Dulce Et Decorum Est — Not

by Don Boudreaux on September 7, 2008

in Myths and Fallacies

Here’s a letter that I sent today to a local Washington, DC, radio station:

Manager, WTOP News Radio
Washington, DC

Dear Sir or Madam:

The
commercial you’re now running to remind young men that "it’s the law"
that they register with Selective Service is disgusting.

Driving to the bagel store this morning, my 11-year-old son and I heard
this ad on the radio.  "What’s registration?" my son asked.

I
explained, and then told him that "It’s part of the government’s effort
to make you think that your life ultimately belongs to it and not to
you.  The government wants you to believe that you’re obliged even to
die for it if it commands you to do so."

"That’s idiotic!" my son replied.

"Right
you are, Tiger!" I proudly told him.  "And if, when the time comes for
you to perform this degrading tribal ritual, you decline to do so,
you’ll have both my admiration and my unconditional support."

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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{ 47 comments }

embutler September 7, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Your article does not make it clear whether you are quoting the radio ad or a conversation you had in the car about registration

Justin Bowen September 7, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Wouldn't it be great if he was quoting a commercial?

Max September 7, 2008 at 1:04 pm

If this nation cannot find enough volunteers to defend it then it doesn't deserve to survive. It will be a proud day when your son enlists in the Marines.

mdiddly September 7, 2008 at 1:38 pm

Dulce et decorum est, not dolce.

ben September 7, 2008 at 3:19 pm

I'm not sure why a free man would care what the government thinks. The simple reality, regardless of what propagandists put out, is that he may, at some point, be forced to defend himself from his government or his nation from another nation's government. He can make a significant difference in preventing the former by bearing arms as a citizen or the latter by serving in the military.

So I agree with Max, except that it would be a prouder day if the kid enlisted in the Army.

BoscoH September 7, 2008 at 3:30 pm

Max, that is entirely different than requiring 18 year old men to register, and continually finding things to hold hostage to those who don't. Not only is it different, it's independent. Since the draft was abolished, our country has not had any difficulty finding volunteers to fill its military ranks.

I see Selective Service as mostly symbolic at this point, a proverbial windmill. But if a draft were ever brought back, I'd be more than happy to help any kids I know evade it if that's what they want to do. There's nothing patriotic about being forced to die for your country, and nothing worth saving if that becomes the country's policy. Voluntarily enlisting, of course, is different and noble in the same sense that going off and making a career for oneself voluntarily is noble.

David P. Graf September 7, 2008 at 4:10 pm

I would be surprised to find very many libertarians in the military given its association with the state and its use of force to enforce the will of the state. Of course, I'm not a libertarian and so I do not agree with Boudreaux on this issue.

Your a loon September 7, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Hopefully when you explain your zealotry for open borders he recognizes your treasonous behavior for what it is.

SheetWise September 7, 2008 at 4:29 pm

I have a real difficult time understanding the governments need for registration. I'm sure that Apple Computer, Phillip Morris, and Jack Daniels can tell the government where every 18 year old in America lives. I'll bet they can also tell Uncle Sam where these yutes are at any specific time with a pretty good success rate. But then, why would the government know where the kids are? All the government did was issue birth certificates, paid for a 12 year education, issued drivers licenses, registered their vehicles, gave them student loans, issued passports, and gave tax credits to their parents … I can see why they don't have a clue.

OTOH — I advise my 11 year old daughter to join the Navy. I think a part of the reason I do, is because I see it as an opportunity I missed. You come out of school as an officer — spend 20 years playing with the best toys in the world — and then retire at 45 to 50. Not bad.

Don Boudreaux September 7, 2008 at 4:38 pm

I wonder if "Your a Loon" believes that America was governed by treasonous persons from the time of its founding until the 1880s, when the first significant restrictions were put on immigration into the United States. That is, is it treasonous to endorse (as I do) a return to the immigration policy that reigned for the first 100 years of America's existence as an independent nation?

OT September 7, 2008 at 5:01 pm

OT: Fannie & Freddie

Democrats and Republicans are holding hands and singing Kumbaya.

