May 18, 1917: Wilson Signs Selective Service Act of 1917

Thursday, May 18, AD 2017

 

The first draft imposed since the Civil War, the Selective Service Act of 1917, passed by overwhelming majorities in Congress, was signed by President Wilson a century ago.  The Act provided for the enlistment, at the discretion of the President, of the four volunteer divisions that Theodore Roosevelt planned to lead.  Go here to read about this provision.  Wilson, alarmed that Roosevelt would either be killed in France and he would be blamed, or that he would come back a national hero and be swept into the Presidency in 1920, would refuse to ever authorize the four volunteer divisions.  By the end of the War some 2 million Americans volunteered for service and some 2.8 million were drafted.

Individuals who belonged to religions or organizations opposed to War were exempted from combatant service but not from noncombatant service.  Members of the clergy were exempted from conscription as were seminarians.

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3 Responses to May 18, 1917: Wilson Signs Selective Service Act of 1917

  • In Europe, universal conscription was seen as the counterpart of universal suffrage and this concept was the reason that French women were denied the vote until 1945.

  • I remember when Jimmy Carter brought back draft registration way back in 1979. The USSR had invaded Afghanistan and Khomeini took over in Iran. The Army was short of its enlistment goals. I was more than a little scared of being drafted. After Reagan was elected, the Armed Forces began to exceed enlistment goals, if memory serves. I was quite a coward in my mid to late teens.

  • In Europe, universal conscription was seen as the counterpart of universal suffrage and this concept was the reason that French women were denied the vote until 1945.

    Women were not conscripted after 1945 and I’ll wager men disqualified for service were not ejected from the voter rolls prior to 1946. (In the United States, the cohorts wherein military service was most prevalent among men (born around 1922) still had a population of those disqualified and excused which accounted for 20% of the total). I seriously doubt that military service was the reason.

National Service: A Perennial Bad Idea

Tuesday, July 5, AD 2016

 

 

Well, the Washington Post has run a piece that brings up yet again an idea that is completely against what this country stands for, but is raised again year after year:  National Service:

On a clear summer evening, we squinted into the sun setting over the softball field on our U.S. Army base in Germany. One of my friends, who hailed from a small Pennsylvania town, said: “Look out there, Will, and tell me that isn’t cool. There’s a good ole boy from West Virginia pitching; in center field, we have a black power-lifter from Florida; in right field, there’s a Puerto Rican; at first base, an Irish-American from South Boston. I went to West Point, and you went to Princeton. If we were back home, what would be the chances that all of our paths would ever cross?”

I was reminded of that moment the other night as my wife and I watched the final scene of “Band of Brothers,” in which the soldiers play softball as the narrator explains what became of them after the war. After a few moments sitting in stunned silence as the credits rolled, in awe of the almost unimaginable self-sacrifice of Dick Winters and the men of Easy Company, “Band of Brothers” gave way to a cable news show and its cacophony of pundits shouting party-issued talking points at each other, without a trace of original thought. It was hard to avoid a sense of melancholy at the abrupt transition from Easy Company’s selfless service to today’s toxic political discourse, and to a social fabric that appears to be unraveling along partisan and socioeconomic lines.

How has the country for which our grandparents sacrificed so much come to this?

Yes, we have serious issues, but we are not confronted with an imminent existential threat. We are not experiencing anything as ruinous as the Civil War or either of our world wars. So why this sense that the ties that bind our country together are fraying while we furiously pull in opposite directions?

One powerful step that could begin moving us toward a sense of shared destiny would be a period of national service, either military or civil. The question over whether it should be mandatory, or merely incentivized and encouraged, as the bipartisan Franklin Project is working toward, can be debated. However, as Gen. Stanley McChrystal writes, the “need to create a culture of service where we are all invested in our nation’s future and feel a shared sense of responsibility to our nation and to each other” should not require extensive deliberation.

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4 Responses to National Service: A Perennial Bad Idea

  • I’ll go a step further:
    the mandatory “volunteer” hours required for graduating high school need to be stopped.

