≡ Menu

What’s With this Fetish for Force?

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

Dana Milbank wants to “save America” by restoring military conscription (“Save America: Restore the Draft,” Nov. 30).  Horrible idea.

While Americans’ values might be changing from those that ensure a civil and prosperous society, the problem isn’t that our values are becoming insufficiently martial or communitarian.  The problem is that our values are becoming insufficiently bourgeois.

History is replete with societies that bestowed their greatest rewards and honors on warriors.  Those societies also embraced slavery and suffered enduring poverty.  The 20th-century witnessed infamous nation-wide experiments with subjugating the individual to the Collective.  Those experiments resulted in genocide and enduring poverty.  Humankind escaped such atrocities only when and where bourgeois virtues and pursuits – such as self-responsibility, minding one’s business, industriousness, and commercial enterprise – came to be held in high regard and widely practiced.

While bourgeois values and pursuits have long been, and remain, contemptible to too many professors, preachers, politicians, and pundits, the danger is that these values and pursuits are increasingly held in contempt again by the public.  Conscription as endorsed by Mr. Milbank – premised on the anti-bourgeois superstition that the individual must be forcibly molded into a compliant subject by the supreme and mighty State – will only further erode those values that sustain a liberal and open society.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030