester their grandchildren with their stories. But nobody said slaves were particularly fine folk on account of having been enslaved.
The armies which Kipling referred to in "Tommy" were volunteer. Once WW I started, the public attitude changed substantially. So there is a major difference between draft for the military and drafting for make-work. Military service protects the nation. Drafting for make-work satisfies primarily those who won't be doing it and accomplishes little that is, 1, not currently being done and, 2, is necessary.
9.24.2007 10:21am
pete (mail) (www):
"If done right--absolutely no deferments--the 18-21 yrs olds will have met at the end"

So the mentally retarded, the insane, paraplegics, the violent criminals etc. that happen to be 18-21 have to be out there working along side everyone else. If you do not think that there should any exemtions you have to force these people into your program. That will never happen so there will be exemptions. And fairly soon people will start to find ways to get themselves exempted.

I was part of Americorps for a year, but would have refused if the government had tried to force me to do it.
9.24.2007 10:37am
Eli Rabett (www):
There are essentially three arguments for targeting the young for national service. The first is that the armed services need younger people. That falls away as you point out to some extent if national service includes much more than serving in the armed forces (note that the usual formulation requires a longer period of civil rather than armed service). The second is that younger people are not as settled, with families and careers, so national service is less onerous for them. The third is that national service has an important civil education goal, unifying people from disparate groups into one people.

And yes, Pete, the latter is a strong motivation for involving many people, including gang members, people with some mental limitations and more. The kicker is, of course, that national service requires supervision. You didn't think it was cost free, did you (Oh sorry, I forget this is a libertarian blog. . .)
9.24.2007 10:55am
Temp Guest (mail):
Several obvious reasons why the young should be subject to manadatory public service rather than the old:

(1) Up until sometime in his late twenties or early thirties the average individual has been a net recipient (care by parents and others, public education and recreation, etc.,) rather than donor (through taxes , participation in the community, professional service, etc.) to the entire community. In that sense, the young owe society something.

(2) A major purpose of such public service is to acquaint the participant with different elements of society and have him appreciate their virtues and learn to get along with them, to develop a societal esprit de corps. Another purpose is to educate the participant in the civic virtues and to engender in him feelings of patrioitism and love of societal values. Such things are best done at a younger age, before it is too late and will have little impact on how the individual lives the major part of his life.

(3) As others have pointed out, the young are better biologically suited to such service than the old in such things as stamina, aggressiveness, and lack of fear/copmmon sense. Although in this regard it is worth noting that, according to what I read in Hanson, all male citizens in the Greek city states were expected to fight in the phalanx from the time of puberty up through old age.

(4)Over the course of 100,000 years or so, human societies have perfected procedures for inducting young men and women into social responsibility. Military organizations have honed specialized socialization techniques over the course of about 8,000 years. A friend of mine who was saved from a life of crime and dissiapation by a choice between jail or the US Marines, grew to admire and later study the techniques that the military has developed to tame and socialize extremely aggressive and anti-social young males. Such techniques are just as applicable to socialization into other types of service organizations. They are not designed to work well or perhaps at all with older persons.

It is certainly unfair to impose such burdens on the current and future youth of this nation and let their elders get off scot-free. Perhaps, if universal public service for the young were to become a reality, a tax surcharge could be imposed on all those older persons who missed or evaded public service in the armed forces, the Peace Corps, etc., during their youth.
9.24.2007 10:58am
A.C.:
Another reason for a MILITARY draft is to prevent the formation of a warrior class that is separate from the rest of the population and liable to act in its own political interest. Many societies have figured out that it's bad if the people with all the guns become a coherent interest group. If everybody serves, but nobody serves too long, this is not a real problem.

This reason doesn't apply at all to civilian service.

Concerns about what that many civilian conscripts would actually DO is the main problem for me. I suspect the work would be lackadaisical and inefficient not because I suspect the motivations of young people, but because I doubt the projects would be designed well or managed well. And does anyone else see the obvious problem of herding a bunch of young people into one place, boring them half to death, and not providing much adult supervision? The worst college campus excesses would be nothing compared to what would happen in such a setting. College kids at least know they have to stop drinking often enough to keep from flunking out. I presume that it wouldn't be possible to flunk out of mandatory service.
9.24.2007 11:06am
velvel in decatur:
The national service debate continues. One of the things I realized in the late sixties and early seventies when I was an army reservist was that it allowed me to better understand the shortcomings of the military. We made the bet with the devil that we would not be activated and won. Not so the national guard members and reservists today.

As to mandating national service for 18-21 year olds, consider this: their political might ought to have nothing to do with it. If there is an obligation why not have it before careers are built? Why not use it as a way to educate as well as serve? Why not couple it (as is done with a number of existing programs) with post-high school education benefits? This way the "grant" is earned? (Not a novel idea--sort of a "pay forward"?)

There continues to be a disconnect between Americans because while members of Congress are ready to tax and tax to get programs going, they are not willing to mandate participation in either military or civic programs.

If some of the little darlings are separated from mommy and daddy (and in too many cases from mommy only because daddy is nowhere to be found) maybe they would grow up?
9.24.2007 11:07am
Felix Sulla:

Unlike the young, the elderly usually won't have to postpone careers, marriage, and educational opportunities to fulfill their forced labor obligations.

No, they'll just have to completely disrupt the careers, marriages, and educational opportunities they have already established. (Though I seriously doubt an appreciable fraction of middle-aged persons have "educational opportunities" as a high priority.)