    Even when I graduated there was more abuse than the supposed good use– it was just AMAZING how giving free labor to certain businesses counted, while I had to fight like a dog to get my time at the library to count. And there weren’t any opportunities at the school itself. You had to be in the Alternative School to be able to apply a work permit instead. (that’s also where you had to be to GET a work permit)

  • Do the people who support National Service also support good old fashioned civics in school, where kids learn about what the Declaration of Independence means?
    If not then they just want an opportunity to brainwash our kids.

  • We heard Gen. Stanley McChrystal speak- seems like a great guy and very thoughtful. The “need to create a culture of service where we are all invested in our nation’s future and feel a shared sense of responsibility to our nation and to each other” is not a bad idea- talking about either civil or military service.

    Is your concern that that culture of service would be required and not freely given?
    Education at home or at school is a method of “creating a culture” without applying requirement or duty. But that has already been so co-opted! Parents and catechism teachers are put in the ring with the heavy weight champion gorilla known as Mass Culture and have a very hard time getting through.
    People are educated away from patriotic love or loyalty and encouraged in self seeking and easy gratification. The parents and teachers themselves have divided loyalties between the truth of the Faith and the surrounding culture. How to inspire and encourage a culture of service then..,
    .
    I think this also relates to the terrible question of why we are faced with the choice of Trump or Clinton! This great Country of ours can’t cough of any better leaders than that! Perhaps many good people stay out of politics because of the great sacrifice that is required. Perhaps they stay out because we are so suspicious of good people who want to do public service– We had 16 other candidates on the Republican stage.

  • That’s a bit like trying to encourage generosity by authorizing a group of unknown people to empty someone’s bank account….
    A sense of duty is encouraged by being a part of something; please, tell me how the guys drafted during Vietnam had their sense of duty encouraged, and put into bloom– the only folks I know who aren’t quite pissy decades later started out with an extremely strong sense of duty in the first place. (That would be my dad. Heck, one of my uncles was a volunteer and he’s still pissy, though that may have been a natural personality issue.)
    *******
    Besides that, college age is far too late, building a sense of duty requires that the other side of the deal treat it like it is worthwhile, and it will just make it even harder to form families– all the downsides of college, now without even the effort of applying or just not showing up!

Bring Back the Draft? A Look at the American Experience With Conscription.

Tuesday, July 5, AD 2016

 

 

 I have misused the king’s press damnably. I have got, in exchange of a hundred and fifty soldiers, three hundred and odd pounds. I press me none but good house-holders, yeoman’s sons; inquire me out contracted bachelors, such as had been asked twice on the banns; such a commodity of warm slaves, as had as lieve hear the devil as a drum; such as fear the report of a caliver worse than a struck fowl or a hurt wild-duck.

Falstaff, Henry IV, Part I

(This post originally ran in 2012.  The idea of National Service is being mooted again, so I am running this again.  Some bad ideas never seem to go away.)

Former Washington Post Reporter Thomas Ricks, who now works for the liberal Center for a New American Security, a think tank focusing on defense issues and which has provided several top personnel in Defense slots for the Obama administration, thinks that it is now time to bring back the Draft.  He proposes it not because he believes that the Draft would improve the military, but because he believes that it would make the nation less likely to go to war.

The drawbacks of the all-volunteer force are not military, but political and ethical. One percent of the nation has carried almost all the burden of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the rest of us essentially went shopping. When the wars turned sour, we could turn our backs.

A nation that disregards the consequences of its gravest decisions is operating in morally hazardous territory. We invaded Iraq recklessly. If we had a draft, a retired general said to me recently, we probably would not have invaded at all.

If there had been a draft in 2001, I think we still would have gone to war in Afghanistan, which was the right thing to do. But I don’t think we would have stayed there much past the middle of 2002 or handled the war so negligently for years after that.

We had a draft in the 1960s, of course, and it did not stop President Lyndon Johnson from getting into a ground war in Vietnam. But the draft sure did encourage people to pay attention to the war and decide whether they were willing to support it.

I believe that Mr. Ricks is completely wrong-headed, and to understand why it is necessary to review the Draft and American history. 

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7 Responses to Bring Back the Draft? A Look at the American Experience With Conscription.