Keith September 7, 2008 at 5:02 pm

Quote from David P. Graf: "I would be surprised to find very many libertarians in the military given its association with the state and its use of force to enforce the will of the state."

There are libertarians in the military (I'm retired from the Army). A libertarian in the military simply has to recognize that the military is the closest thing to a truly socialist community you can get and while in uniform, act as such. Frankly, I think that a military that isn't devoutly socialist could be very dangerous (e.g., Burma).

Some of my best memories are from my military service. I think there is an unquantified drive in humans to be a part of something bigger than just the individual. Materially, it is a complete illusion, but if you can be a part of that illusion for even a short time, the feeling of it sticks with you. I think that's why we still have socialism, religion, nation-states and even sports teams. It's also I think the driving force behind families (reinforced by biology, of course).

Lee Kelly September 7, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Treason is too often a byproduct of doing the right thing.

Your a Loon September 7, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Sure, Id love to return to a policy of immigration that favored whites of European descent rather than the Hispanic invaders/underclass that you salivate over. Your question to me is silly. Does today's America in any way resemble the America of the pre-1880's? Your open borders position is perfectly suited for your career choice in academia. Its best to keep you bottled up there with the Marxists.

Jon September 7, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Oh shove it loon.

Freedom of movement in the labor market makes workers more competitive in said market driving them to make themselves more marketable. (i.e. better skills, better education)

Your position also assume either a 'sticky' number of jobs or a job market where new jobs aren't created on a literally hourly basis.

Do I think the immigration laws are screwy? Yup. I think anyone should get to come in that isn't going to start blowing shit up and the whole system should be streamlined.

As you your personal shot at Dr. Boudreaux, and at your shot over his "salivation" over immigrant workers. It must be nice finding a lightning rod for all that racism you have. If you loose your job to an immigrant, good. Someone more qualified has it now.

happyjuggler0 September 7, 2008 at 6:09 pm

13th amendment to the US constitution:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The draft is unconstitutional. Try telling that to the treasonous politicians in Washington though.

By the way, "section 2" strongly implies that congress may not pass any legislation unless specifically authorized by the US constitution.

nunya September 7, 2008 at 6:24 pm

Hmmmm – this is an interesting post.

Until now, I had a modicum of respect for Don's positions. The entire facade of respect for law, et al, ad absurdum, was pretty well done. Of course, that entire reliance on "The Rule of Law" is based on some other man's son (or daughter) doing the fighting and dying to protect his freedoms.

That isn't to say that America's willingness to spend blood and treasure is always right, but in order to have that "ordered" society of laws and personal property, there is, indeed, a need to protect the nation.

The fact that Don obviously feels comfortable sacrificing others, but not his own, smacks terribly of hypocrisy. I don't find his response to be particularly reasoned, well advised or even marginally intelligent – just plain polemics.

Truly, it's sad that Don appears to be more than happy with the "do as I say, but not as I do" perspective.

You can argue about open borders until you're blue in the face. Some people embrace it, others don't. Oddly enough, the basis of our society is to permit people to have differing opinions – which is backed up by that "rule of law" thing.

Yet one more example that the "true libertarian" position is irreconcilably at odds with human nature. While there's much to be said for freedom of human interaction, this post in particular shines a light on the niave assumptions that Libs have – that the world is such a happy place and everyone all holds hands in peace and harmony. If only it were true – but pragmatism says it isn't.

Martin Brock September 7, 2008 at 6:31 pm

Boudreaux is my hero of the day. My sons also have my support if they choose not to register, though I'm not sure the act of defiance is worth the trouble. On the other hand, if it comes down to their actual conscription, I'll be more than supportive. I'll be armed. The statesmen may call it "murder" or anything else they like. I couldn't care less.

Hans Luftner September 7, 2008 at 7:36 pm

As the proud descendant of a WWI Austrian draft dodger, who escaped to America & "stole" a job from someone I presume was less worthy, I would like to applaud the message Don is sending to his son. My own parents, despite family history, would insist on me submitting to the government, at all times. It's sad, really.

If I had known at age 18 what I know now, I would never have registered.

Adam Ruth September 7, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Nunya,

"The fact that Don obviously feels comfortable sacrificing others, but not his own, smacks terribly of hypocrisy."