Your having made this argument shows quite well that you were aware of the usual justification for drafting or conscripting 18-21 year olds, namely, that they have for the most part yet to build or establish independent lives for themselves and therefore suffer the least general disruption from some sort of national service. I find it telling that you failed to mention this argument at all while casting it on its head as supporting your own ideological antipathy to national service.
9.24.2007 11:15am
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: Ilya Somin
RE: Hardly

"Why then the focus on the young? I suspect it is because they are politically weak." -- Ilya Somin

It's more likely because they don't have families they're trying to raise or careers they are trying to diligently pursue after getting started in the world of business and/or politics.

Not very bright of you, Ilya.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[University: A place where men of principle outnumber men of honor.]
9.24.2007 11:27am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Involuntary servitude may be a horror but in the western tradition conscription has been an exception.

This of course is not quite true. England was the only major European power that did not rely on a large conscripted standing army in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and even they resorted to a draft in both world wars and continued it after World War II (I don't know when universal conscription for men ended in England ended but it was certainly still in effect in 1950 when my father was drafted). Of course England relied heavily on conscripts to man its navy until well into the nineteenth century. Many NATO countries had nearly universal conscription throughout the Cold War (and I think Germany still does). And of course the gun nuts on this blog just love Switzerland's mandatory military service because it includes your very own personal assault rifle that you get to keep at your house.
9.24.2007 11:43am
Houston Lawyer:
The people pushing these programs usually want these young folks to do some type of nanny state function. I propose making them partners with law enforcement. I could use a few busy bodies in my neighborhood keeping track of the crack dealers and petty thieves. I'm sure that there are any number of high crime areas that could use an influx of deputized teenagers to discourage minor crimes.

There's also trash to be picked up, graffiti to be cleaned up and greenery to trim. I'd bet that your average teenager could get thee times the work done that a city worker does now.
9.24.2007 11:54am
rarango (mail):
"And of course the gun nuts on this blog just love Switzerland's mandatory military service because it includes your very own personal assault rifle that you get to keep at your house." What an absolutely moronic comment.
9.24.2007 11:55am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
To those who oppose on libertarian grounds, what would you say to a kind of Heinleinian proposal -- no right to vote until you've served (i.e. don't limit it to the military, but to all forms of national service)?


I’d say that while Starship Troopers was an enjoyable book when I read it in junior high, it’s not a governing document. Any “solution” to a “problem” that relies on a plurality or in this case an overwhelming majority of the electorate deciding “gee, maybe we should give up the right to vote” is a non-starter.
9.24.2007 11:59am
Donald (mail):
There is a common misunderstanding of the ‘draft’ is.
Let’s begin with Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and the power of Congress :

“To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;”


Congress does that through Title 10, United States Code. So, what is the militia? Congress defines the federal militia under Subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 13, Para 311:

“Militia: composition and classes
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are—

(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia”


So, by definition all males 17 to 45, whether they like it or not, are part of the unorganized federal militia per 311(b)(2). What you call the ’draft’ is nothing more than the selective activation of members of the existing federal unorganized militia.

Whether you like it or not, there it is. Constitutional and selective. If you want women or old people for ’draft’ eligibility you better get Congress working on its definition of the militia.
9.24.2007 12:00pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: Houston Lawyer
RE: Wrong

"The people pushing these programs usually want these young folks to do some type of nanny state function." -- Houston Lawyer

I argued this case in high school debate in the late 60s. And, interestingly enough, it was echoed in last years cross-x topic.

The argument, from my perspective and 'plan' was little to do with 'nanny state function' and everything to do with getting young men and women into the REAL world in a way that would (1) teach them about life away from their family creche, (2) expose them to other people, (3) give them a paying job that taught them useful skills, (4) give them an opportunity at higher education—upon successful completion of their 'tour of duty', and (5) teach each of them to be a self-reliant defender of the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies; foreign and domestic.

Hope that helps.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free. Make decisions and take responsibility for yourself, or the state most surely will do so for you, which is the first step towards fascism.]

P.S. Until you teach your children well, how to make decisions and take responsibility, you have done nothing for them. And, as I've observed it over these last 40 years, we've been doing a p--- poor job of that. Especially in the realm of the vaunted American public education system.
9.24.2007 12:03pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: J.F. Thomas
RE: Switzerland In History

"And of course the gun nuts on this blog just love Switzerland's mandatory military service because it includes your very own personal assault rifle that you get to keep at your house." -- J.F. Thomas

Gun nut or not. How many times has Switzerland been overrun by invaders since they threw-out the Hapsbergs?

None.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Guns do not win wars. The will to use them does.]
9.24.2007 12:06pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Gun nut or not. How many times has Switzerland been overrun by invaders since they threw-out the Hapsbergs

One could argue that it is not the Swiss' rather modest military capabilities but rather their strict neutrality and their willingness to handle people's (and nations') money with no questions asked that has kept them free of foreign invaders for all these years.

Regards,

J.F.

[Guns do not prevent wars. Numbered bank accounts do]
9.24.2007 12:18pm
Fub:
George Weiss wrote at 9.24.2007 3:58am:
Arver v US 245 US 366 {1918}
essentially holding
there is no protection from the draft by the 13th amendment (that is slavery is fine when its for the mailitary)
There is nothing quite like early morning caffeine deficiency's power to turn an innocuous typo into an apocalyptic vision: megatons of junk mail forced into the overflowing mailboxes of innocent citizens by armies of conscripts who only want it to be over so they can go home.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
9.24.2007 12:19pm
Jeff-guest-09242007 (mail):
Why should it be age based? Get the idle population into these programs. The chronically unemployed, welfare, even many of those on disability income (yes, they can contribute).

