We can demonstrate that mandatory national service is stupid, dangerous, wrong, and unconstitutional by asking its proponents one simple question.
That question is: “will you put 18 or 19-year-olds in prison for refusing to perform “volunteer work.” Frighteningly, the concept of imprisoning young people for refusing to “serve” the nation is already federal law.
To elaborate 50 U.S. Code § 3811 code lists the punishment for noncompliance with Military Selective Service (“the draft”) as up to five years in federal prison and a $10,000 fine. Thus, our government already has the power to imprison young people who do not perform “national service.”
Fortunately, current law restricts mandatory national service, or conscription, to military service. Moreover, the nature of modern combat; robots will probably fight the next war, makes a 21st Century military draft unlikely.
Some Democrats want to Bring Back the Draft
Frighteningly, some Democrats seem to want to expand conscription to “civilian service.”
Strangely, “national service” is the only issue South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) talks about in his presidential campaign. However, voters are not buying Buttigieg’s line, Emerson Polling places the mayor at 6% in its latest survey of Democratic contenders.
Bizarrely, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel thinks Democrats need to make national service a campaign issue for 2020. There is no evidence voters want national service; or care about it, but Emanuel wrote an Atlantic article demanding Democrats fight for it.
Importantly, neither Buttigieg nor Emanuel publicly demands mandatory national service. Yet, mandatory service is the next logical step in their thinking.
Mandatory National Service is Conscription
Any form of mandatory government service, civilian or military, is conscription. Historically, conscription was one of dictators’ favorite means of social and political control.
Notably, the Nazis, the Communists, and the fascists all had conscription. In addition, Nazi Germany had mandatory national service for civilians. Hitler forced unemployed laborers to build the autobahn superhighways, for instance.
Nor was Hitler alone, Mao Zedong used forced national service as part of his vicious and destructive Cultural Revolution. Mao forced all young Chinese to work in the rice fields, regardless of age or class.
Thus, America will put itself in some hideous company by adopting mandatory national service. Plus, mandatory national service will violate America’s values and the Constitution.
Mandatory National Service is Slavery
Mandatory national service “is an idea that undermines one of the fundamental principles of a free society: that people own themselves and their labor,” Ilya Somin writes at Reason.
Thus, mandatory national service is slavery. Slavery was an evil America fought a bloody Civil War to abolish.
Consequently, mandatory national service is unconstitutional because the 13th Amendment specifically bans all forms of slavery. The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Mandatory National Service is Unconstitutional
Importantly, the 13th Amendment makes only one exception to its ban on slavery for convicts in prison. Notably, the 13th Amendment does not allow for a draft or national service of any sort.
Hence, Buttigieg and Emanuel could champion a policy that could violate the constitution. However, the courts have never ruled on the constitutionality of civilian national service, Somin notes.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the draft was Constitutional in the 1918 Selective Draft Law cases. Importantly, that ruling is over a century old, so they based it on legal arguments today’s courts could reject.
Mandatory National Service is Disruptive and Destructive
The theory behind national service is that mandatory service increases patriotism and encourages national unity and civil commitment.
American history; however, shows mandatory national service can be a very disruptive destructive policy. Historians consider the New York Draft Riots of 1863, the deadliest and most destructive civil unrest in American history.
US President Abraham Lincoln (R-Illinois) sparked the riots by signing a strict conscription law to raise troops for the Union Army. However, African Americans; and any man who could pay the federal government $300, were exempt from the draft.
On July 13, 1863, poor white workers in New York; many of them Irish Immigrants, began taking out their anger on African Americans, the rich, Protestants, and supporters of the Civil War. Historians estimate rioters killed up to 1,200 people including; many African Americans.
The government could only restore order by deploying Union Army troops; some of which reportedly came from straight from the battlefield at Gettysburg, to secure the city. The Draft Riots show that “national service” can quickly turn citizens against each other.
Moreover, there was anti-draft violence during the Vietnam War of the 1960s. Notably, President Richard M. Nixon (R-California) ended the draft on 27 January 1973, during that conflict. SOURCE: “CHANCE AND CIRCUMSTANCE: THE DRAFT, THE WAR AND THE VIETNAM GENERATION” BY LAWRENCE BASKIR AND WILLIAM STRAUSS (1978) via Politico.
Why do Elitists Want Mandatory National Service?
History shows that mandatory national service is destructive and disruptive. In addition, mandatory national service is unconstitutional and a violation of America’s ideals.
So why do guys like Pete Buttigieg and Rahm Emanuel want it? Disturbingly, there could be a very sinister agenda behind “national service.” Conscription and national service are great methods of social and political control.
Notably, Mao used “national service” to reassert his “authority” (tyranny) in China during the Cultural Revolution. Likewise, Hitler used national service to control unemployed men who might object to his New Order.
National Service as Social Control?
The most disruptive elements in most societies are young men, particularly unemployed or underemployed young men. Frighteningly, America has vast numbers of unemployed and underemployed youth.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 45% of Americans between 16 and 24 were unemployed in summer 2018. Disturbingly, the unemployment rate for some groups is far higher, the St. Louis Federal Reserve estimates the unemployment rate for blacks between 16 and 19 was 82.3% in July 2019.
Moreover, a large percentage of the employed young men were working at shit jobs. Flipping burgers for minimum wage, for example.
Moreover, national service provides an excuse for government to confine potentially disruptive young men to camps in remote areas far from cities and the rich. Disturbingly, the federal government used some camps built for the 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) national service experiment for young men to detain Japanese Americans and German prisoners during World War II.
Thus, you can view national service as an effort to control young men rather than instill values. Such instincts can explain the elite media’s sympathy for the concept of national service.
Is National Service Racism?
There are ugly undertones of racism and class warfare here. Calls for national service conjure up Jefferson Davis’s old notion that African Americans are child-like creatures who need to be taught civilized behavior through forced labor, for example. To elaborate Davis was a slave owner and President of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Given our history, Buttigieg and Emanuel need to clarify what they mean by national service. In particular, they need to tell voters if they want mandatory national service. If they oppose mandatory national service, the two need to say so.
I think voluntary national service; like the 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps and the all-volunteer military, can be beneficial. However, forced national service is always oppressive, disruptive, and destructive.
America needs to provide its youth with money, meaningful jobs, education, and a future – not forced labor. National service, in any form, will not solve America’s problems. Democrats need to offer younger Americans far more than platitudes about service if they want to win elections.