To which Mr Friedman replied, "General, would you rather command an army of slaves?"
The libertarian economist wasn't the only prominent person to equate forced service to enslavement. A 1930 anti-conscription manifesto signed by notables including Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud described the draft as "a form of servitude."
Ayn Rand wrote of the draft that it "negates man's fundamental right -- the right to life -- and establishes the fundamental principle of statism: that a man's life belongs to the state..."
Mahatma Gandhi signed a statement saying, "Conscription involves the degradation of human personality, and the destruction of liberty."
Slavery, servitude, statism, destruction of liberty -- some pretty bright people have looked at conscription and judged it harshly.
I raise these points because my recent posts on President-Elect Barack Obama's plans for mandatory community service for high school students, and his new Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's support for compelling universal civilian service have reopened debates that I thought were pretty well settled. In fact, some people who've responded to me seem to think a scheme to force Americans to serve the state in one capacity or another is a swell idea.
First, of all, to get it out of the way -- among those "some people" are the members of the United States Supreme Court, circa 1918. In Arver v. U.S., responding to an appeal to the anti-slavery language of the Thirteenth Amendment, Chief Justice White wrote:
Finally, as we are unable to conceive upon what theory the exaction by government from the citizen of the performance of his supreme and noble duty of contributing to the defense of the rights and honor of the nation as the result of a war declared by the great representative body of the people can be said to be the imposition of involuntary servitude in violation of the prohibitions of the Thirteenth Amendment, we are constrained to the conclusion that the contention to that effect is refuted by its mere statement.
To my mind, those may be the least convincing words ever issued in a Supreme Court opinion, consisting as they do of equal parts snottiness and sanctimony. Refusing to address an argument is not, in and of itself, an argument.
So, with all due disrespect to the Supreme Court, I see no reason why compelled service should not be regarded as involuntary servitude -- labor rendered against one's will -- of the sort forbidden in the United States under the Thirteenth Amendment. More importantly, I see no reason why compelled service, as an imposition against an individual's right to exercise liberty and determine the course of his or her own life, should not be regarded as evil.
Note, I say "compelled service," not "military draft." Some people object to militarism, but drop all objections to mandated service if the compelled labor is put to use in a soup kitchen or a clinic.
To me, though, the primary evil is not militarism, it's compulsion. It's to treat an individual not as a free person who owns his or her own life, but as the property of the state to be drawn upon as a resource at the whim of bureaucrats and politicians.
The Rahm Emanuels of the world explicitly or implicitly endorse this view, suggesting that Americans should "give something back" -- as payment for what, they never specify. What do we owe the government, after all? And why? I suppose it's possible that some individuals may have an unpaid obligation to an agency or an official, but it's impossible to say that about people at large.
In fact, it's government that owes us -- it owes us respect for our individual rights, and careful efforts to not infringe on our liberty.
Anybody who works an honest job, creates art, writes poetry, owns a business or does a myriad of other productive activities "gives" more to the world at large in terms of producing wealth, culture and community than they ever could by grudgingly picking up trash by the side of the highway or giving flu shots in a clinic under threat of fines or imprisonment.
And when people are pressed into service against their will, even in the name of very best cause you can imagine, nothing is given; instead, time is taken, labor is stolen and liberty is destroyed.
Fans of mandatory service are quick to tell us that a little taste of compulsion will get those lazy kids off the sofa and make them better people. But it's crystal clear that the folks most in need of being made into better people are the ones who think they have the right to drag their neighbors off at gunpoint to do work they don't want to do -- for any reason.
"Under some proposals, teens would be automatically added to the voter rolls when they turn 18. Under some plans, Congress could create a national voter registration roll, modeled after the Social Security database"
Yeah, I know it SOUNDS GOOD but it is UNCONSTITUTIONAL to have a FEDERAL VOTER LIST!!! Of course, I don't think that is the purpose, but nevertheless, this is an UNCONSTITUTIONAL IDEA!!!!
"Reformers urge move to universal voter registration; Government would take lead in a new system" by David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times | November 11, 2008
WASHINGTON - The nation's much-maligned election system passed a major test last week when more than 132 million Americans, a record total, cast ballots with few reports of problems.
Few problems? Sigh!
But now, election reformers are calling for a move toward a "universal voter registration" system, in which the government takes the lead in ensuring that all eligible citizens are registered....
What if you don't want to be registered?
Under its proposal, states could update their computerized voter rolls when residents move from one city to another. And they could add new voters who move to the state and apply for new driver's licenses. Under some proposals, teens would be automatically added to the voter rolls when they turn 18. Under some plans, Congress could create a national voter registration roll, modeled after the Social Security database. Others say states should take the lead in expanding and improving their voter rolls.
Yeah, that's who is SUPPOSED to be in charge!!!
Senator Hillary Clinton, Democrat of New York, has said she plans to introduce legislation to move toward automatic voter registration, and state officials in Minnesota, Oregon, and New York have expressed interest in adopting it in state law, according to Brennan Center officials.
Why am I not surprised?
Some election officials question whether a national system would gain support. "We will need to think hard about this. It's true that in most developed democracies, the government takes on this role, and it's a top-down system. But ours has been a bottom-up system, because our founders were suspicious of a centralized election authority," said R. Doug Lewis, executive director of the National Association of Election Officials, whose group represents state and county election officials. --more--"