I notice that people who shout about "everyone" having a duty to society usually let the poor off the hook. There's a huge portion of the population sitting on their butts all day, and they don't even pick up the trash on their own street. Service requirements (if we have them at all) should at least be partly based on a person's availability to serve, and whether the government is already paying them for work they are not performing.
9.24.2007 12:22pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Enforcement would be the main problem. There have been few prosecutions for failure to register under the current Selective Service Act and none since 1986. They have substituted ineligibility for government loans and jobs as a substitute which is not a penalty from a libertarian perspective.

A general National Service system would also prove hard to enforce.

Kind of stupid as well since volunteers cost so much these days. Salaries have to be paid and medical bennies alone would wipe out projected savings.
9.24.2007 12:30pm
Mark Field (mail):

Actually, conscription was NOT the "almost entirely universal way" of raising armies in the 18th century.


This is not correct. As JFT alluded to, British "press gangs" were notorious in the 18th C. That's how they maintained their navy, the most potent military force of that era. As for armies, while it's true that there was no conscription in the US, it was common in Europe for young men to be essentially kidnapped by armies in need of manpower. More officially, cities or other areas would be ordered to supply a given number of soldiers to the army. It was then up to those localities to come up with the required troops. Sometimes they used financial incentives, sometimes they emptied the poorhouse. Calling it "voluntary" is euphemistic.

Someone can correct me, but I believe the French used formal conscription during the Napoleonic wars. In addition, states like Prussia were essentially armed camps with near-universal military service.
9.24.2007 12:36pm
MarkJ (mail):
I'm coming in late to this conversation, so please forgive if I restate anything. I suspect a national service program, while practical in theory, would likely incorporate one thing or another that everybody could hate.

For example, leftists might soon object to elements, or all, of a national service program on the suspicion it could gradually morph into a "farm club for the Armed Forces." Individuals who entered such a national service program would undoubtedly have to take physicals, psychological tests, etc. that could be very valuable information to military recruiters or the Selective Service. Such information would speed up the induction process by sorting the wheat from the chaff.

I daresay the United States is not even comparable to Nazi Germany, but some might point to the example of the Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich Labor Service) which was ostensibly used as a means of combating unemployment and providing a healthy, ready, and cheap work force for nationally-important projects. However, the six months' service in the RAD also served as a means of providing military-style training to young men prior to their all-but-certain entry (whether by draft or volunteering) into either the Wehrmacht or Waffen-SS.

In sum, I don't foresee national service on the horizon anytime soon, if at all. When it comes to this subject, there's plenty for everybody to hate.
9.24.2007 12:36pm
craig (mail):
"One could argue that it is not the Swiss' rather modest military capabilities but rather their strict neutrality and their willingness to handle people's (and nations') money with no questions asked that has kept them free of foreign invaders for all these years."

And their willingness to hand over the assets of Jews, mustn't forget that.
9.24.2007 12:38pm
PLR:
It should be obvious that our country has no need for a military and civilian work force the size of "everybody." Anyone who would support such a financial boondoggle ought to just enlist in the military, or quit their jobs and go work for free at an abused women's shelter or other worthy organization.

Next topic.
9.24.2007 12:40pm
pete (mail) (www):
Also, It is fairly common for 18-21 year old women to be pregnant or already have kids. If service is madatory for 18-21 year olds then what do you do with that part of the population? Do you force women in their 9th month of pregnancy to work? Do mothers of infants have to leave them in day care so they can "serve", and if they do who pays for it?
9.24.2007 12:42pm
Ken Arromdee:
Given the relationship between work and income, what's the difference between confiscating work (national service) and confiscating income (taxes)?

As pointed out in the earlier thread, while taxes force you to work for the government, you can negotiate working conditions, salary, etc. in a free market.
9.24.2007 12:43pm
Chuck Pelto (mail) (www):
TO: J.F. Thomas
RE: What One Can Do vs. Reality

"One could argue that it is not the Swiss' rather modest military capabilities but rather their strict neutrality and their willingness to handle people's (and nations') money with no questions asked that has kept them free of foreign invaders for all these years." -- J.F. Thomas

They'd be wrong. The Swiss, before recent history, were hardly 'neutral'. And they had fought off a number of invasions, after they thew-out the Hapsbergs. It was their fierce war-fighting capabilities that prevented successful invasion.

As to their 'neutrality', they adopted that later in history. It's been useful too, but as it is backed up by a warlike capability.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Fighting spirit keeps a people free from tyranny, from without and within.]
9.24.2007 12:45pm
Allan (mail):
Why focus on the young? Simple, to install the idea that everyone has to give something to their country. It is an obligation of citizenship. You don't want to do it, you don't have to be a citizen. Have a nice life in Mexico...

Yes, citizenship is a privilege. It is not a birthright. And, it should be earned at the beginning of one's life, not at the end. Hence, the focus on the young.
9.24.2007 12:45pm
Felix Sulla:
PLR: Do we not have a military and civilian workforce the size of "everybody" already? That's not the argument: in essence we are talking about a (re)distrubution of the duties of a subset of everybody.
9.24.2007 12:47pm
Ken Arromdee:
To those who oppose on libertarian grounds, what would you say to a kind of Heinleinian proposal -- no right to vote until you've served (i.e. don't limit it to the military, but to all forms of national service)?

