The woman who many speculators believe would be selected to head up the Pentagon under a Clinton administration suggested during a recent speaking engagement that all Americans should be required to devote two-years of service to the federal government.
Michele Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for the Obama administration, says that she doesn’t believe young Americans should be subject to compulsory military service but should be forced in other ways to serve the government.
“I’m personally very supportive of creating more national service opportunities writ large, so that the primary or only path to services is not just the military but there are all kinds of ways to serve,” she said at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.
Flournoy added that it should be a “national expectation of citizenship” for Americans to provide two-years of service to the country.
This, of course, isn’t the first time the idea of forcing Americans to work for the government or join the military for two years has come up in the post-draft era.
William Galston, a former advisor to President Bill Clinton, is also a fan of the idea.
In a 2010 US News column, he wrote:
Suppose that upon high school graduation or reaching the age of 18, every American were given a randomly selected lottery number based on their birthday and that a certain portion were selected for civic service. They would be offered a choice—two years of either military or civilian service. Those doing civilian service would receive stipends large enough to pay living expenses, as members of AmeriCorps do today.
This system would produce a number of desirable results for the country, as it would benefit from such service, but also for those who perform it. By the time they entered high school, young people would know that they might be asked to serve, and they would begin to talk to their older siblings or relatives about their options. They would begin to understand that there’s more to citizenship than simply asserting their rights.
Those called to serve would spend time helping their country in their communities, in hard-hit areas far from home, or overseas. They would meet people unlike themselves, members of other classes and ethnic groups, with different aspirations. Some would begin to reshape their conceptions of how to spend their lives, opting for military, nonprofit, or public service careers. Most would form enduring friendships; all would have formative experiences they would never forget.
Ah, sunshine and rainbows.
Of course, advocates of forced government service tend to disregard the fact that forcing a person to do anything for two years of life is an obvious affront to liberty.
There’s also the issue of millions of Americans who don’t really agree with how the federal government allocates the resources it already confiscates from citizens via the IRS. It’s unlikely that the Feds would do any better a job using its newly-acquired human capital.
In fact, a national service system would be inefficient from the outset, requiring the government to spend money setting up a bureaucracy to manage the forced workers.
And what of people who refused to work for the government? Would they face jail time, monetary penalties, etc.?
Perhaps a better idea would be for Washington to get the hell out of young Americans’ way by eliminating red tape that strangles businesses before they are started and stopping the corporate cronyism that’s crippling the American economy. Young people could then start more businesses or find better jobs, thus increasing tax revenues so the government can hire workers. With good wages and a little free time, most Americans would feel inclined to volunteer in their local communities to ensure the places where they earn their livelihoods are safe, clean and flourishing.
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