So, you're willing to have your own children shot if they didn't want to fight to defend the government?

Your a Loon September 7, 2008 at 7:43 pm

Jon, I simply favor the native born and those who have some respect for our rule of law by immigrating legally. You and Don simply are advocates for an unchecked invasion.

Anderson September 7, 2008 at 7:51 pm

So, Nunya, it appears that you're willing to sacrifice other people's children for your own personal benefit. Nice.

Jeff September 7, 2008 at 8:24 pm

I've served in the US Marine Corps. Stupidly, I thought when I joined the service at 17 that I'd be registered for Selective Service. No so. Selective Service and DOD are separate departments. I didn't know this until after I was 26 years old.

Now, I am permanently ineligible for for student loans, almost all scholarships, any form of government employment, any form of government contracts, and every federal benefit except social security.

I can overcome this by proving, each end every time, that I served in the USMC. Each bureaucrat is allowed to waive the penalties if they believe I didn't intend to evade military service. Volunteering for the USMC usually proves that.

Still, it's been a pain in the ass, and always will be. There's been serious talk about revoking passports and other stuff. What a pain that will be for me.

Randy September 7, 2008 at 8:39 pm

I'm with Don on this one… and with Max who says that if the nation can't find volunteers to defend it then it doesn't deserve to survive. This "nation" is no different than any other in history in that it has a political class that survives by collecting rent from the population. Wars are never fought except in the interest of this political class, and only rarely do they have any net value to the population. These are facts. The evidence for them is that the draft exists. Wars that the population finds in its own interest will have no shortage of volunteers. It is only wars fought solely in the interest of the political class that face a shortage of volunteers. Such wars should not be fought – and if a political class is destroyed by them… so be it.

Your a Loon September 7, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Don advocates erasing our borders and those who wish to defend them are called racist by people like Jon.

bartman September 7, 2008 at 9:10 pm

As has been mentioned above, when faced with actual peril, this country will have no shortage of volunteers.

It only needs the draft whe the public can see through the political BS and refuses to swallow the phony "defend you country" nonsense, e.g., Vietnam.

Martin Brock September 7, 2008 at 9:12 pm

You and Don simply are advocates for an unchecked invasion.

Me too.

shawn September 7, 2008 at 9:12 pm

…how about, rather than racist, we call you ignorant? We can start with poor grammar (it's "you're," not "your"), and then move on to the issue that the only separation between your and Don's position is that you favor the CURRENT forms of legal immigration, while the professor favors greatly expanding what constitutes legal immigration.

The only difference, then, is that you seem to favor racially differentiated criterion for admission into this country. Now…that sounds like racism to me. What would you call it?

vidyohs September 7, 2008 at 9:46 pm

"Hopefully when you explain your zealotry for open borders he recognizes your treasonous behavior for what it is.
Posted by: Your a loon | Sep 7, 2008 4:10:48 PM"

Some really sad, insufficient, ignorant, and irrational thingking went into that post. Immigration is not your problem, Your a loon, government is. Stop all the left wing government give away of goodies and you cut down on immigration immediately, and what immigration that did continue would be beneficial not a drain.
——

Keith,

"I think there is an unquantified drive in humans to be a part of something bigger than just the individual. Posted by: Keith | Sep 7, 2008 5:02:24 PM"

Some people, Keith, some people, but not all by any means. Being a part of something bigger is unsatisfying when you learn it isn't better.
——–

"The draft is unconstitutional. Try telling that to the treasonous politicians in Washington though."
"Posted by: happyjuggler0 | Sep 7, 2008 6:09:57 PM"

Actually, happyjuggler0, Milton Freidman did just that during the Nixon administration and convinced them that the draft was unconstitutional and that was when it was canceled. Why they still have a Selective Service Reg. is proof that nothing is ever dismantled unless it is directly tackled. With no draft there is no need for a Selective Service Registration.
———-

"The fact that Don obviously feels comfortable sacrificing others, but not his own, smacks terribly of hypocrisy."
Posted by: nunya | Sep 7, 2008 6:24:17 PM"