Even assuming that that's actually what Heinlein wrote (James Gifford makes a good case in a well-known article that it doesn't), it seems to me that Heinlein thinks of this purely in terms of people receiving bread and circuses from the government.

The trouble is that the government doesn't only provide privileges, it restricts rights. Voting is the most basic way of controlling what rights the government is allowed to take away--it's called the consent of the governed.

We'd never stand for saying "if you don't serve, you won't be allowed freedom of religion" or "if you don't serve, you can't own a printing press" or "if you don't serve, you won't be allowed to marry". But that's basically what the idea is.
9.24.2007 12:48pm
Lorenzo (mail):
If you're going to require the elderly to perform national service, you'll have to accept the consquences. Many (not all) of the elderly have a lifetime of acquired attitudes that are hard to overcome. Just look at the older volunteers manning polling stations.

At least one man is assigned to a station with a couple women, and the older men seem to think they're in charge, while the women do all the work. They all get an orientation on procedures, but only the women seem to have paid attention. The men I've seen are unaware of procedures and cause problems.

I've seen men refuse to allow provisional ballots when the voter wasn't on the voter rolls, and refuse to provide a second ballot when the first one was spoiled. One guy told me I was in the wrong place when I had my voter pamphlet with me, and I was clearly where I was supposed to be.

I've called the registrar at least five times to report these guys, but they're so hard up for volunteers they let the guys come back. A couple of them remembered me and gave me such a hard time I registered as a permanent absentee voter.

If the elderly are going to be called for national service, only the women should handle any paperwork. The men shouldn't be trusted for anything more complicated than emptying wastebaskets.
9.24.2007 12:52pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
"The people pushing these programs usually want these young folks to do some type of nanny state function." — Houston Lawyer


The argument, from my perspective and 'plan' was little to do with 'nanny state function' and everything to do with getting young men and women into the REAL world in a way that would (1) teach them about life away from their family crèche, (2) expose them to other people, (3) give them a paying job that taught them useful skills, (4) give them an opportunity at higher education—upon successful completion of their 'tour of duty', and (5) teach each of them to be a self-reliant defender of the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies; foreign and domestic.


These “young men and women” are adults and it isn’t the role of government in a free society, much less the federal government, to be trying to (much less force) adults to do any of those things.

Houston Lawyer’s point may have been mostly directed about the type of work the “volunteers” would be performing but the argument you present shows that the plan in and of itself is almost the textbook definition of a Nanny State in action.

As far as being “self-reliant defender[s] of the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies; foreign and domestic” they can start with the sponsors and supports of this rubbish.
9.24.2007 12:53pm
Zacharias (mail):
There sure are a lot of flag-waving patriots in this thread. It's obvious to me that the reason the US would draft only kids is that they lack the good sense, maturity, wealth and skills to get the hell out of a country gone off the rails.

I have long since recognized my own government to be the greatest threat to my personal freedom and like many others, I'm sure, would take the first opportunity to flee to New Zealand, Canada or Brazil, just as Einstein did when he was faced with similar oppression.

Of course, Amerika could close the borders as Hitler did when attempting to conscript smart and capable adults to the service of Nazism. But in the absence of such measures, if conscription of adults were attempted in this country, all the physicists, engineers and physicians would flee, leaving only the Heisenbergs and types like lawyers who can't practice their craft overseas and whom nobody would want anyway.
9.24.2007 12:54pm
Felix Sulla:
Chuck: We are talking about Switzerland, right? The country nestled in there between Italy, France, Germany, and Austria? I think you need to go back and familiarize yourself with the right country. Just for starters, Switzerland was conquered during the French revolution and then had strict neutrality imposed on it as a result of the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The neutrality principle goes back a deal farther than that though, at least Westphalia.
9.24.2007 12:55pm
...Max... (mail):
Social engineering should be severely distrusted whether it comes from the right or from the left.

Fighting spirit keeps a people free from tyranny, from without and within

And for the young people, any and all draft laws are clearly a tyranny from without. So the fighting spirit may well be unleashed, but you might not like its direction at all.

A hypothetical: an 18 year old computer nerd with an easy scholarship to a top-level engineering school of his choice. Two years of involuntary servitude. Can anyone say "cyberterrorism"?

You're not going to teach anyone to be free by enslaving them. This social engineering effort is as misguided as every one before it.
9.24.2007 12:56pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

Yes, citizenship is a privilege. It is not a birthright.


I guess if we ever needed further proof that the supporters of mandatory national “service” wanted to destroy the Constitution, this pretty much clinches it.
9.24.2007 1:00pm
Thomas Traina (mail):
Unfortunately, I think the reason that this sort of proposal usually resonates with people comes from the idea that these programs teach us youngens good citizenship. Elderly people don't need to be taught good citizenship because
A) everyone already presumes old people are or were good citizens as a stereotype (see also "The Greatest Generation")
B) Elderly people are so close to death that teaching them how to be good citizens if they aren't already is a waste of resources.
9.24.2007 1:08pm
Obese-o-phobic:
I can't believe anyone would take seriously a proposal to institute slavery in the United States of America. However, as long as we're pontificating on coercing people with the threat of force (see Frederic Bastiat) into doing things of which we approve "for the good of society," I propose we start forcing everyone to exercise rigorously for two hours a day in order to eliminate the 90% of health care dollars that the government spends on entirely preventable diseases. I even volunteer to walk around with a stick and beat any lazy-ass couch potatoe that refuses to comply -- because its all for the social welfare, you know.