  • Not a few political thinkers have seen universal conscription as the logical counterpart to universal suffrage.

    Under the ancien régime, war had been seen as the task of the First Estate and the sword was everywhere the badge of the gentleman, so much so that the Scottish Convention of 1689 in requiring “all papists within the Kingdom, of whatsoever rank and condition, to deliver up their arms” added, “excepting gentlemen, their ordinary wearing swords.”

    The Revolution replaced this with the doctrine that no citizen should be denied the right, nor relieved of the responsibility of defending the nation under arms.

    The dangers to liberty of a mercenary army, inevitably drawn from the lumpen proletariat, was succinctly addressed by Rousseau: “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall. When it is necessary to march out to war, they pay troops and stay at home: when it is necessary to meet in council, they name deputies and stay at home. By reason of idleness and money, they end by having soldiers to enslave their country and representatives to sell it.
    It is through the hustle of commerce and the arts, through the greedy self-interest of profit, and through softness and love of amenities that personal services are replaced by money payments.”

  • “The Revolution replaced this with the doctrine that no citizen should be denied the right, nor relieved of the responsibility of defending the nation under arms.”

    We see how well that worked out for liberty MPS.

  • I am wondering how much longer our voluntary army is going to work out with all of the social experiments being introduced. This will effect everything about the military negatively including moral & the willingness to serve–not to mention the ability to fight & win.

  • The Christian Teacher wrote, “I am wondering how much longer our voluntary army is going to work out…”
    The pool of recruits for a mercenary army is inexhaustible. There will always be enough beggars, discharged convicts, swindlers down on their luck, petty criminals, tramps, chronic unemployed or unemployables, people who have been cast out by industry, and all sorts of declassé, degraded or degenerated elements that make up the lumpenproletariat. Then, in bad economic times, there are any number of young people, who cannot find an opportunity to enter into the social organism as producers. Add to that migrants hoping to obtain citizenship « par la sang versée »

  • Actually our volunteer military draws, by and large, from the cream of our youth.

    http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/15/news/economy/military-recruiting/

  • Not that it’s every stopped the stupid “only losers join the military” theme, especially from countries or subcultures where they love to hate on their military.

  • Mac, You’re far better read in the Civil War than I. “. . . the Union troops being overwhelmingly volunteers with only 2% being draftees and 6% paid substitutes.” Additionally, many Union war veterans, having served their enlistments, re-enlisted and were formed in “veteran volunteer” regiments. I think this was the case for the soldier in the book, “Mother May You Never See . . “, which I read uncounted years ago.
    .
    The point is this. Everything that liberals know; and everything that liberals believe; and everything that liberals want to do to us is complete and total BS. It’s why this country, in general, and black America, in particular, are suffering under such horrid conditions.

Bring Back the Draft? A Look at the American Experience With Conscription.

Monday, April 23, AD 2012

 I have misused the king’s press damnably. I have got, in exchange of a hundred and fifty soldiers, three hundred and odd pounds. I press me none but good house-holders, yeoman’s sons; inquire me out contracted bachelors, such as had been asked twice on the banns; such a commodity of warm slaves, as had as lieve hear the devil as a drum; such as fear the report of a caliver worse than a struck fowl or a hurt wild-duck.

Falstaff, Henry IV, Part I

 

 

Former Washington Post Reporter Thomas Ricks, who now works for the liberal Center for a New American Security, a think tank focusing on defense issues and which has provided several top personnel in Defense slots for the Obama administration, thinks that it is now time to bring back the Draft.  He proposes it not because he believes that the Draft would improve the military, but because he believes that it would make the nation less likely to go to war.

 

The drawbacks of the all-volunteer force are not military, but political and ethical. One percent of the nation has carried almost all the burden of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the rest of us essentially went shopping. When the wars turned sour, we could turn our backs.

A nation that disregards the consequences of its gravest decisions is operating in morally hazardous territory. We invaded Iraq recklessly. If we had a draft, a retired general said to me recently, we probably would not have invaded at all.

