Temporary Slavery Called "Service" Is Still Temporary Slavery

by Don Boudreaux on January 31, 2009

in Myths and Fallacies

Here’s a letter of mine appearing in today’s Baltimore Sun:

Dan Rodricks wants to promote “national service,” and he believes that the nation’s current infatuation with President Barack Obama provides an ideal opportunity to implement such a program.  Let’s put aside the mistaken premise that each of us “serves” only when we work in government programs and ask this question: How will Uncle Sam know how best to use all the conscripted labor at his disposal?  And what earthly reason is there to suppose that he will deploy such labor according to reasonably objective criteria rather than according to political fads, partisan emotions and interest-group influences?

Sadly, Mr. Rodricks utterly ignores practical questions such as these.  His essay is evidence of the truth of what Thomas Sowell observes in a recent column: “Politics is about evoking emotions, not examining specifics.”

Donald J. Boudreaux Fairfax, Va.
The writer is chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University.

The letter immediately following mine is better:

Dan Rodricks’ column “Americans poised to heed Obama’s call to service” advocates national service. He favors not just voluntary service but paid service – that is, a government jobs program in which bureaucrats decide how to spend even more of our tax dollars.That’s bad enough. But then Mr. Rodricks goes the extra step and suggests that the national service program should be mandatory.Forced labor is slavery, whether the slaves are paid with room and board or with money.Let’s not pretend mandatory national service is anything but a sanitized form of slavery.It’s a shameful idea in a country that’s supposed to stand for freedom.

David Page Baltimore


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