P.S. -- yes, my spelling of "potatoe" is paying homage to Dan Quayle
9.24.2007 1:15pm
rarango (mail):
Zacharis--I call Godwin's law. And given the direction of migration in the US, you may be a bit lonely! Great job on the Amerika: that is SO 1960s
9.24.2007 1:20pm
Jam:
After reading the pro-draft folks here all that came into my mind, especially the one about "Only honorably discharged veterans should be able to vote," was: we are now Sparta.



USC, Art. 1, Sec. 8:
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;


1) The Laws of the Union are only those laws which are directly and explicitly delegated by the Consitution itself.

2) What is the definition of Insurrection? Isn't it private citizens taking over the duly elected government? Of course, citizens fighting against an attempt by the Federal government to enforce unconstitutional laws is not an insurrection.

3) Invasions. Hmm. WHene was the last time we were invaded? 1812? When a foreign army invades there is not need to be drafted. The invaders essentially causes os to be drafted against them.


-----------

Virginia seceded when Lincoln and the North waged war against [the former former member States of] the South. North Carolina seceded when Lincoln demanded her quota of soldiers. Lincoln had no authority to call the militia since it is an Art.1 delegated authority and only for very limited reasons. Nor Lincoln had the authority to make/declare war.
9.24.2007 1:33pm
A.C.:
What's wrong with voluntary service arrangements? They could be open to all ages, and there certainly could be benefits attached.

My choice for a program for young people would be voluntary service in the community they already happen to be a part of, or nearby. It wouldn't even need to be full-time. What about training for the volunteer fire department or the Red Cross, to be called up in the event of emergencies? Most of the people who do this stuff are more established in life, and it might be nice to pair people in their late teens with volunteers in their 40s who could teach them something tangible. They could also do part-time volunteer work with scouts or YMCA youth programs or in hospitals.

Mechanisms like this are already in place. Expanding and publicising them would cost money, but a lot less than full-time service programs with room and board.

A scheme like this doesn't mix people up geographically, but it does mix generations in a way that youth-only service does not. Also, encouraging people to get involved with going concerns is more likely to result in real output. What's the likelihood of success for a project that was thought up only because someone had a bunch of unskilled workers and needed a way to keep the occupied?
9.24.2007 1:33pm
Jam:
And by what Constitutionally delegated authority is the Federal government involved in nationalizing anything?
9.24.2007 1:50pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
The transfer to the elderly is only as a class, owing to demographics (many more elderly than originally planned for).

It's doubtful that benefits exceed contributions made by an individual, on the average.

What he's buying is an annuity that guarantees he won't outlive his income, and that's inflation adjusted to guarantee it. That's hard for the private sector to match, owing to insolvency of a particular annuity writer over 30 years or so.

The solution to that demographic problem is simple : just raise the retirement age for benefits so the number of elderly declines. (Don't, in particular, reduce the benefits ; just the point at which you get them.)

If you want to retire sooner, do it on your own savings to bridge the known gap to social security benefits.

Result: people work longer, on the average, and without any compulsion. Problem solved.

(That you lose your ``savings for social security'' when you die is a feature, not a bug : it's an annuity. That's what they do. If you kept the supposed ``savings'' then the deal would cost more than you can afford. What nobody can afford to do, though, and what everybody needs, is some kind of insurance against living a really, really long time. That's what an annuity protects against.)
9.24.2007 1:56pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
A.C.,

Well the problem with your suggestion is that it doesn’t require any federal involvement – no federal funding and no strings that come attached to that funding. How do you expect to force volunteer organizations to tow the line without waiving federal grant money in front of their noses?

Also if an organization really is locally run and funded, it’s less likely to be able to be used to lobby for the continuation the federal program that supports it or be used to support “progressive” candidates and causes in exchange for keeping the dollars flowing.
9.24.2007 1:57pm
Lugo:
One could argue that it is not the Swiss' rather modest military capabilities but rather their strict neutrality and their willingness to handle people's (and nations') money with no questions asked that has kept them free of foreign invaders for all these years.

Mainly it was geography. Nobody wanted to go to it or through it. If it didn't have mountains, Switzerland would be like Belgium - Germany's highway into France.

Up until sometime in his late twenties or early thirties the average individual has been a net recipient (care by parents and others, public education and recreation, etc.,) rather than donor (through taxes , participation in the community, professional service, etc.) to the entire community. In that sense, the young owe society something.

Get out of my face with that nonsense. The "entire community" isn't paying to feed, clothe, house, and school my son - I am. The "entire community" can keep their grubby mitts off him, he owes them nothing.
9.24.2007 2:16pm
Horatio (mail):
I can't believe anyone would take seriously a proposal to institute slavery in the United States of America. However, as long as we're pontificating on coercing people with the threat of force (see Frederic Bastiat) into doing things of which we approve "for the good of society," I propose we start forcing everyone to exercise rigorously for two hours a day in order to eliminate the 90% of health care dollars that the government spends on entirely preventable diseases. I even volunteer to walk around with a stick and beat any lazy-ass couch potatoe that refuses to comply -- because its all for the social welfare, you know.


We already have slavery - it's called the Federal Income Tax
9.24.2007 2:41pm
A.C.:
Thorley Winston -

TOE the line, I believe. As in gym class, when we all had to line up with our toes along the outer boundary of the basketball court. I can smell my old gym suit just from thinking about it.