If there had been a draft in 2001, I think we still would have gone to war in Afghanistan, which was the right thing to do. But I don’t think we would have stayed there much past the middle of 2002 or handled the war so negligently for years after that.

We had a draft in the 1960s, of course, and it did not stop President Lyndon Johnson from getting into a ground war in Vietnam. But the draft sure did encourage people to pay attention to the war and decide whether they were willing to support it.

I believe that Mr. Ricks is completely wrong-headed, and to understand why it is necessary to review the Draft and American history. 

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29 Responses to Bring Back the Draft? A Look at the American Experience With Conscription.

  • I would be interested to learn if Mr. Ricks has any close friends/peers that have actively served in the military. I suspect that he is one of many in America that express concern that only 1% of the citizenry serve, yet is himself totally insulated from the experience.

    The military is not a dumping ground for individuals unwilling to work for the common good, nor is a reform school to change societal expectations. If Mr. Ricks has a problem with the the makeup of the armed forces, he needs to address the lack of dedication by the average citizen both in serving and in keeping the politicians accountable. As President Kennedy said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

    Unfortunately, too many people have forgotten this challenge.

  • JACK: The capsule biographies of Mr. Ricks I could find indicate that he was a military correspondent for first the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post over a period of 16 years, and that he was a reporter or editor for a period of 29 years ‘ere his current employments. It mentions no military service. He has a baccalaureate degree from Yale and grew up in Westchester; his father was a professor. He is familiar with the military, but from the outside.

    I think it is telling that his understanding of what constitutes optimal recruiting practice is something other than building the most effective force possible given available resources. He seems to regard the military as a social problem you have to work around.

  • Well, if the neocons have their way (i.e. Republican Party), more cannon fodder will be needed. Among them William Kristol, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, have all beat the war drums against Iran, Syria, North Korea, or any other faraway place where they believe American bombs should be dropping.

    And I know this will get a rise out of the Lincoln Cultists, which dominate the historical view, it was Abe himself who was widely criticized in the North as a “bloody tyrant” and a “dictator” for his “arbitrary arrests, the suspension of habeas corpus, and the suppression of newspapers . . .” More specifically, imprisoning tens of thousands of Northern civilians without due process for verbally opposing his policies; shutting down over 300 opposition newspapers; deporting an opposing member of Congress; confiscating firearms and other forms of private property; intimidating and threatening to imprison federal judges; invoking military conscription, income taxation, an internal revenue bureaucracy, and huge public debt; and ordering the murder of hundreds of draft protesters in the streets of New York City in July of 1863 are all good reasons why Lincoln was so widely despised.

    I now don my flame-retardant suit in preparation for the onslaught from the “Father Abraham” crowd who know doubt will come out with guns blazing.

  • Ironically, two-thirds of the men who fought in Vietnam were volunteers.

    The uncles I know that volunteered did so because being drafted meant you had zero choice in where you’d go. I don’t know how many of the other volunteers were being similarly smart.

    Joe Green-
    it’s off topic and silly, so why bother chasing after your red herring?

  • Good post, Don.

    Another thing that strikes me (and this ties in with Art’s point that Mr. Ricks appears not to be thinking about the military in relation to its actual purpose — winning wars — but rather as a political and sociological lever) is that the draft suggestion fails to account for the fundamental change in how the US wages war which the volunteer military has helped accelerate, though it was present before. The US does not pursue a “cannon fodder” approach to war, rather it uses technology and highly trained troops to achieve objectives while seeking to minimize its casualties. This makes the US’s approach to warfare much like that of the British Empire 100 years ago, only we have gone much further down that path, and very much unlike the large “universal conscription” powers who based their military might on the ability to pour tens of millions of men onto the battlefield. In the last century, this manpower approach was followed most of all by Russia, but also by Germany and in WW1 by France. Today we see it in the fact that Iran, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Russia all maintain armies with significantly more soldier than our own.

  • There have been two traditional arguments for conscription, one practical, one political.

    The practical argument is that universal conscription, with one or two years of enlistment, coupled with an efficient system of reserves allows a mass of trained troops to be mobilised, when needed, without the cost of maintaining a large standing army. The innumerable branch lines maintained by Continent railway systems until the 1950s bear witness to this philosophy; their primary purpose being the rapid mobilisation of reservists and any freight they earned was viewed as a subsidy.

