Feel a Draft?

by Don Boudreaux on April 30, 2004

in Current Affairs

In USA Today, Julianne Malveaux offers one of the more unusual justifications for conscription: to ensure that candidates for political office all can say that they “served” their country. Here’s the crux of her argument:

Perhaps we ought to think about asking young people to give a year of service, either in the armed forces or in the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or other national service programs. Then, a generation from now, we won’t have to have debates about who served and who didn’t.

Two things about Ms. Malveaux’s argument are striking. First, she ignores the value of the signal that voters obviously attach to candidates who can say that they’ve served in the military or the Peace Corp. If conscription returned, every candidate for office in future years would be able to say “I served!” Candidates would be more homogeneous – or at least one way for some candidates to signal their differences from other candidates would be lost.

Second, the government already asks young people to serve in these ways. What Ms. Malveaux really meant to say in the above quotation is “commanding” rather than “asking.” But “commanding” sounds so unappealing.

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