Anybody want to start a new topic on the pros and cons of federal grants to local organizations and non-profits? I can play that game all day, and things are slow at the office today.
9.24.2007 2:58pm
Temp Guest (mail):
Lugo: The country you inhabit exists because a great many other people in previous generations gave their lives and their fortunes so you and your offspring could inherit whatever limited successes you may have achieved. A great many of your fellow citizens are serving today to prevent depredations a la Pancho Villa or the Fenians, piracy, and other external threats to your life, family, and property. Today your fellow citizens are paying taxes that provide you and your children with the water you drink, the sewer systems that keep you healthy, the police systems that preserve public order (so your neighbors don't have a right to kill you and burn your house down if you ever annoy them), the roads you drive, etc., etc. You're children exist and receive these benefits without yet having repaid their debt at all. If you are unhappy with the implicit social contract that I've outlined, then you should follow John Locke's advice and migrate to a place where there is no government. But in such a place, as Hobbes has noted, the lives of you and your offspring would undoubtedly be even nastier, shorter, poorer, and more brutish than they are now.
9.24.2007 3:03pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
If you are unhappy with the implicit social contract that I've outlined, then you should follow John Locke's advice and migrate to a place where there is no government. But in such a place, as Hobbes has noted, the lives of you and your offspring would undoubtedly be even nastier, shorter, poorer, and more brutish than they are now.

Psst. Don't tell Ilya (as he types out his screeds against the evils of big government on his government supplied computer in his government supplied office and sends it out over the government invented and supported internet supported by his government subsidized salary) and all his other fans that. They think such a world would be pure bliss
9.24.2007 3:14pm
Jam:
Temp Guest:

It seems to me that you need to move to a more quet neighborhood.

We get saddled with stuff the Feds (in this case) do not have legit authority to do and then claim that having to live under such "laws" burdens us with some kind of duty to be enslaved. Yeah, right.

The "greatest generation" gave us the alphabet soup of unconstitutional government bureaus. Let them be "hired" against their will.

Leave me and my children alone.

BTW, your items listed, by and large, are paid by the users based on the use of the resources and are not the purvue of the Federal government.
9.24.2007 3:27pm
Kevin P. (mail):
Zacharias (mail):

I have long since recognized my own government to be the greatest threat to my personal freedom and like many others, I'm sure, would take the first opportunity to flee to New Zealand, Canada or Brazil, just as Einstein did when he was faced with similar oppression.

Are you posting from the US or from New Zealand ???
9.24.2007 3:36pm
glangston (mail):
My State Senator sponsors a contest entitled, "There Oughta Be A Law" and the recent choice was a young person who posed this same sort of forced public service, this time as a requirement for high school graduation. What was interesting was the original wording that seemed content to use required in the same sentence as volunteer.

The point in this case however was that even young people are coming up with this idea albeit not as full time conscription.
9.24.2007 3:38pm
Lugo:
The country you inhabit exists because a great many other people in previous generations gave their lives and their fortunes so you and your offspring could inherit whatever limited successes you may have achieved.

The notion that this imposes some obligation on me is preposterous and should be rejected utterly. Past generations did what they did for their own undoubtedly selfish reasons and without my participation or consent, and therefore I owe them nothing. You might as well dun me for the debts of my great grandfather as to ask me to repay the efforts of distant generations! I can assure you that I'm not going to pay any debt that I did not freely consent to assume.

It is even more ludicrous to argue, as you do, that because I owe some unspecified debt to the dead people of the far past, I should pay this debt to "society", which consists of other living people today who have done nothing for me. After all, however much you try to disguise it as "paying our debts to the spirits of our honorable ancestors", the national service idea is no more than another scheme for the transfer of wealth from me to someone else without my consent.

A great many of your fellow citizens are serving today to prevent depredations a la Pancho Villa or the Fenians, piracy, and other external threats to your life, family, and property.

They choose to serve, and I pay them to do so. How is this an argument for involuntary national service? We have volunteer police departments and volunteer armed forces, but these functions (and others as well) are necessary and thus slaves should conduct them, is that your logic?

Today your fellow citizens are paying taxes that provide you and your children with the water you drink, the sewer systems that keep you healthy, the police systems that preserve public order (so your neighbors don't have a right to kill you and burn your house down if you ever annoy them), the roads you drive, etc., etc.

Yes, and believe me, I am paying those taxes too! But where is the leftover "extra debt" that I still owe and still need to pay (with the involuntary servitude of my son, no less)? If there is some "unfunded mandate", why should it not be paid via taxation and hiring people voluntarily to do the job? If "society" is unwilling to obtain the services it needs except via conscripting slaves, then "society" really ought to reevaluate what it wants or how much it plans to tax people to get what it wants.

In no way is the requirement for public services an argument for the provision of those public services via slavery.

You're children exist and receive these benefits without yet having repaid their debt at all.

Absolute rubbish. My children exist because I brought them into existence. They owe nothing to "society", least of all involuntary servitude. They receive the benefits that I pay for with my taxes, and they aren't getting a thing that I'm not paying for.

If you are unhappy with the implicit social contract that I've outlined, then you should follow John Locke's advice and migrate to a place where there is no government.

The implicit social contract requires slavery now, and if I don't like it, I should leave? Hmmmm. I would argue that the government, not I, would be in breach of the social contract if it demanded my enslavement - and yes, I would leave if it did. I suspect there is an intermediate step between "no government" and "government that has unlimited power, including the right to enslave you" - that's the place where I want to live.
9.24.2007 4:07pm
PLR:
Felix Sulla at 11:47: Fine, I'll clarify my prior post.


"It should be obvious that our country has no need for a military and civilian work force federally employed work force the size of "everybody attaining age X at any time after the date of this legslation."
9.24.2007 4:07pm
methodact:
But the young have already been screwed-over by those that live large in this country that did not "pay-as-you-go" and who have already stuck the young with the massive bill in the form of a staggering national debt.