    The political argument was essentially a moral one, regarding universal conscription as the counter-part to universal suffrage and republican equality: the belief that no citizen should be denied the right, nor relieved of the responsibility of defending the nation under arms. Under the Ancien Régime, by contrast, the nobility had been responsible for the defence of the realm and the sword was everywhere the badge of the gentleman.

    In the UK, primarily a naval power, conscription was unknown until 1916, although, traditionally, merchant seamen had been liable to impressment, in time of war, just as merchant ships had been liable to requisition, under the prerogative.

  • Fox, what’s off-topic about hundreds of draft resisters killed in 1862 on orders from Lincoln? It’s facile to dismiss arguments as “silly” when one is unable to rebut in a reasonable fashion. However, this is not the first time I’ve been chastised on TAC for roaming outside the bounds of conformist thinking and I know it won’t be the last.

  • If they draft them, they don’t need to report them as unemployed . . .

    Here is another one of them rats that wants America to fail.

  • Darwin-
    our military also has a HUGE wealth of baked-in knowledge, since it’s much easier to train volunteers and volunteers are more likely to do a decent pass-down.

    Joe-
    if you think objecting to a rant about “neocons” is a facile dodge and about conformist thinking, I can’t help you.

  • I now don my flame-retardant suit in preparation for the onslaught from the “Father Abraham” crowd who know doubt will come out with guns blazing.

    However, this is not the first time I’ve been chastised on TAC for roaming outside the bounds of conformist thinking and I know it won’t be the last.

    Joe, can the martyr act, please. You’re not chastised for thinking outside the box. You’re chastised for ranting based on faulty sources of information. I also find this complaint amusing since on another live thread you’re the one engaging in conformist thought with regards to Hamilton and Jefferson.

  • There has never been a draft in America without a war. Conscription would not only encourage an undeclared war (we used to call it a “police action”), but it would guarantee a continued supply of “fresh meat” to prolong our involvement. In addition, I don’t see much clamoring to draft women, let alone are they presently required to register, even as we tout equal opportunity for them in the military.

  • There has never been a draft in America without a war.

    In the interests of precision, military conscription was in effect from September of 1940 to January of 1973. We were under a national mobilization from 1940 to 1946 and something very like one from June of 1950 through the end of 1954. The rest of the time, no. (Re Indochina, the ratio of military expenditure to domestic product was declining throughout most of the war).

  • “ordering the murder of hundreds of draft protesters in the streets of New York City in July of 1863 are all good reasons why Lincoln was so widely despised. ”

    First and last warning Joe. My tolerance for bad history is at a low point. Here is what really happened in the New York draft riots.

    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/317749.html

    The American Catholic does not exist so that people can have a forum to spout historically ignorant idiocy. If that is what you wish to do you might wish to post elsewhere.

    You and T.Shaw are on moderation for the time being.

  • Don, as to events that occurred 100 years or so ago, since neither of us was there we have to rely on historians and it’s simply a matter of whose research and scholarship you wish to subscribe to. I didn’t mean to stray off the reservation.

    As for Fox, I’ll pass on any “help” you might have to offer but appreciate the gesture.

  • Historical facts are historical facts Joe. There are historians who strive for accuracy and then there are lying cranks like Dilorenzo. Factual debates about history fascinate me, but the history has to be accurate or such debates are a complete waste of everyone’s time.

  • Not to belabor the point, Don but how do you determine which version of history is “accurate.” ? Contemporary witnesses are perhaps the best we have to go on, which is a strong argument for the Gospel writers even though they did not set paper to pen right away.

    Still, the closer in time to an event one is the more reliable the account, biases notwithstanding — a strong caveat to be sure. Contemporary journals, diaries, newspaper accounts, personal memoirs etc., carry more weight, it would seem, than an historian looking back 100 years and trying to “interpret” events through a lens colored by a particular political persuasion or, as Bill O’Reilly does in his absurd “Killing Lincoln,” trying to tell us what is in peoples’ minds. Though a popular best-seller, serious scholars point out numerous inaccuracies and distortions in his book even though it makes for a good read, much like a romance novel.

