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Ask Not

In her April 30th column in USA Today, Julianne Malveaux endorsed conscription with the following line: “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.”

In his (excellent) principles-of-economics textbook, Gregory Mankiw writes that “the individual income tax asks the financially successful to contribute more than others to support the government.” (3rd. ed., p. 5.)

I ask: why “ask”? These policies, regardless of their merits, are not requests. They are commands. Their coercive nature ought not be masked with sweet words such as “ask.”