So now is it proposed that the young even pay more, over, above and beyond??
9.24.2007 4:20pm
theobromophile (www):

Today your fellow citizens are paying taxes that provide you and your children with the water you drink, the sewer systems that keep you healthy, the police systems that preserve public order (so your neighbors don't have a right to kill you and burn your house down if you ever annoy them), the roads you drive, etc., etc.

In that case, the wealthy (who pay far more in taxes than they will ever receive in benefits) ought to be exempt, as should those whom the wealthy designate as their beneficiaries. Why target the young, who, by definition, have the rest of their lives to pay off this debt? Why not target the poor, who are a drain upon society? Why not, at the age of 65 or death, perform an accounting, whereby all debts owed by you are subtracted by all monies paid by you (or monies paid on your behalf), and, if there is money left over, the government will remit an appropriate sum; if you have resulted in a net drain upon society, you will spend your golden years in servitude?

The idea that the young ought to be conscripted against their will, simply because their parents voluntarily pay their debts, is absurd.
9.24.2007 4:24pm
Felix Sulla:
PLR: Much better, but somewhat more accurate to amend as "everybody attaining age X and lasting until such time as they attain age Y at any time after the date of this legslation." ;-)
9.24.2007 4:30pm
Mike K:
It's not because they don't vote, but even if they did, 18-21 year olds would overwhelmingly outvoted by those old enough to have escaped national service.

Whatever the merits of a national service for 18-21 year olds, rather than for 60 year olds, the proposal for 60 year olds would not take off: Most most people are happy to see others do national service, but dread the prospect of having to do it themselves.

It's like the old quote: Democracy is wolves and a sheep deciding what's for dinner.
9.24.2007 5:29pm
JB:
Chuck Pelto,
Napoleon did it.
9.24.2007 5:45pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Yes, citizenship is a privilege. It is not a birthright. And, it should be earned at the beginning of one's life, not at the end. Hence, the focus on the young.
Actually, it is a birthright. (In fact, it's a birth compulsion; you're given citizenship whether you want it or not.) Only nationalized citizens fit your classification.


Ken:
The trouble is that the government doesn't only provide privileges, it restricts rights. Voting is the most basic way of controlling what rights the government is allowed to take away--it's called the consent of the governed.

We'd never stand for saying "if you don't serve, you won't be allowed freedom of religion" or "if you don't serve, you can't own a printing press" or "if you don't serve, you won't be allowed to marry". But that's basically what the idea is.
The difference between voting and owning a printing press is that owning a printing press is a private matter, and voting is a public matter. Voting allows you to control other people, and Heinlein's theory was that nobody should be allowed any control over other people until he (or she) has shown that he's altruistic enough to be willing to sacrifice for those other people.
9.24.2007 6:23pm
theobromophile (www):

Voting allows you to control other people

Other people who, in a free society, have an equal right to control you. Voting also allows control over your own life, which should be a right that attaches at birth, not with the doing of specified actions which do nothing to radically enhance one's human dignity.

That you should be willing to sacrifice for those whom you would control is rather Biblical ("Wives, submit to your husbands; husbands, love your wives as Christ loved his Church [i.e. by being willing to die for it]"), but is not really rooted in our philosophy of natural rights and government. Why should I be controlled by someone who is willing to die for me, without my consent to be so controlled?

If, instead of serving in a war, I make money as an engineer designing new products for the Army, how am I less "altruistic" than those who teach in inner city schools (presumably, as an alternative means of armed services). My contribution does more to secure the freedom of America from foreign attack, but would not count for voting rights.

Are we essentially required to immolate ourselves before being given control over our own lives? Not to go all Ayn Rand on y'all, but the idea that only those who are "unselfish" enough to sacrifice - in order to get power, no less - are the ones capable of having power is a philosophy that leads to disaster. You cannot set up a situation whereby those who advance both their own interests and society's interests are prohibited from obtaining power. We will all race each other to be the first to put our lives in danger, to abandon productive work, and to ignore our own families in favour of the "greater good." It'll be a lovely, egalitarian, other-serving society that lives in caves and rubs sticks together for fire to cook tofu.
9.24.2007 7:31pm
tsotha:
I have always been revolted by this idea. You don't "owe" anybody anything by virtue of your existance. My parents paid taxes their entire lives to pay for the services I used as a child. In fact, I went to a private high school, and yet my parents paid into the budget of the local public school. Since my first job at age sixteen I've been paying about a third of my income to the state and use virtually no government services.

The way I figure it, for all the hundreds of thousands of dollars I've paid in taxes, society owes me. It's a good thing there was no compulsory national service when I was eighteen - society's debt to me would be even deeper.

I see no reason to shackle the young with demented utopian ideals.
9.24.2007 7:54pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
People of no morals do not "owe" a debt to the dead. But the point is that they are living on the capital provided by the dead, whether they find it convenient to acknowledge it or not. The selfish reasons may have been one reason, or it could have been altruism--abolition, for example--but the those who deny they stand on others' efforts are only projecting what they would do and do do when they get the chance.
Legally, they may live here. No one of character is required to associate with them.
9.24.2007 10:04pm
Enoch:
People of no morals do not "owe" a debt to the dead. But the point is that they are living on the capital provided by the dead, whether they find it convenient to acknowledge it or not.