    DiLorenzo, by the way, praises David Donald, an ardent admirer of Lincoln, as the best of the “mainstream” Lincolnogists, putting him in the middle of a spectrum that, on the far left, includes the likes of Marxist Eric Foner and pop historian Doris Kearns-Goodwin.

    Lastly, there are more than 14,000 books written about Lincoln. Surely, it would take more than a lifetime to read them all and decide which are historically “accurate.”

  • I have a little bit different take as a Viet Nam era officer. First of all the “US’s” draftees, performed as well as their “RA” brethren. Secondly, I think it is unconscionable that most of our current guys have served three and four tours in Iraq/Afghanistan. I work with PTSD vets and it is madness.

    I do believe a strong case can be made for some form of national service like many other countries including Israel. It gives them an experience of accountability and responsibility at a young age and perhaps for the first time in their lives. If I were king, I would have them doing airport security in place of the abject silliness we have now. They could also be deployed for increased port and border security. It’ll never happen politically, but I do think it would be a good thing. And yes, girls , too.

  • Don

    Great post that only begins to touch on the subject.

    I have noticed that liberal groups that support a return to the draft always mention “alternative Service,” apparently mandatory, Since the military does not need that many people.

    But they also support all sorts of “grand projects” that can’t be accomplished if they pay going (or fair or living) wages.

  • The idea of a Draft Hank, in my mind, can only be justified in a war where the survival of the nation is at stake. Forcing people to put their lives on hold and be part of the military is antithetical to a free society except in a dire emergency. I have never understood the enthusiasm so many politicians have for some sort of an involuntary national service simply as a matter of course.

  • I am a right wing type who from a military stand point has been there and done that, Dr. McClarey, as well as being one of those zealous Catholic converts who was baptized at the tender age of 57, and have been an RCIA catechist beginning several months after I emerged from the font in 2005. National service is an honorable concept, not as a matter of course, but to help change the entitlement mindset in this country and provide a way for these kids to learn and contribute.

    They’re not getting love for this country from their parents nor the public schools.

    I have a tremendous amount of respect for you and this blog, but in my opinion , your comment:

    “Forcing people to put their lives on hold and be part of the military is antithetical to a free society except in a dire emergency. I have never understood the enthusiasm so many politicians have for some sort of an involuntary national service simply as a matter of course.”

    is very naive, and quite frankly very Euro!

    I’m sorry, and don’t mean to offend, but there are many, many of us who do not accept your view that putting our lives on hold, was antithetical to a free society. Nor would the Founders in my view.

    Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

  • Well Jerry, back in my mispent youth I joined the Army. Most of my male family members did the same, including an uncle who fought in Korea and two other uncles who fought in World War II. A great uncle of mine served in the Royal Army during World War II. My father joined the Air Force during the Korean War although he did not see service in that conflict. My brother commanded a tank platoon in Germany in the early eighties. As regular readers of this blog know I hold in the highest esteem those who put their lives on the line defending this nation. However, I do not retract one iota of my antipathy to the Draft except in dire emergencies. Compulsory service is antithetical to everything this country stands for. As for my comment being Euro, actually most European nations have traditionally relied on conscription to fill their militaries and have only recently embraced the concept of a volunteer force. More than a few of the immigrants to these shores from Europe were seeking to avoid this compulsory service. Traditional American antipathy to the Draft I view as a healthy sign of a reluctance to infringe on the personal liberty of our citizens.

  • Trying to imagine a job so worthless that having Mandatory Volunteer labor by high school graduates would be an improvement….

    Can’t think of one, frankly. You think TSA is bad, especially with things disappearing during screening? Good heavens! And then there’s the way that enterprising young mandatory volunteers would line their pockets if put on watch….

    Kids these days are the way they are in large part because they’ve spent over a decade being pumped through a gov’t run school. How is mandating an additional required term going to fix that? Good heavens, even with a volunteer force military service doesn’t “fix” a lack of love of the country– if it ever did, the military is far too bureaucratic now!

