Slave of the State: How Mandatory Government Service is Antithetical to Liberty
By Sam Aydlette
While dining out with an old army buddy last Saturday, an intriguing conversation arose over the topic of compulsory service to the State. My friend argued that it would benefit young people if they were tasked to do some sort of yearlong obligatory service, either military or some other capacity. His reasoning was that if people were taught valuable skills at a young age, it would foster good work habits and create jobs for our economy. I agreed that compulsory service would teach young people skills that they otherwise may lack, and probably foster good work habits (although that might depend on the type of Government job!). However, I believe there are broader implications to mandatory state service which would cancel out any of the perceived benefits of such a program.
Is it wrong for a person to force another to do something against their will? Most sane people would probably agree when the question is put forth in such a way. Of course, grey areas exist. Generally, it is permissible to use the minimal force required to stop crazy or evil people from using force towards evil ends. This minimal force usually comes from the state, via the police and the judicial system. Yet beyond this and a few other responsibilities, such as protection from foreign armies or the protection of legal contract rights, the state loses relevance as a necessary and functional institution. Unfortunately, history has shown that those at the helm of the state will continue to seek control and power even as the utility of the state diminishes. Because of this, it is our responsibility as members of an organized state to hold the institution accountable to its intended purposes.
Although seemingly a daunting task, we actually take on this type of responsibility all the time. When a family man considers his life decisions such as his career choice, his hobbies, etc., he does not merely consider himself; he takes into account the needs and desires of his family. If he were single, he might visit the casino on a daily basis, but because his actions affect his family members, he weighs his personal desires with how they might affect others. This is the same way in which we must consider the consequences of state programs on society as a whole, not just how they affect us personally. Instead of passively submitting to our role within the state, we must recognize that we are participants in a larger community and our actions contribute towards a broader reality. Taking accountability for the consequences of our actions means assuming responsibility for the way we are governed.
Creating a nationalized work program that forces youngsters to serve the needs of the Government would be very dangerous. Throughout the 20th Century, there are countless examples of authoritarian regimes forcing their citizens to participate in nefarious programs. One extreme example would be Hitler’s “final solution” in which Germans willfully participated in the wholesale slaughter and extermination of Jews, gypsies, Pols, and anyone who dared stand up to their plot. A less extreme example would be the CIA’s behavioral experimentation with LSD on unsuspecting subjects.
It is imperative that the Government be restricted to its necessary, limited role. Beyond this, the State loses its positive impact on society and becomes a dangerous liability. A state which has the power to deny individuals their freedom in order to serve its needs no longer serves its people. Instead, the people serve the whims of those who control the apparatus of the state.