Nunya, this is plain silly, however it is the heart of your post. Find one quote from Don that supports your silly accusation. I have seen time after time Don express a consistent position, that being that he doesn't want to sacrifice your son or his son on the alter of a politicians whim.
——

"The statesmen may call it "murder" or anything else they like. I couldn't care less.
Posted by: Martin Brock | Sep 7, 2008 6:31:01 PM"

For once we agree Martin, without reservation. I am military retired and my 21 years taught me enough to advise my 3 children that if the draft came looking for them I'd help them and support them in Canada before I'd see them place themselves under the arbitrary authority of the kinds of shitheads I most frequently served under and with.
——–

"Still, it's been a pain in the ass, and always will be. There's been serious talk about revoking passports and other stuff. What a pain that will be for me.
Posted by: Jeff | Sep 7, 2008 8:24:21 PM"

21 years in the Navy, retired, never registered for Selective Service, and never have had a single moments of hardship or controversy in any manner because of that lack. You must be born under an unlucky star.
——

"Don advocates erasing our borders and those who wish to defend them are called racist by people like Jon.
Posted by: Your a Loon | Sep 7, 2008 9:04:36 PM"

Me, I just call you a blind fool who has never spent a moment really digging deep into the facts and truth about the value of immigration. The boogie man gotcha running scared.
——-

Government is our problem, not immigration, not the draft, not selective service, no drugs, not guns, not oil, not traffic, not infrastructure, not the babe next door who wears the itty bitty bikini…..okay maybe she is a problem.

scottynx September 7, 2008 at 10:02 pm

"Stop all the left wing government give away of goodies and you cut down on immigration immediately…"

Oh, is that all we have to do? I'm sure the welfare state will be eliminated any day now, right after hell freezes over.

Sameer Parekh September 7, 2008 at 10:09 pm

What's interesting of course is that you have to register for selective service in case there is a draft– so they can force you to serve if you don't want to. However, if you volunteer to serve in the military, but didn't register for selective service, because you don't want to be forced to serve, you are denied the opportunity to serve.

Great system.

vidyohs September 7, 2008 at 10:16 pm

"Oh, is that all we have to do? I'm sure the welfare state will be eliminated any day now, right after hell freezes over.
Posted by: scottynx | Sep 7, 2008 10:02:18 PM"

Exactly, scottynyx, that is why I say government is the problem.

Everyone is all excited about the wrong problem, and that is no accident.

brotio September 7, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Vidyohs,

I'm assuming that you enlisted while there was still an active draft and that Jeff signed up after the draft was suspended.

Jon September 7, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Well … let's see you refer to foreign worker influx as a "invasion". That's simply couching your argument in inflammatory wording that is designed to elicit a "Well we gotta protect America" kinds of responses.

I can show you the data about the productivity gains made by foreign labor. All you can do is point and shout and go "They took our jobs!" which is absurd on its face because it assumes that American citizens have an inherent right to their job. And then you couch it in terms of a.) Race and b.) "invasion".

I had to register for student loans, but you know what, if they call me up, I'm heading to Mexico. No government has a claim to my life, hell they take enough of my life from me as it is.

maximus September 8, 2008 at 12:32 am

"not the babe next door who wears the itty bitty bikini…..okay maybe she is a problem."

Vidyohs:
Didn't you admit you're 67 years old on another thread? What's in the water down there? I want some!!!

SheetWise September 8, 2008 at 1:03 am

"… is it treasonous to endorse (as I do) a return to the immigration policy that reigned for the first 100 years of America's existence as an independent nation?"

Double positions are always hard to respond to. Let me help myself …

… is it treasonous to endorse the immigration policy that reigned for the first 100 years of America's existence as an independent nation?"

No.

It's more like being human than being treasonous.

As long as you understand that all immigrants are not looking for independence — or freedom. Which was recognized in that policy.

vidyohs September 8, 2008 at 6:07 am

brotio,

That could be the answer, but I still have to wonder because when I renew my passport I am never asked about military service or selective service registration and it isn't my white hair that gives me the pass. I have never had the question asked.

Not when I have registered my car, renewed my driver's license, or done any of the things that make me brush up against government.