    Totally ignoring that giving the government the presumed right to not just years of our citizens’ lives, but to their actual labor… very bad idea.

    Want to fix kids’ entitlement mentalities?
    Fix the labor laws so that kids can get jobs, then if you really want gov’t to have workers, hire the kids to pick up trash in parks for something like two bucks an hour, plus bounty on recyclables, under supervision of one or two adults. (Fixes would have to include lowering the cost of hiring someone, fixing minimum wage, etc. I’d suggest making a new category for employment called “cash labor,” basically formalizing what happens under the counter right now, but I’m digressing.)

  • As Rousseau says, in the Social Contract:

    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall. When it is necessary to march out to war, they pay troops and stay at home: when it is necessary to meet in council, they name deputies and stay at home. By reason of idleness and money, they end by having soldiers to enslave their country and representatives to sell it.”

    And again, “The better the constitution of a State is, the more do public affairs encroach on private in the minds of the citizens. Private affairs are even of much less importance, because the aggregate of the common happiness furnishes a greater proportion of that of each individual, so that there is less for him to seek in particular cares.”

  • Did he have any musings about what happens when we think the State is supposed to serve the common good, rather that the people serving the State? Or when people don’t want to serve them with as much cash as they’re getting right now? Or anything about the state shifting to serving itself by bribing small sections of the public? Or when too much power for too little cause is given to the state?

    I haven’t read Rousseau myself, but that quote sounds a lot like someone shifting religious values over to the state. Dangerous thing.

  • Foxfier

    He does indeed!

    “each individual, as a man, may have a particular will contrary or dissimilar to the general will which he has as a citizen. His particular interest may speak to him quite differently from the common interest: his absolute and naturally independent existence may make him look upon what he owes to the common cause as a gratuitous contribution, the loss of which will do less harm to others than the payment of it is burdensome to himself; and, regarding the moral person which constitutes the State as a “persona ficta,” because not a man, he may wish to enjoy the rights of citizenship without being ready to fulfil the duties of a subject. The continuance of such an injustice could not but prove the undoing of the body politic.

    In order then that the social compact may not be an empty formula, it tacitly includes the undertaking, which alone can give force to the rest, that whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body. This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free [qu’on le forcera d’être libre]; for this is the condition which, by giving each citizen to his country, secures him against all personal dependence. In this lies the key to the working of the political machine; this alone legitimises civil undertakings, which, without it, would be absurd, tyrannical, and liable to the most frightful abuses.”

  • Such as the absurd tyranny of forced service to the public not to prevent a threat to the general community, but for your own good?

    In context, it looks like he’s dancing around democratic and republic style gov’ts, and trying to build a philosophy on that fence from pure reason. (Explains why I keep having flashbacks to libertarian texts….)

    Yeash, what a wordy fellow. (As those who are familiar with my comments can testify, I’m in a position to recognized wordy when I see it.)

  • I generally concur with Donald’s assessment.

    I think it worth noting that the turning of the American public’s opinion regarding Iraq was due in no small part to the Bush Administration’s bungling in terms of articulating the importance of seeing the fight in Iraq through. Condalezza Rice’s tin eared response (“I thought we were making a strong case.”) to question regarding why the administration didn’t make a strong enough case when things got bad during the insurgency There was also the problems of Bush’s rather naive trust of the State Department prior to the invasion.

    To get a real sense of how things got so badly out of hand with the post invasion insurgency, I would highly recommend the book “War and Decision’ by Doug Feith (Undersecretary of Defense for policy from July 20012 until August 2005) and Don Rumsfeld’s memoirs.

    I am afraid that the left is going to be so successful in gutting our military, a draft may very well be needed if a significantl scale war were to break out, which may very well happen. Also worth noting is the fact that no republican president since Reagan has done anything to substantively counteract the left’s erosion of our defense.

    This I think is the not so soft underbelly of Mr. Rick’s motivation.

  • With all respect to those actually engaged in combat, most servicemembers have a rosy, well-paying existence–which draftees never did.

  • I’d disagree about “well paid,” but very good point. (fighting urge to digress into cost cutting schemes…)