In favor of national service (or, at least, not in favor of some arguments against it).

As usual, I can’t argue with the eloquence of Connor’s response to some jerk’s defense of Obama’s “national service” program. I do have a couple of quibbles with some of the points he makes:

1. The entire reply — column plus post — never addresses the important point that public service is being incorporated into the public school curriculum. An argument could certainly be made that students shouldn’t be wasting their time cleaning up parks when they could be studying for the SATs, or playing hackeysack, or whatever it is kids do these days. But I think the point deserves to be addressed. I can’t find the quote where Obama says he’d like to “require” rather than “encourage” public service, but requiring something of public school students is quite a different matter than requiring it of free men.

2. The most powerful point Connor makes, about the sincerity of Obama’s interest in public service arising from his own experience (which happened entirely in the private sector), is difficult to counter. This point, however, stems entirely from the notion that any form of government is alien to and opposed to the way people actually live and conduct their lives. This is certainly the only reason I can see for constructing a Chinese Wall between “private” and “government” matters. I personally think this notion the purest balderdash, but this is, after all, the inevitable divide between republicans who believe in the possibility of popular government and libertarians who think that any manifestation of “the state” is, in Murray Rothbard’s words, “a criminal band.”

3. I can’t really go along with a dismissal of a proposal meant to improve the life of the commonwealth as “bad fiscal policy.” I realize I’m the one standing athwart history on this one, but for me, politics precedes economics.

Connor asks why we should pay “unskilled youngsters” to do jobs that “hard-up workers” would be happy to do for minimum wages — or lower. Well, OK. But why aren’t “hard-up workers” lining up to fill those jobs? Because the private sector, frankly, doesn’t have much of a stake in mundane but essential community-service type jobs. Having the federal government hire drudge workers at starvation wages to do those jobs might make more “fiscal” sense than universal public service. But to me it seems a miserable, mean sort of alternative.

Alternatively, I suppose communities could take it upon themselves to hire people to plant trees for them, et al, but that raises the question of where they’re to get the money. More than likely, they won’t. As much as libertarians (though not, perhaps, classical liberals) might hate to admit it, leaving local democracy to the mercy of the free market is a recipe for no local democracy at all.


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3 Responses to “In favor of national service (or, at least, not in favor of some arguments against it).”

  1. Your serve « Connor Mendenhall Says:

    […] 22, 2008 · No Comments My friend Justyn has a couple quibbles with my recent column on national service. Time to bring one more blog into the fray. Point by […]

  2. The Desert Lamp » National/International » Weekend Notes and the Service Debate Says:

    […] at another blog). Connor quickly responded with a post and a guest column in the Wildcat, while Dillingham and Styer provided counter-counterblastes. Fun all […]

  3. alternative world news Says:

    alternative world news…

    […]In favor of national service (or, at least, not in favor of some arguments against it). « The Civic Spirit[…]…

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