I only use my military retiree's ID when I infrequently wander into the PX at Ellington AFB, or as the 2nd ID when someone asks for 2 forms of ID. So, it isn't that I advertise that I am a military retiree.

To tell you the truth I have never heard of anyone having the complaints that Jeff expressed. Not calling him a liar, understand, just wondering what circles he is moving in. Government can be like that, black to me and white to Jeff and all for no discernible reason.

vidyohs September 8, 2008 at 6:17 am

Maximus,

Admit? Admit, sir? Nay, proud boaster I am!

Viva la prurient interest!

Good unceasing health maintenance in all that implies. And, maybe good genes.

:-)

Bob Howland September 8, 2008 at 8:07 am

I find it interesting that nobody has mentioned that only men have to register for the draft. By my rough estimate, 100,000 to 150,000 draftees, all men, have been killed in combat while serving in the military, since women got the vote. I think that affirmative action demands that women and only women be drafted until a similar number of drafted women have been killed in combat.

Per Kurowski September 8, 2008 at 8:38 am

I just don’t get it!

Do I read our Dear Tenured Professor telling his 11 year old son "And if, when the time comes for you to perform this degrading tribal ritual, you decline to do so, you'll have both my admiration and my unconditional support”?

Is he actually telling his son to break the law instead of asking his son to help him change the law?

Where on earth does our Dear Tenured Professor believe the frontier goes between the law of the land and a “degrading tribal ritual”? In the need to respect a tenureship?

What on earth might he be teaching his students? Parents and students caveat!

Randy September 8, 2008 at 9:25 am

Per Kurowski,

The draft is not the "law of the land". The fact that it exists is proof that it is not. It is simply a use of force in the interest of the political class.

vidyohs September 8, 2008 at 9:35 am

PK,

There is bad law, 99.9%.

There is good law, .01%

And, law that no one has ever understood, .09%.

Lysander Spooner, (lysanderspooner.org) one of the brightest legal minds this nation has ever produced makes the case that obeying bad law means that there is no incentive for the lawmakers to change the law. If the law is bad, only disobedience, mass disobedience especially, will get it changed. See also the effective tactics of Ghandi.

Disobedience is not the best way, it is the only way.

vidyohs September 8, 2008 at 9:44 am

BH,

Good thinking and I will go you one better.

"If you protect a man from folly, you will find you have raised a nation of fools". William Penn

Let us take the wisdom in that astatement and turn it into this: "If those who vote for war do not go to fight that war, then you will find voting for war an easy task."

or

"Those who make the laws must live by those laws."

It is my personal philosophy that our laws should make it mandatory for all congresscritters who vote to send our troops into combat, or those who do not actively vote to oppose it, be required to accompany those troops either as a company commander of combat troops or as a front line medic.

Demanding that others go where you will not just doesn't make for good law.

vidyohs September 8, 2008 at 9:48 am

Oh and BTW, ya'll might find this interesting:

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2008/09/when-americas-c.html

Beverlee September 8, 2008 at 12:29 pm

If only markets were truly open, no need would exist for a powerful army, let alone a draft. Yes, that's an ideal we can't afford at the moment, but has anyone noticed the Baby Boom immigration from the U.S. to former Communist strong-holds? The other night on HGTV's "House Hunter's International", an everyday couple bought a home in Nicarauga, a country where building for the demographic proceeds 'hot and heavy'! As my dad always said, "Bring that Yankee green."

Nasikabatrachus October 24, 2008 at 6:45 pm

"I would be surprised to find very many libertarians in the military given its association with the state and its use of force to enforce the will of the state. Of course, I'm not a libertarian and so I do not agree with Boudreaux on this issue."

Correction:

"Of course, I don't oppose slavery and so I do not agree with Boudreaux on this issue."

Fixed that up for ya, David P. Graf. Be sure to tell your children that they are the property of a group of people by virtue of being born within the confines of an imaginary shape drawn on pieces of paper that refer to the globe, and as such are morally obligated to comply if those people wish to use them for the purposes of murder at the risk of their own lives. I'm sure they will have nice dreams afterwards.

Nasikabatrachus October 24, 2008 at 6:57 pm

And yes, I know this thread is more than a month old. But you rock, Don.

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