Can you quantify this debt? I can tell you how much a road costs, or a school, or police and fire departments, and set the tax rates accordingly. But exactly how much cash do I owe to the dead? How do we calculate this? It appears that you think the debt is unlimited, since payment of this debt justifies enslaving people. Nor do I expect the debt would ever be paid off - there will always be a need for more slaves, after all.

Even if we agree that we do owe a debt to the dead, should it not be paid to the dead? Oh wait, that would be meaningless. Instead, we must pay the debt to the living - to whom we owe nothing, or if we do, it is difficult to see why such a debt should be paid through an assessment of involuntary labor. Again, we can easily determine exactly how many dollars the living require for social services, and either set taxes accordingly so we can pay people to provide these services, or simply do without.

The idea that we should "pay our debt to the past" by enslaving people is such laughable nonsense I am surprised anyone can advance such a theory with a straight face. It is such a non sequitur that one can only assume it is a fig leaf for another leftist power grab - "I want higher taxes and I want to redistribute wealth, and if I can't get those things I'll enslave people and call it paying their debt to the past."

Legally, they may live here. No one of character is required to associate with them.

No one of character wants to associate with those who openly advocate enslaving people. Yet legally, the advocacy of such a detestable doctrine is protected.
9.24.2007 10:21pm
tsotha:
Richard,

Talking about "owing" to dead people is just silly, and there's no morality in it one way or another. They're dead. They did some good things while they were alive, and some bad, but it doesn't matter anymore. If I owe them for infrastructure, where is my compensation for enviromental degradation? You mentioned abolition, but what about all the racial tension they left us?

By the way, I don't know how it works where you live, but here in Califonia virtually all of the infrastructure was built using bonds, i.e. borrowed money. In a very real sense we "owe" for what they did, but I assume that's not what you meant.
9.24.2007 10:42pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Theobromophile, I was giving Heinlein's views, not mine.
9.24.2007 11:18pm
theobromophile (www):
Rant wasn't directed at you, David. :)

I am very sorry - that should have been more clear. My comment was directed at anyone who espouses or holds such views, not those who merely put them forth.
9.24.2007 11:51pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Enoch and Tsotha.
How would I quantify the Bill of Rights? Beats me.
I do not advocate mandatory national service. I was responding to those who pretend they are solely responsible for their good fortune and that nothing done by anybody in the past redounds to their own situation. Unless, of course, they can assert it is motivated by the only force they can conceive of, personal interest. Being incomplete human beings they are unable to understand real people. So they do the best they can. It's hard to know whether to be disgusted or to pity them. But, in either case, normal people want little to do with them.

Sometimes reminded of the wackier militia types who insist they are cutting themselves off from the government while demanding their farm subsidies.
9.25.2007 1:00am
Lugo:
Aubrey, you may fantasize all you wish about the supposed "capital" the dead have provided to the living, but since you cannot quantify it or even describe it in anything but the most nebulous terms, the concept is meaningless, and certainly has no relevance at all as a guide to practical action in the present. The living have no material duty to the dead, only to other living people.

Sometimes reminded of the wackier militia types who insist they are cutting themselves off from the government while demanding their farm subsidies.

This is a faulty analogy. Such militia types demand benefits in the present, from other living people, while disclaiming any obligation in the present, to those same living people. This is entirely different from someone taking "benefits" from the past actions of people now dead while refusing in the present to discharge some obligation to the dead (since you cannot provide money or labor to the dead, this would be meaningless in any case) or to other living people (but what you may owe to these people is unconnected to your obligation to the dead, whatever that may be).
9.25.2007 12:52pm
jfd (mail):
Per Mary in LA and others among these deliciously acidulous commentistes:

The WSJ titled their reprint of this post "Uncle Sam Wants You, Gramps
(How come "national service" proponents never talk about drafting the old?)"

Boy, I wish ya did, Uncle-baby. As a Boomer-geezer who passed through the Viet Nam era via alternative service, I am quite frustrated in my chicken-hawkish dotage. They won't take me!

May I propose instead an all-volunteer "War Corps" for My Generation? Get raving chicken-hawks in khakis--such as myself--working for the Good Side in the Global War on Terror, Homeland Security, or strategic development projects in The Dismal Gap (no, not the apparel makers--you know, ancient places from the Sahara to Samarra, Samarkand, and beyond).

And what the heck, let's maybe even offer ex-60's dodo-heads-turned-neocons...like myself...a chance to get a legitimate security clearance. Now there's an incentive!

AARP should like it, no?

But what about never-ex-60's Feds in Foggy Bottom? Oh horrors, neocons wielding security clearances ... might open up the hearts and minds field to vulgar market forces. Shall our pin-stripe brigades ever permit khaki-clad usurpers to bust up their traditional family ops?

Seems to me there is neocon-libertarian convergence potential here...
9.26.2007 10:53pm
Mary in LA (mail) (www):
[reposting -- thank you, Professor Volokh!]

Much simpler solution: Instead of conscripting anyone, raise the maximum age of enlistment in the existing U.S. military to 65. I agree with Ilya [updated: And jfd, above!] -- even though I'm less physically strong than I was in my 20s, I'm a much more efficient worker. This plump, nerdy 45-year-old female would enlist in a heartbeat, if any branch of the military would take me.

When I was young, I didn't know what the @#$% I wanted to do. That's when I should have gone into the service -- it would have given me a framework for organizing my adult life. (That would be one argument *for* universal service, I suppose.) Now I work as a defense contractor, in which capacity I like to think that I'm serving my country as best I can. But it's not the same as actual military service.

Great posting, Ilya!
9.27.2007 3:48pm