Conor Friedersdorf takes down arguments for a military draft
There hasn’t been a lot of outrage, at least from what I’ve read, from the right or left on Thomas Ricks recent call to bring back the military draft. Perhaps the story just isn’t out there enough for people to take notice, or maybe it’s because the anti-draft sentiment is limited in nature.
Ricks’ premise is much like that of Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), who has introduced “national service” legislation in each of the last several Congresses, is that in order to prevent war, the federal government must force able adults out of high school to serve in the military. This would include the children of politicians and the wealthy. Working to alter the United States incredibly misguided foreign policy is apparently not enough, the federal government must DRAFT ALL THE KIDS!
As I explained yesterday, this is a terrible idea, but over at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf completely tears apart Ricks’ arguments, though from a practical perspective, better than anyone else who has written on the subject:
Let me get this straight. Presuming that these 18 months of conscription don’t affect college plans, except to delay them for two years, its effect will basically be to shift two years of a person’s working life from whatever they spend their career doing to menial labor compensated at below market rates (sorry, everyone who presently does those jobs to feed their families!).
This would result in a lot of curious tradeoffs.
For example, America would have 18 fewer months of Steve Jobs the entrepreneur and inventor, and 18 more months of Steve Jobs painting barracks; 18 fewer months of Atul Gawande practicing medicine, 18 more months of Atul Gawande cutting lawns; 18 fewer months of Tiger Woods playing golf, 18 more months of Tiger Woods rebuilding infrastructure; 18 fewer months of Megan McCain writing a Daily Beast column, 18 more months of Megan McCain teaching children.
Are any of these good tradeoffs?
Says Ricks, “libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.” At present, Gary Johnson is the Libertarian Party’s standard bearer. In college he worked as a door-to-door handyman. Upon graduation he founded his own mechanical contracting company. He built it up into a corporation that employed more than 1,000 people (all of this before running for governor of New Mexico and serving two-terms). Am I to understand that if Johnson, the libertarian, would’ve declined to mow lawns for 18 months, preferring to start a company that would eventually employ a thousand people, Ricks would regard him as having contributed less to Uncle Sam? Count me among the Americans who regard ourselves as beneficiaries of a system that doesn’t require guys like Johnson, or anyone else who is gainfully employed, to spend two years of their working lives mowing laws at a bureaucrat’s direction — or maybe even mowing bureaucrats’ lawns.
Military service and work for the betterment of a community aren’t things to belittle or play down. They’re important roles in our society. However, these are things that should be voluntary, not forced by government.